The Feeling of Serenity

The Feeling of Serenity - Stress

Yesterday I brought a friend a bar of chocolate for International Woman’s Day. I was actually buying bread and this bar of chocolate was at the register. It was a beautiful artisan bar of chocolate made from 100% Peruvian chocolate by small-scale farmers trying to make a living. I’d never tried the chocolate, but the concept - the promise - spoke to me. I knew that even if I didn’t like the chocolate, I liked the idea that I was helping some small farmer in Peru.

There were three other types of chocolate at the register, all grabbing my heartstrings – all telling their version of a story about chocolate that was sourced locally, that helped farmers and supported the community. So why did this particular chocolate bar grab my attention?

It was the feeling. You see the packaging, the wrapper, was made of this silky-smooth paper and it had a crisp white color with thin lettered wording - just a few words - enough so you knew what you were buying.

Tactilely it appealed to me immediately. I felt a physical connection, literally – the touch of the paper was divine.

Visually it was engaging as well. The wrapper wasn’t cluttered with words and design. It had minimal wording, and the typeface was subtle. 

It was clear, this bar of chocolate connected with me and I knew it would connect with my friend. When I gave it to her, her eyes lit up. Who doesn’t like a bar of chocolate?

But she didn’t just put it down and turn to other topics. No, it triggered more in her. When she received it, she was engaging with it the same way I had. She took it in her hands and touched it all over. She stroked her fingers over the front label; feeling the label engraving and viewing its crisp, clear design. She pulled it towards her chest and said a heartfelt “thank you”.

This little, random bar of chocolate gave us both a feeling. We hadn’t even opened it up and tasted it yet! But we were connected to it. We tried to understand why.

It turns out we both love to tidy things up.

What does this have to do with a bar of chocolate you ask? Well, it turns out that the feeling we got from touching, from seeing that bar of chocolate, was the exact same feeling we get from seeing our home tidy.

I’m always putting things away, making sure there’s no clutter. To me, and it turns out, to my friend as well, seeing things in place - neatly stacked clothes, bed made, pillows propped, a clear kitchen counter – gives us a feeling of serenity, of ease.

To be clear, it’s not a Martha Stewart kind of tidiness I’m talking about. My life is certainly nowhere near that standard of perfection. Nor do I aspire it to be. There is no joy in sterility. No emotion in perfection. Imperfection is real, and it brings feeling.

But that is not my point.

What a tidy space provides is a sense of calm – a sense of serenity.

Think about it - when you have things lying around, dirty dishes in the sink, a pile full of clean laundry to sort, a thousand emails in your inbox, you feel anxious. Your mind is reminded that things need to get done. And your body reacts through stress and strain.   

When things are tidy, looking around the room your eyes engage with angles, with lines, with patterns. And it turns out that patterns are good for us – I mean physically good for us.

There has been quite a bit of research done on patterns – also known as fractals – in nature and art. And it turns out that seeing fractals helps reduce levels of stress. Our mind enjoys seeing patterns and lines. It feels good to us and it is good for us.

Which brings me back to the bar of chocolate. Just seeing and touching that bar of chocolate was soothing and relaxing. It brought a sense of serenity and joy.

And when we opened it up and took a bite… the chocolate was divinely delicious too.