What Does Sanctuary Mean? How To Create A Sanctuary

Post Image

Between work and home life, sometimes it feels like the stress is 24/7. But too much stress isn’t good for anyone. It can lead to headaches, trouble sleeping, mood swings and more. If any of this describes you, you’ll want to look into stress-reducing techniques rather quickly in order to restore your quality of life.

Some stress-reduction exercises include deep breathing, mindfulness, and yoga. But another important element that should certainly not be overlooked is the space that you are in.

Creating a sanctuary is an essential element of self-care. It involves harnessing the optimal environment to nurture yourself from within. The perfect sanctuary touches upon all of the physical senses of a person and allows you to be immersed in an all-encompassing backdrop. It brings peace, serenity, and calmness into your otherwise hectic life.

The 5 Senses: Creating A Sanctuary

1. Sight

Hand lighting candles next to leaves.

Create the right atmosphere with candles.

One of the most obvious senses needed to create a sanctuary in your home is your sense of sight. Whether this means decluttering the space around you or adding some foliage, fill your room with what will calm you as soon as you enter it. Clearing clutter allows you to make the best use of the space around you. Our minds are constantly distracted by the excess materials in our line of sight. In this vein, adding nature to your surroundings can do wonders for creating a sanctuary. Nature has the ability to reduce blood pressure, regulate heart activity and affect the brain’s functioning in positive ways

When I’m attempting to create a sanctuary in my room, I start with working on the lights. Sometimes I need the curtains wide open to let the natural light flood in. It makes such a difference! Other times, lighting a candle and dimming the lights is the soothing way forward. The idea is to find the visual balance to allow your mind to decompress. It’s okay if you need different things at different times.

2. Smell

View of diffuser and plant in living room.


Next up, you’ll need to work on making the most of the smells around you. Your sense of smell is directly related to the limbic system. This is the area of the brain associated with memory, mood and emotion. Your ability to smell is one of your most primal instincts, both on a conscious and subconscious level. This underlines how the smells around you inevitably affect your sanctuary. Try adding a candle or two. Or, if you’re feeling really Zen, invest in an aromatherapy diffuser to set the tone. 

My go-to for creating any kind of sanctuary is lighting my favorite candle to get the ambiance going. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll fill a bath with my favorite aromatic bubbles and breathe in the goodness. Whatever the method, there’s no denying that your sense of smell has a direct link with your emotions. This realization can help you to use smell as a tool to create an environment and achieve a serene state of mind.  

3. Touch

The sensory aspect of your sanctuary largely lies in your sense of touch. Invest in good quality home accessories as well as bedding that is cozy and practical. Whether that’s a fuzzy throw or a new rug, find something tactile that will not only enhance the environment but other areas of your life, too. Bedding that is conducive to better sleep or a plush bean bag to sink into can upgrade your sanctuary significantly. 

 A study done at Yale University showed that touch is fundamentally related to your emotions. The experiment involved participants holding either a hot or cold beverage and then describing individuals in front of them. Those holding hot drinks were more likely to describe the person in front of them positively. This suggests that what we touch plays a significant role in our mood and perception of our surroundings. There’s a lot to be said for grounding the area around you through touch, whether it’s a soft pillow or sensory furniture. These small ‘touches’ (sorry, I had to) can go a long way in creating a sanctuary in your home.  

4. Sound

If you’re anything like me, you know what a good song can do for your surroundings. Listening to calming music sets the tone for your mind to unwind while pop beats will put you in another mood altogether. It’s crazy how much of an effect a song can have on us. Music, in and of itself, is often used as a way to self-treat stress. It not only affects the brain in an emotional sense, but it can also physically increase certain positive hormones. Either we’re able to tune out of our lives through the music that we listen to, or we identify so closely with a song that it validates our emotions. Whatever the reason, injecting music into your sanctuary is an element that cannot and should not be overlooked. 

For me, this means that I have a speaker in my room that my phone can connect to. At any given moment I play whatever playlist I want in order to put me in a certain mood. Sometimes I’ll just have the calming sound of a rainforest in the background to truly make me feel like I’m in my own little bubble. Other times I’ll play something to amp me up. It should come as no surprise that music is a powerful tool to create an environment and should be a part of the process when establishing a sanctuary for yourself. 

5. Taste

Birds eye view of girl on bed wearing socks reading book holding tea.

Woman holding tea.

What we put into our bodies has a big impact on our mood and emotions. In an effort to create a sanctuary, you can’t ignore your taste buds. Based on the theory of intuitive eating, our food cravings fluctuate depending on our emotional needs. This means that when I’m craving a certain foods, my body genuinely needs those nutrients. When we seek comfort, we crave carbohydrates. When we’re stressed, our body longs for sugar. And those cravings shouldn’t be ignored. 

Creating an environment that honors your cravings is necessary for any sanctuary. Invest in a box of your favorite herbal teas or make sure that you have your go-to comfort food on hand. My favorite time of the day is when I curl up in my bed after a long day with a mug of lavender and oatmeal herbal tea. Everyone should have something to soothe their taste buds in their sanctuary. 


You spend the majority of your time in your house, and specifically in the bedroom. It’s the first thing that you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. In order to build a wholesome sanctuary, you need to celebrate all the senses and bring them to life. If you feel a lack of something in your environment, try to discern which sense you might be overlooking that isn’t getting enough attention. Whether it’s adding an extra candle or doing some decluttering, be aware of what you need in order to liven up your environment and optimize self-care.

“Remember, the entrance to the sanctuary door is inside you.” –Rumi