Make A Soothing Box with Mental Wellness Mystic, Chetna
I'm Chetna [@mosaiceye].I am currently a counseling psychology grad student at the Wright institute in Berkeley, I’ve been training as a high school mental health counselor and am also a self-taught mixed media artist. I share much of my art and psychological reflections centered on women's love, empowerment, self-care and solidarity on Instagram.
Self care to me is the revolutionary practice of caring for and cultivating myself so that I can be more present and compassionate in the world with others. It is maintaining my authentic being and health so that I can be a grounding force in the authentic being and health of others.
WHAT IS A SOOTHING BOX?
The soothing box is meant to hold treasures of 5 senses; it includes chosen items that appeal to our different senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight. The box holds a collection of these items and is a place and space for us to arrive at with intention to sooth ourselves in mindful engagement with these items. It's a tool to use in times of great need; need to be soothed, held, transported, loved, delighted and reminded.
A soothing box is a psychological and evidence-based intervention to regulate emotion and help with distress tolerance. Research supports its therapeutic effectiveness in managing intense emotion. It can be a powerful distraction from pain, and also a refocus on what we are thankful for, empowered and grounded by.
Mindful engagement is incredibly crucial when using a soothing box; it involves immersing ourselves completely in the items of our soothing boxes, and focusing attentively on it. For example, if the item is a lavender essential oil (an item that appeals to touch, smell and even sight), mindful engagement would be totally focusing on the details of the bottle, the color of the oil, how it feels on our skin as we rub our palms together, the thickness of the oil, the fragrance, how it slides through our nostrils, how deep we can breathe it in, how the scent lingers in our noses, how our bodies feel as we smell the oil. Or another example is an photo of a loved one, thinking about when the image taken, who this person/animal is, what we love about them, the nuances in their face and body expression, how does the image feel in our hands, where the wrinkles are in photo, etc.
It's important to have a tool like a soothing box because we always have it in our capacity to take care of ourselves, to sooth and relax ourselves; our breath and senses are always available to ground us. We can very easily get caught up in thinking discouraging or harmful thoughts about the past or the future, and the contents of a soothing box get us in the present. Titillating our senses gets us into the wisdom of our bodies and out of the ether of our minds, out of the heady cycling of repetitive thought or intense uncontrollable emotion. It gets us into feeling our fingertips, nose hairs, tongues and our breath. It literally brings us from our limbic system – the emotion-centered part of the brain – into our cerebral cortex, the part that's major key in memory, attention, awareness, language and consciousness – a more cognitively productive and woke place to be from.
The powerful thing about a soothing box is that it is a compilation of things we love all in one place. Ideally, we can carry our boxes with us wherever we go and have this tool to use whenever we feel ungrounded. It encourages us to be intentional with helping ourselves, taking responsibility for our emotions, and being mindful of our wonderful bodies.
WHAT'S IN YOURS?
Soothing boxes are dynamic and always changing. To keep it fresh and exciting, it's best to add and remove items every now and then based on what we love, what is personal and what reminds us of all that is important to us.
Right now, my soothing box consists of:
Eucalyptus and orange essential oils, eucalyptus for fresh healing fragrance and orange as an antidepressant and energizer
A clear quartz crystal, representing clarity of mind, I love holding it, rubbing my fingers and cheeks on its smoothness, getting lost in it's clearness and cloudiness
A little Buddha, a gift from my uncle, a reminder of my faith and philosophy
Art that I drew of myself as a little girl, showing me my innocence and vulnerability
A magnet from Mexico City from a trip with a good friend, a symbol of my free-spirited travel and adventure
Photobooth photos of my partner and I at his cousin's wedding
Rocks that say "create" and "own it", reminders to do what I was born to do and to be proud of it
Pieces of paper with different affirmations like "you are smart, you are purposeful, you are important" and actions like "draw out your feelings" or "dance to a favorite song" that I can pick from and act on
A watch that my mother gave to me for my 24th birthday while I was in a wheelchair recovering from a car accident, reminders of my support, strength and survival
HOW DO WE MAKE OUR OWN?
When creating your own, think about your senses and what each of your senses enjoys; think about how you can represent each in a small item that can fit in your box. Include items too that mean something to you, represent a milestone in your life, symbols that bring you back to the bigger picture, representations of your connections and your accomplishments. Most importantly, everything related to your box from its outside decorations to its contents should be relaxing and positive for you.
Some people have smaller travel soothing boxes which they can take with them in a backpack, as well as home soothing boxes that are bigger and stay in their bedrooms with more items.
Know that you are leveraging your sensational powers by creating and using a soothing box. It can be your tool of empowerment and relief whenever you want it to be.
– as told to Gooey Girl
Images c/o Chetna