Today, I’m going to share some personal objects and belongings that I have accumulated over the years. Those items are what I call “comfort objects” because they serve a specific purpose in my life. They reduce my anxiety, help me when boredom settles in and comfort me when I need to distract myself or cope with a painful feeling.
A mini Zen garden
A Zen garden’s purpose is to cultivate calmness and peace. Apparently, it even has mental and psychological benefits. For example, Zen gardens come with a mini rake, and the movements and curves in the sand bring you back to the present moment. It’s a way to practice mindfulness and to reduce anxiety. It can also help you focus. My mini Zen garden sits on my desk. I like to draw different patterns in the sand, and it almost feels like I’m meditating while doing so.
Kinetic sand kit
I absolutely love my kinetic sand kit! It’s a form of play, and similarly to the mini Zen garden, it helps you with staying present. Kinetic sand is helpful when you’re anxious, because playing with the sand distracts you from feelings of anxiety. It forces you to be present in your body as you build castles and other shapes. It’s a sensory experience that is often beneficial to children — but even as an adult, I find that a “hands on” activity can help in many ways!
Painting rocks is the best! Not only is painting a great activity, but the rocks are also nice to keep around and admire. The colours, textures, different shapes and images have the power to add a little bit of positivity to your life.
A favourite mug
I believe that everyone should own a favourite mug (or water bottle, tea thermos, you get the idea). There’s something comforting about having a familiar object close to you. I am personally attached to my favourite coffee mug — it’s become part of my routine and brings me joy (sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter the most).
A diffuser with essential oils (or incense)
Another comforting object for me is my diffuser and my many bottles of essential oils. Not everybody is a fan, but I like the smell of pine needles and rainforest, and I think that it brings me comfort because it smells so good and helps me relax. You can also opt for incense or candles.
A blanket (or pillow)
I think everyone should be able to feel entirely cozy in bed (or on the couch). I think that having a good-quality blanket that feels comfortable and warm (or cool, if you’re a human furnace) can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and an okay one. I’ve slept over at friends’ houses, and when I wrapped myself in their blankets made with completely un-cozy materials, I noticed. So, if you can, invest in a good blanket or pillow. We've also heard good things about heated blankets!
Whether it’s a favourite painting or Polaroids taken with friends, I think there is something special about having an object that you can admire and look at closely. Personally, I love looking at old pictures of happy memories because they remind me that despite life’s ups and downs, it is possible to create good memories with the people you cherish. Similarly, I love looking at paintings because it’s a great way to appreciate an artist’s work and practice being mindful of yourself and the world.
My roommate gifted me little cards with inspiring quotes on them. They are pretty to look at and I often snap a picture of them to post on social media. Sometimes, it just helps to look at a beautifully-designed card with an inspiring phrase.
As a student, I own my fair share of pens, post-its and paper pads. I think that having a favourite pen (or binder, or notepad) can be comforting because it’s a familiar cherished possession. I know that in the past, having my favourite pen meant “good luck” when writing exams. Having school materials that you like can make you feel more comfortable when studying or working — at least, that’s what I’ve found for myself.
Well, that’s all I have for today! I hope that you have a few objects that will comfort you during difficult times. If not, it may be time to invest in one. Sometimes, we need something tangible to keep us in the moment. I know that having comfort objects in my house helps me feel more at ease in my day-to-day life. So give it a thought, and let’s see what you can find.
The authors of this column are not mental health professionals. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, the Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In case of an emergency, call 911.