It seems that every week, a new article is out asking what is the source of our mental health troubles. Depending who you ask, demanding work schedules or an over-stimulating world could be the culprits. It’s all too often not one thing, but a combination of factors that leave us feeling sensitive, low, or unmotivated. At the center of new conversations emerging on mental health is the effect of our environment on our wellbeing. Taking the care to consider our home spaces is an important step in seeing how our familiar surroundings impact us. From small adjustments to a total overhaul, the home can transform from a source of stress or isolation to a sanctuary for calm and comfort.
"One interesting study from a mental health journal found that Jackson Pollock prints “actually increased stress in everyone,” while a National Geographic-like nature photos dramatically reduced anxiety. A landscape painting by Van Gogh “had no demonstrable effect.” Within the realm of natural scenes, there are particular types of landscape images that are more restorative. Long-distance views with sun and sky are relaxing because instinctively they mean “good weather for hunting and gathering and no predators.” " says Jared Green from The Dirt.
"The effects our homes have on us are largely defined by how we use and live within them. Architecture theorist Kate Wagner claims that most of our homes are too separated by function; most of our time is not spent in designated hosting spaces, such as a front room, but in the kitchen and the den. “Large, unused spaces designed for social functions foster isolation instead,” she explains. These isolated areas end up becoming pile-ups for unwanted furniture, or inaccessible simply because they’re too formally separated." says Sarah Bernard Design.
Much of what compresses a space isn’t tight walls and low ceilings, but it's the furniture we put into our spaces. A clear and open home is a natural reflection of a clear and open mind.
Prioritizing objects of beauty, function, and meaning within your house can be reflected in the popular Konmari Method, or “the life changing magic of tidying up”. Its founder, Marie Kondo, takes inspiration from Feng Shui to ensure that organization and tidiness are a permanent life change, not a cycle for us to endure every few months, because who has the time to organize every few months?!.
She believes that every object in our home brings us joy, and that each object has a specific place where it belongs within in our home. The method suggests we ask ourselves simple questions when we encounter an object we can’t bear to part with: “Does this bring me joy?”
Now what about your grandmother's beautiful china cabinet that it taking over the space or your kids wall art all over the fridge? There are so many things we have that bring us joy in a different way and hold a memory. Moving the china cabinet around can give it new life. Maybe removing the doors or adding a fresh coat of paint can give it new life. Your kids artwork can easily be displayed and rotated to keep the space refreshed and not cluttering your fridge.
A cluttered environment has been proven to drain energy and negatively impact our overall mood and self-image. In bringing in new and reinvented furniture and organizational pieces, we want to bring in new systems of living and using it. Wall-based organization is a great way to free up space on the floor. Multi-use coffee table to builtins are a great way to also pick things off the floors. Baskets and containers on the shelves help to give homes to smaller items that may get lost and unorganized easily.
Having a place for everything removes the added stress and keeps the home tidy.
Have a crazy amount of your kids art work and tired of picking it up off the floor when it falls off the fridge? These floating frames can help you to rotate your kids art of display a few in a modern and clean lined way. The rest can be stored behind it or kept in a folder and tucked away.
"The importance of possessions is knowing and fully appreciating their use and place in our home. Our home is a space for us to respect, personalize, and flourish with and within."
Just as promoting mental health and clarity through interior design goes back thousands of years, color therapy is as old as any other medicine, with a history going back centuries.
"Does this mean you paint your whole apartment blinding shades of sunshine yellow to spur energy? Not quite — in fact, research points to the contrary. Researchers at Logan Regional Hospital in Logan, Utah discovered that overly vibrant color schemes actually produce heightened states of unease and anxiety."
Splashes of your favorite color are a given within the home, but we can also look outside for inspiration.
Looking into nature is a great way to inspire and refresh your home. You do not need to add floral wallpaper just because you like flowers or paint your wall green because you love the smell of fresh cut grass. You can abstract the thought of nature by using cotton blankets, muted colors throughout your home, reflective art, allowing more natural light to flow into each space. You can also use nature through adding wood textures, such as a coffee table. Adding real or faux plants to add that sense of life and a breath of fresh air into the home. Allowing room for you to walkthrough and breath, yes open space is okay. Not every part of the home needs to be filled including your walls.
Investing in the space of your home as a part of mental health doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a rich history and boundless resources, transforming with a healthy, mindful designer can have incredible affects on your day-to-day life and long-term happiness, letting your home come alive.
So is it true do you find yourself looking more at nature like photos, calm scenic rooms on Instagram, or simple things on Pinterest? Do you find these help you to be more relaxed than busy, or bold art for example? What colors speak to you? What space do you find the most relaxing in your home? Let me know in the comments!