Often, we’re inundated with articles and think pieces on how to increase productivity, boost efficiency, and perfect our "rise and grind" lifestyle. But life is about more than work. Ask anyone advanced in years what they remember most fondly about life, and they probably won't say "working hard" – they'll probably tell you it was the quiet moments, the instances of comfort and balance, that shape their happiest memories.
Around this time of year, many people make and adjust their New Year's Resolutions, establishing a road map for the year to come. If we can make one suggestion, it’s this: Leave room for comfort in your resolutions. You can still include all the lofty goals – the exercise regimens, travel goals and work aspirations. Just remember to balance them with a healthy dose of relaxation, ease and self-care.
To help you start your year off on comfortable footing, we’re exploring some of our favourite tips and products currently. We’ve divided our list according to situation and type. You’ll find separate subsections for “products” and “practices” within sections for "in the office," "on the road," and "at home." Wherever you are, and however you like to unwind, we hope there are a few tips on this list that speak to you.
To kick off our grand list of comfort tips, let’s explore products you can purchase to make your in-office time more comfortable.
The human body wasn’t made to withstand all this sitting down. In the same way that excess physical labour can cause longstanding issues, so too can being improperly stationary. Consider fitting your work setup with ergonomic essentials for a smoother workday. At a minimum, invest in an ergonomic chair, which can alleviate postural and spinal issues. You might also consider a wrist rest, lumbar pillow, ergonomic keyboard and/or footrest.
Discomfort isn’t just a tactile phenomenon – it’s possible to feel enormous discomfort at, say, the sound of your neighbour weed-whacking at 10 am on a Tuesday. A large part of settling into a comfortable groove at work is tuning out distractions. That said, consider a snug set of noise-cancelling headphones. They come in handy not only at the office but also on long-haul flights, crowded transit, and as you undertake focus-driven hobbies in your downtime.
We’re happy to leave stiff button-up shirts and constricting formal wear in the past. Let’s make 2022 the year when we balance formality and comfort. Check out Unbound Merino’s shirts and merino wool sweaters for smart, ultra-soft alternatives to stuffy workwear. Pair one of our button-down shirts with our heritage knit sweater for an outfit that looks like office wear, but feels like loungewear.
Studies show that being around fresh air and greenery has a host of wellness benefits – from reducing stress hormone levels to lowering blood pressure and boosting serotonin. And while you can’t completely mimic the outdoor experience in an office, you can at least come close. Plugging in an air purifier and surrounding yourself with plants can help replicate the comforting experience of being outdoors, even as you work away in a stuffy room.
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You’ve stocked your office with ergonomic gear, air purifiers and noise-cancelling devices, and dressed yourself in soft, relaxed merino wool clothes. Feeling markedly more at ease than before, you still can’t help but wonder: can you make your at-work life even more comfortable?
Yes, you can. Here are a few practices to follow for a smoother workday.
Some people are perfectly comfortable amongst mess. All the power to them. For most people, however, mess is a significant stressor. According to psychological research, our complicated relationship with clutter has to do with our brains’ capacity for intaking stimuli. Excess stimuli – in the form of a cluttered office – overloads our brain, consequently triggering our stress response. If you want to feel calm, cool and collected at work, unfortunately, you have to take heed of that old parental adage: clean your room.
We can attribute a lot of our daily stress to time management. When we feel pressed for time and cornered by deadlines, we feel a physical and emotional kind of weight on our shoulders. Therefore, part of balancing work and comfort is knowing when to take breaks, and when to get down to brass tacks. We’re partial to the tried-and-true Pomodoro method – but choose whatever time management model that works for you and stick with it.
As mentioned in the “ergonomic office essentials section,” even sedentary work can exact a physical toll. That’s why experts recommend stretching before, after and during your workday. Stretching at work can reduce fatigue by increasing blood supply. It can also promote healthy posture and reduce the risk of muscle strains. Essentially, it's a minor time investment in remaining comfortable, requiring little effort or special equipment.
Office work isn’t just unnatural for posture – it’s also an unnatural strain on your eyes. Did our hunter-gatherer forebears ever spend eight-plus hours staring intently at an object two feet from their face? Probably not. That said, in the spirit of keeping comfortable at work, give your eyes the occasional break. Experts recommend practicing eye-relaxing exercises, like focus changing (staring at close and far objects intermittently), blinking exercises and eyelid massages.
Travel carries with it an entirely unique set of potential discomforts. You might find yourself cramped in the middle seat of a long-haul flight, walking around a city in the blistering heat or finishing a day’s work in a decidedly un-ergonomic café. You have to do the best with what the world throws at you. To help you stay comfortable, here are a few of our favourite packable items.
You don’t think you need a neck pillow until you absolutely do. If you've ever caught a trans-oceanic red-eye, or suffered a cross-country bus trip in a less-than-ideal seat, you can attest to the power of a good neck pillow. We’re partial to slim neck pillows like the Trtl (also NY Mag’s #1 pick), which fits neatly in a backpack. But any neck pillow is better than none.
Naturally, we’re partial to Unbound Merino travel clothing when we’re on the road. So are several other travellers, who never leave home without our merino wool t-shirts, socks and merino wool boxers.
There are a few ways our merino wool clothes keep you comfortable while travelling. First, the merino we use is ultrafine, making it extremely soft to the touch. Next, it does a fantastic job regulating temperature; its breathability and sweat-wicking mechanisms keep you cool in unrelenting heat, and its hollow-fibred structure keeps you insulated against cold weather. Finally, merino wool is naturally antibacterial, meaning you can wear it for days (or more) without suffering the discomfort of grungy, smelly clothing.
In our recent article on "Everything You Need for a Portable Office," we shouted out the Roost stand, an oft-packed item among digital nomads. Essentially, it's a foldable, portable, adjustable stand that elevates your laptop so you can work ergonomically on the go. In this section on staying comfortable while travelling, it only seems fair to re-submit the Roost stand for consideration. If you plan on working while abroad, an adjustable laptop stand can make life a lot comfier.
A streamlined, adjustable, efficiently padded backpack makes a world of difference on the road. Your backpack should feel like an extension of your body – effortlessly moving with you, never weighing you down, never disrupting your centre of gravity. Look for a backpack with padded shoulders, a contoured back panel and – if applicable – a padded hip belt. Most importantly, look for one that feels right on you. It’s never a bad idea to give a backpack a test run around the store before committing to the purchase.
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Gear is only one-half of staying comfortable while travelling. Follow these simple practices to ensure a smoother, easier trip abroad.
While it applies to just about any situation, this is especially wise advice for long-haul flights. The relative humidity in an airplane cabin can drop as low as 1%, causing mucosal irritation, dehydration and skin irritation. It’s important to combat the effects of this dry environment by staying hydrated. Drinking more water than you think you need may also help mitigate jet lag.
It’s not just what you pack but how you pack that determines comfort on a trip. Packing unnecessary “just in case” items can weigh you down. All that extra clothing might seem like a good idea at the time, but lugging it across a crowded train station in the heat is the antithesis of comfortable. Instead, pack a few carefully chosen merino items that stay fresh for longer: two or three pairs of merino wool socks and underwear, and a merino wool long sleeve shirt or two.
You can buy the most supportive shoes on the planet, but if they aren’t broken in, chances are they’re going to cause discomfort. Before you depart for your trip, wear your new shoes around the house for a few days. You’d be surprised how just a little movement can help relax the material.
Temperature extremes are a fact of life in many of the world’s most beautiful destinations – whether it’s the biting cold of a winter in Iceland or the searing heat of a Costa Rican summer. When you land, break out your trusty map app to pin a few "refuge spots," indoor spaces where you can spend a few hours escaping the weather. These might be museums, indoor shopping districts, tea houses, cinemas or pubs.
A home should be an asylum from the distresses and inconveniences of the world. It should be a safe shelter to return to at the end of a long workday or strenuous trip abroad. While there are several ways to optimize a home for comfort, these are a few of our favourites.
There’s a reason sweatpants are the quintessential at-home comfort item. They’re soft, drapey, and easy to slip on and off. To take your sweatpants to the next level, we suggest checking out our merino wool sweatpants. Like cotton sweats, they’re soft and drapey. Unlike cotton, however, they’re also breathable and insulating for maximum relaxation.
Some people consider aromatherapy to be new-age hokum. Others swear by it. Our philosophy is to travel a middle-ground: keep an open mind to things, even if we’re skeptical at first. We understand that aromatherapy may not be a panacea for all life’s ailments (as some people claim), but we can’t deny that a spruce incense stick or balsam essential oil can feel pretty relaxing.
If you plan on standing for long periods, consider an anti-fatigue mat. These cushioned mats encourage what’s called “dynamic ergonomics,” subtle leg movements that promote blood flow and reduce soreness. We especially like them in the kitchen, where it’s not uncommon to stand in front of the counter chopping vegetables for long stretches.
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Hygge is the Danish and Norwegian concept of coziness – it proposes comfort as an underlying design principle. And while hygge has been co-opted by plenty of wellness brands and Pinterest influencers to sell products, the tenets of hygge are altogether more rustic, homier and simpler than they’d lead you to believe.
Essentially, it involves optimizing your living space for comfort in whatever way you feel most comfortable. That might mean loading your couch with wool blankets, adding more natural wood to your décor, creating a reading nook in the corner of your living room, or simply pulling on a pair of your warmest merino socks. It’s a choose-your-own-hygge.
During the pandemic, the lines between home life and work-life blurred for many people. Sometimes, it didn't feel like we were working from home – it felt like we were living at work. We need clear separation between work and pleasure if we're genuinely going to unwind. That said, do what you can to delineate between work and leisure, especially if you’re working remotely or at home. Close your work tabs, turn off your email notifications, throw on an after-work playlist, and try your hardest not to carry over any thoughts or emotions from your workday. If your work constantly asks you to remain late, perhaps 2022 is the year you set some boundaries and learn how to – politely, strategically – say "no."
This year, make comfort a priority in your life, whether you’re lounging at home, toiling at the office or exploring the world. And let us know what makes you comfortable these days. If you have any great hacks – practices or products – let us know in the comments below.