If someone were to ask you to create a of picture ‘comfort’ in your mind, what images would you create? It is a question that I have asked people, in order to find out how people interpret comfort.
I was surprised at some of the answers, which made me question people’s perception of how they interpret comfort in their daily lives. I imagined the usual sunset across the ocean imagery and the sound of lapping waves. But as I continued the questioning, I began to realize the imagery relates to how we want to feel in our minds.
Comfort is as an emotional state of well being. No word can actually describe the way we feel, as everyone feels comfort in many different ways; it stems from our level of activity. In other words, we cannot actually describe the way we feel, or the way we want to feel without picturing a scene of comfort.
The happiest people are those who discover what they
should be doing and what they are doing are the same thing.
Demetrius Phalerens c.300BC
Yes, the sunset across the ocean and the sound of lapping waves are typical answers; but other thoughts can be just as relevant, depending on people’s emotional state of wellness.
As an Occupational Therapist, I have learned to understand people’s level of comfort; through measuring their functional level at home. Home is where we feel our true level of comfort and safety. It is where we feel safe to go about our personal activities in life, without feeling threatened, or cajoled. It is here where we have control, so we can do as we please and get on with our family life and our chores around the house, relax by watching TV, read, practice yoga, or just simply take a nap.
Yet in this home environment of safety and comfort; are we truly comfortable. Do the products that we use daily, meet our needs for physical comfort? Are they designed physically to protect our skeletal joints from the constant stress that they endure throughout our working environment? Do the products make us feel like a glowing sunset, rippling with waves of relaxation? I am inclined to think that daily living products are designed more for the product designer’s aesthetic originality, than for our own personal needs for comfort.
Now in my middle years of my life, I am suffering excruciating pain from osteoarthritis in both my thumb joints. As the pain worsens, with each year’s progression, so do my complaints resonate louder about the inadequacies of product design, when using any daily living products.
I am not “disabled” in the layman’s understanding of the word. Yet each product design is handicapping me, simply because of the stress produced on my thumb joints that require rest through their constant use. The usual product designs have neglected to use ‘ergonomic’ design for understanding how to minimize stress on particular functional joints, for safety and comfort.
In order to alleviate this problem, I am now trying to overcome this barrier, using my own academic knowledge and experience chronic functional impairments, along with my own interest in creative design for redesigning products that use ergonomic techniques for comfort and safety. In this way, people will feel comfortable knowing that products are ergonomically tested by me and also other people with discomforts for safety in daily living.

Author's Bio: 

I am a qualified Occupational Therapist that also has an M.Sc. in Health Promotion. I also completed my PhD research, but never achieved my doctorate; because the university would not allow ethical approval for researching frail people over 75 living independent in the community. I will eventually gain my PhD through academic publications of my findings
I also have severe osteoarthritis in my hands, particularly my thumbs making functional activities difficult, frustrating and painful. I am now redesigning comfortable ergonomic daily living products for daily living.