power box
[Photo courtesy of Mahmoud Hassan]

What is a power box?

A power box, or any name that you may give it (i.e., soothing box, inspiration box, calm box, dream box), holds small treasures that titillate and please the five senses. It includes chosen items and symbols that appeal to our smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight, thus appealing to our bodies and memories.

The box is also a place and space for us to arrive at with intention to sooth, empower or inspire ourselves in mindful engagement with these items. Mindful engagement means a conscious and purposeful interaction with the items in the box and the box itself. This is a tool to use when we need to be soothed, held, transported, loved, delighted and reminded.

A power box is a psychological and evidence-based intervention to regulate emotion, increase self-compassion and help with distress tolerance. Research supports the therapeutic effectiveness it offers in managing intense emotion. It can be a powerful distraction from pain and help us refocus on what we are thankful for, empowered and grounded by.

Mindful engagement is incredibly crucial when using a power box. It involves immersing ourselves completely in the items of our box and focusing attentively on it. For example, if it’s lavender essential oil (an item that appeals to touch, smell and even sight while also promoting relaxation), mindful engagement would be intentionally focusing on the details of the bottle: the color of the oil, how it feels on our skin as we rub our palms together, the thickness of the oil, the fragrance, how it slides through our nostrils, how the scent lingers in our noses. Another example is a photo of a loved one: thinking about when the image was taken, who they are, what we love about them, the nuances in their face and body expression, how the image feels in our hands.

It’s important to have a power box because it is a tangible, artistic and thoughtful way to take care of and empower ourselves. It’s a compilation of things we love all in one place. Our breath, senses and positive memories are always available to ground us; we just need to be reminded sometimes.

While we always have an array of tools accessible to us, it’s easy to forget what works to inspire and elevate us when we feel imbalanced. Focusing on positive input that we receive through our senses, like a fresh smell or a colorful image, gets us into the joy and wisdom of our bodies and often out of the heady, cycling of repetitive thoughts or intense uncontrollable emotions. It gets us into feeling our fingertips, nose hairs, tongues, and our breath. It literally brings us from our limbic system—the emotion-centered part of the brain—into our cerebral cortex, the part that’s key in memory, attention, awareness, language, and consciousness.

This is a tool that holds many items that can evolve over time, and items that you choose for yourself. Ideally, we can carry our boxes with us wherever we go and have this to use whenever we feel ungrounded. Some people have smaller travel soothing boxes which they can take with them in a backpack, as well as home soothing boxes that are bigger and stay in their bedrooms with more items. It encourages us to be intentional with helping and lifting ourselves, taking responsibility for our emotions, and being mindful of our wonderful and sensual bodies.

What is in mine?

Power boxes are dynamic and always changing. To keep it fresh and exciting, it’s best to add and remove items every now and then based on what we love, what is personal and what reminds us of all that is important to us.

Right now, my power box consists of:

  • Eucalyptus and orange essential oils, eucalyptus for fresh healing fragrance and orange as an antidepressant and energizer
  • A clear quartz crystal, representing clarity of mind. I love holding it, rubbing my fingers and cheeks on its smoothness, getting lost in its clearness and cloudiness
  • A little Buddha, a gift from my uncle, a reminder of my faith and philosophy
  • Art that I drew of myself as a little girl, showing me my innocence and vulnerability
  • A magnet from Mexico City from a trip with a good friend, a symbol of my free-spirited travel and adventure
  • Photobooth photos of my partner and I at his cousin’s wedding
  • Rocks that say “create” and “own it,” reminders to do what I was born to do and to be proud of it
  • Visual affirmations like “you are smart, you are purposeful, you are important” and “you’re a visionary.”
  • Written-out action prompts like “draw out your feelings for 10 minutes” or “dance to a favorite song for 5 minutes” that I can pick from and act on
  • A watch that my mother gave to me for my 24th birthday while I was in a wheelchair recovering from a car accident, reminders of my support, strength, and survival

How to make your own:

When creating your own, think about your senses and what each of your senses enjoys; think about how you can represent each in a small item that can fit in your box. Include items too that mean something to you, represent a milestone in your life, symbols that bring you back to the bigger picture, representations of your connections and your accomplishments. Most importantly, everything related to your box from its outside decorations to its contents should be relaxing and positive for you.

Know that you are leveraging your sensational powers by creating and using a power box. It can be your own unique tool of empowerment and relief whenever you want it to be.


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