6 Ways To Create A Soothing Space During Cancer Care

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Going through cancer treatment can be taxing on your mind and body. While there’s a lot to process, and it can be overwhelming, one way to help promote an optimistic outlook is by resting and recuperating in a calming, soothing environment.

“When you think about the type of space that makes you happy, think about your senses,” says Michael Ryan, Psy.D., a psychologist with Henry Ford Health System. “The space that you’ll be spending lots of time in should appeal to your senses.”

Enlist your caregiver (whether a close family member or friend) to help arrange your space so it feels warm and inviting. Here, Dr. Ryan shares 6 ways to achieve this.

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  1. Let in natural sunlight. “Exposure to natural sunlight is a proven mood-booster,” says Dr. Ryan. “Daylight helps regulate circadian rhythms and boosts serotonin release, the chemical that helps us feel happy.” Keep the shades open during the daytime. During the winter, when the days are short, using bright artificial light—or even light therapy lamps—can be effective.
  2. Use houseplants as décor. “Plants and flowers promote peacefulness,” Dr. Ryan says. “Having plants around you not only improves the air quality, but also reduces stress and improves mood. Connecting to nature can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.” Pick out a few hardy indoor plants to liven up your space, and they won’t even require much maintenance.
  3. Add a pleasing, mild scent—or none at all. “The smell of an environment plays an important role in your mood and sense of well-being,” says Dr. Ryan. Displeasing smells can trigger a negative emotional response. Aromatherapy is a common technique to create a serene space. Diffusing lavender or lemon essential oils can be nice options, but some people who undergo cancer treatment may develop a sensitivity to many smells. In that case, you may find that no odor at all is best for you.
  4. Feature favorite colors. Color preferences are individual and often rooted in age and culture, so above all, feature colors you love. But research has also revealed the power some colors have on mood: sage greens promote relaxation and sapphire blues tend to be more energizing. If you’re looking for something to keep you calm, try earthy tones like cool greys and blues, which are more soothing and can help you feel more relaxed.
  5. Maintain an organized space. “Spaces that are well organized and clean are less overwhelming,” says Dr. Ryan. “People who live in tidy environments often function better and become less stressed by their surroundings.” Use storage containers to prevent the accumulation of clutter, and have your caregiver help you keep it that way.
  6. Hang beloved artwork on the walls. “Art is personal,” says Dr. Ryan. “Surround yourself with framed images you find comforting, whether that’s pictures of loved ones or paintings of landscapes.” No matter what it is, if it brings about positive emotions, it’s the right art for you.

“When you put all of these components together, it can help create a total sense of well-being, which can elevate your mood and make you feel more emotionally grounded,” says Dr. Ryan. “While experiencing anxiety and depression during cancer treatment are common emotions to have, participating in calming activities and being in a soothing environment can help improve your ability to cope.”


The Henry Ford Cancer Institute-Detroit’s new pavilion offers the most advanced care in a beautiful, comfortable and supportive setting. It features floor-to-ceiling windows that let in natural light, quiet meditation spaces, and enhanced services to support patients at every step of their cancer care journey. Learn more here.

Dr. Michael Ryan is a psychologist who specializes in the care of cancer patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Categories: FeelWell