Your soft voice never silent,
It’s forever in my ears,
Serenading every moment
And calming all my fears.
Your arms always enfold me,
The strength of angels wings,
They support and protect me wholly
With the safety a true love brings
-Nicola May Tucker
Where do you want to be while you heal? What are the most supportive characteristics of a healing environment? Who is on your healing team?
These are just a few of the questions that arise when thinking about safety and healing, an oft-overlooked topic. The physical, social and emotional environment offers a powerful container for optimal healing, one we take for granted easily.
Take a moment to reflect as to what physical characteristics are most healing for you? Maybe it’s the sterile environment we’ve grown accustomed to in the local hospital, or maybe, it’s lying in your home in a bed with those items or people that remind you of healing. My research and inquiry with graduate students found that the comfort of home and family is one of the strongest stimuli for shifting from illness to healing. Healing has much to do with our childhood memories in which illness was met with time away from school and work. While at home with a parent or a provider, we had healthy food and a safe place to let our external guard down so we can relax and heal.
Where do we sleep most comfortably? In our home. Where do we have the most control of our environment? Of what we eat? Or who might come and go? For most of us, making time and space to withdraw into the safety of our bedroom or comfortable space is actually key to the healing process. For some, this is nature and outdoors, others it’s curled up in the cocoon. Keep this is mind next time you find yourself upset or in pain.
Interestingly, Florence Nightingale, perhaps the first person in medicine to really name the value of the healing environment, attended to improved lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling. She also made space for the patient’s personal belongings in the clinic! Nightingale identified these as environmental health determinants, and she identified social health determinants-poverty, education, family relationships, and employment. We may take these for granted, or we may overlook their impact on healing and health, but healing is complex and can be supported through our built environment and our social environment.
Yes, the environment is more than just the physical space; it’s also the people, the energy of living beings that provide for us as well. Some people find that being alone is key to their healing, yet most will gladly accept care from those close. My wife Wendy this past weekend made a fabulous healing soup- a Greek lemon chicken soup- commenting along the way that chicken soup is so healing. I noticed that the two kids still at home were both struggling with mild flu like symptoms so common after the excess of the holidays. Wendy was tempting them to stay in catch up on rest by making a delicious soup full of healthy chicken fat, as well as the vitamin C of lemons. Needless to say, the soup didn’t last very long. There was plenty of sleeping in and hanging out in sweat pants and long sleeve shirts while the kids took it easy for the weekend. Sure enough, as school returned yesterday, the kids are back to their normal high energy states. Was it the soup or the love and attention of mom in our home that made the difference?
Who provides that healing support for you? How do you like people to be around you when you aren’t feeling well- sitting and chatting? Or keeping an eye out for your needs but not being too close.