How does my living space influence my mental well-being?

2 September 2021

It’s no secret that most of us are spending more time at home than anticipated this year. Our humble abodes are fast becoming more than somewhere just to rest our heads at night, working from home is the new norm and downtime is often indoors rather than out.

The downside? There’s a lot of factors within our physical environment that can impact our mental health, from mood through to focus and productivity. The upside? Equally, there’s a lot of opportunities to make changes to improve our mental health. Win!

With that in mind, it makes a whole lot of sense to spend some time (and a couple of dollars) optimising our living space to better support our mental wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look at the specifics and what you can do to spruce things up…

Light it up

A lack of lighting is scientifically linked to seasonal affective disorder, impacting peoples mental health during certain seasons of the year. Good lighting, both interior and natural is key to boosting your mood and vitamin D. Lighting solutions can be as simple as changing your bulbs for high-performing ones, upgrading your lamps for more light exposure or considering new window coverings that let more light in. For those working from home, is there a space in your house that offers better lighting potential?

Good lighting, both interior and natural is key to boosting your mood and vitamin D

Greenery

Unsurprisingly, humans respond positively to being in nature. You can bring a slice of this nature indoors for a very reasonable price at your local nursery and get the same feel-good, soothing, productivity-boosting effects. It’s just a bonus they’re purpose is improving air quality (and being aesthetically pleasing). It’s the next best thing to actually getting outdoors. And if you’re worried about bugs in the house, there are now a great range of artificial plants that look just like the real thing with no maintenance required!

Compartmentalise your space

You’ve probably heard this before, but compartmentalising is key to a healthy work (from home) life balance. Where possible, a dedicated working space will do wonders for your ability to switch between work mode and relax mode. If you don’t have a physical separation between the room you work in and the room you relax in, say your living room, this can be applied in simple ways like avoiding working from your couch. A room divider is a slightly fancier way of creating separation within the same room.

Where possible, a dedicated working space will do wonders for your ability to switch between work mode and relax mode

Reconsider the clutter

Clutter and overall cleanliness have a bigger impact than you might think. Visually, clutter can be a stressor leaving you with feelings of being overwhelmed, while also making your home environment less practical on a daily basis. Having a well-organised space takes a bit of initial effort but pays off by making daily tasks easier and invoking a sense of calm, not chaos. Once properly organised a quick daily tidy up to restore order will keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay.

Sensory factors

Less noticeable is the impact sensory factors have on mental health, often very subtle. April Snow, LMFT, says “The lighting, temperature, sounds, smells, and colour palette of an environment are very important to how comfortable, relaxed, and safe you feel”. In summary, harsh, cold, loud space = stressing. Well-lit, quiet spaces with a soft colour palette = calming. This is where gadgets come in handy, such as temperature controlling, white-noising, good smelling ones. Gadgets aside, it can be as simple as lighting a candle for a quick win on the sensory front.

Where to start

The first thing to focus on is the room you spend your most time in and work your way through the house from there. In the room itself, implementing just one change at a time will make a difference, it’s best to start with the quick wins like organising and decluttering.

While there are a lot of factors to consider, the silver lining is most of these are relatively small, easy changes that can be done on a budget and can make a considerable difference to your home life and mental health.

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