During Mental Health Month, we’re exploring how our surroundings impact our mental health. This blog dives into healthy home environments and how everyone can benefit from optimizing their spaces to improve personal mental health. But what does that even look like? Dai’ra Lewis, a home design and organization expert, and Sahar Elhodiri Aker, the founder of ichoosebeauty.com, share what a healthy home space looks like for them and offer tips to try in your own home.
Design your space to protect your peace by Dai’ra Lewis
While recently assisting a client in decluttering their home, particularly their closets, they got stuck trying to decide what to keep or get rid of. They explained how lately they haven’t been able to feel mental peace in their space – on top of high levels of work stress, being home had just been draining. Our surroundings are often an outward reflection of our inner well-being, whether that’s turmoil or peace. Wanting to live in a space you enjoy isn’t superficial – it’s key to your mental wellness.
The mind wanders – Connecting your home and head
It’s hard to prioritize, think, and even just relax when several things are competing for your attention. The human brain has a hard time tuning information out when there’s a lot coming in. Have you ever walked into a room in your house that was over-filled with clothes, shoes, and other items bulging out of nowhere? Any intention of getting a hold of your day or tidying up is instantly replaced by an overwhelming feeling.
I have been in that space myself, so I decided to design areas in my home and workspace to not only represent my creativity and personality, but also with my well-being in mind. This meant learning about the psychology of what makes surroundings helpful or harmful and how the spaces I’m in can affect my mental wellness in general. I created my home to be in what I like to call “its feng shui elements” and exude Zen daily – it’s my “safe space.” In doing this, I found two big themes:
I noticed a big change in my mental health and wellness when I started playing around with the psychology of color. With the right colors, my mind wasn’t wandering as much, and I didn’t feel scatterbrained when I entered my bedroom or walked in my door from a long day. Being intentional about color in my home has helped me spend more time in my peace and less time feeling general confusion and anxiety.
Mental health and untidiness can be a vicious cycle – a disorganized space can take a toll on my mental health, and my mental health can take a toll on my ability to keep my house clean. Our homes are meant to be a space of refuge from the world – the number one place where we can relax and let our worries drift away. It can be helpful to reframe tidying in a more encouraging way: Instead of thinking “I need to clean,” try telling yourself “I deserve to live in a clean space.”
Here are five housekeeping and design tips to start you on your Zen way:
- Start small with tidying. Take some time today to pick a favorite space of yours a clear the corners. Having too much clutter in a corner stops any positive energy from filling up that space. You clear the clutter, you clear the mind.
- Open a window. Getting fresh air clears your energy and gives you a sharper mind. It also renews any stale, stagnant energy from your home.
- Hang some artwork. Did you know that viewing artwork stimulates your mind? Aim to fill your space with individualistic art that resonates with you. You can even pick up a paintbrush and get creating yourself.
- Think about color. Blue could be a good choice for your bedroom, as it’s associated with relaxation and calmness. Shades of green may help boost creativity – try it out in your office or other space where you want ideas flowing. Red is a great pop of color, but keep it minimal with small or multicolored accents.
- Let go of making it perfect. You aren’t alone if you kind of like your messiness – a bit of (organized!) chaos can even have some upsides. Recent studies suggest that a messy room can spur creativity. If you feel it’s truly working for you right now, don’t force a big change. Your space will always be a work in progress, and that’s okay.
Of course, it takes more than design to create a mentally healthy space, but it is something you can change for the better. Read on for more of the basics.
Building the foundation of a mentally healthy living space by Sahar Elhodiri Aker
There are many sources of stress in life that we may not be able to control, so we’re left to focus on controlling what we can. Here are three tips to get you started.
Get rid of the clutter
It can’t be said enough! Maybe it starts with just one shirt on that chair in the corner. But before you know it, the pile of clothes gets high and messy, and you're so used to seeing it that you don't even notice it – or how it might be impacting your mental health. If you’re struggling with your mental health and the task of decluttering feels impossible, know that that's normal and okay. To conquer it, clear those piles bit by bit. Try setting an alarm and start with five minutes of decluttering a day, or focus on one section of a room (your desk, a closet, etc.) at a time.
Let the sun in
Not getting enough sunshine or natural light can contribute to depression. One thing you can do at home is open your curtains or shades during the day to let maximum light in. Sit or work next to the windows, if possible. If that's not an option, try some bright lighting, especially in the rooms where you spend the most time.
Breathe in therapeutic scents
Aromatherapy can help ease depression, stress, and anxiety. An easy way to reap its benefits is to use an essential oil diffuser in your home. As you breathe in the aroma, it stimulates your nervous system, bringing you peace and tranquility. Lavender, rose, and clary sage have all been found to have a calming effect and reduce stress. Make sure to check ingredients for any allergens that could affect you, others in your household, or pets.
Feeling at ease in your living space is critical for mental wellness – if your space isn’t giving you the sense of peace that you deserve in a home, identify what changes you can begin to make.
Learn more about healthy home environments by following along with MHA’s 2023 Mental Health Month campaign, Look Around, Look Within. We’re exploring how our surroundings impact individual and community mental wellness. Download our free outreach toolkit, find details on related events, and learn how you can get involved at www.mhanational.org/may.