In a world where the pace of life can be relentless, our homes serve as our sanctuaries.
When our lives become hectic–whether with family, work, or school–our homes are our refuge and a space where we are in control of our surroundings.
Though our homes offer physical protection from the elements and signify a separation between our public and private lives, the environment of our homes affects our mental and emotional health, too.
Environmental Psychology and Interior Design
Practices like the Japanese KonMari Method are among some of the more well-known interior decorating styles, while other strategies for creating a relaxing, welcoming space in one’s home can include aromatherapy and minimalism.
In recent years, a growing body of research in environmental psychology has indicated that these practices can indeed improve our mental health.
The connection between mental and emotional health and interior design is also evident in the healthcare and business sectors with the way these environments make careful use of color, light, texture, and configuration to create spaces that are appropriately functional and aesthetically pleasing.
It’s important to consider these things outside of the home, too.
Whether you’re choosing a hotel to book, window shopping at the mall, or even researching the best rehab facilities, environmental psychology and interior design matter.
Your Home and Your Mental Health
Just as your environment has an impact on your physical health, the arrangement and organization of your home can also influence your mental and emotional state.
- Spaces that are chaotic, disorganized, and cluttered can be overwhelming and cause feelings of anxiety, which can prompt you to avoid certain areas in your home.
- Homes that are cluttered or messy are also more likely to contribute to symptoms of depression.
- The amount of light and whether it’s artificial or natural can also affect how you feel; lack of sunlight can exacerbate anxiety and even induce feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- Spaces that aren’t visually appealing to you can prevent relaxation or feelings of belonging.
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What Can You Do?
So, how can you transform your home into a haven that is both welcoming and personal to you?
First, remember to consider aesthetics and function.
Every room in your home has a purpose, and you should design it around furnishings that motivate and allow you to achieve those things.
Choose comfortable furniture that you want to use, particularly in workspaces to encourage productivity.
At the same time, that feeling you get when you walk into a space that invites peace and happiness lies in the creative side of interior design, too.
Decorate your home with pieces that elicit positive emotional and sensory responses from you, and choose artwork that represents those who make the space a home, including yourself.
These simple choices in personalizing your environment can do wonders to boost your mood, inspire creativity, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Choice of color can also influence physiological responses to a space; cool, neutral tones and shades of blue, green, and yellow can not only make you feel calm, but also lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Tidying Up: The Minimalist Approach
Minimalism emphasizes actively trying to downsize and simplify our physical and material possessions to reduce our mental load.
In other words, minimalism in interior design refers to the “less is more” approach.
Through this practice, you can eliminate clutter by ridding your space of items that no longer serve you, whether functionally or aesthetically.
It’s been scientifically proven that the fewer objects in your field of vision, the less likely you are to lose focus on a task.
Minimalists also spend less time cleaning and are less likely to lose or misplace their belongings.
Moreover, those who practice minimalism report feeling more satisfied with and in control of their lives and credit the practice with improving their overall well-being.
On a chemical level, a minimalist space can reduce cortisol levels–our body’s stress hormone–in the brain, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Marie Kondo has also popularized a kind of minimalist interior design, called the KonMari Method.
The KonMari Method is simple: keep the items that spark joy, and toss those that don’t. According to Kondo herself, “You are not choosing what to discard but rather to keep only the items that speak to your heart.”
Through this lens of “tidying up,” minimalists surround themselves with the things that are meaningful and useful to them.
The Power of Our Senses: Aromatherapy
Our sense of smell also plays a large role in how our environments affect our thoughts and emotions.
Aromatherapy is a holistic practice that uses essential oils and other fragrances to heal the mind, body, and spirit.
Essential oils are often derived from natural materials, such as leaves, roots, seeds, wood, and flowers.
You may be familiar with using essential oils by diluting them in a carrier oil for a massage, or perhaps you’ve used a diffuser before.
There are a handful of other ways you can utilize essential oils in your home as well, whether that’s through burning incense, lighting candles, or using room sprays.
Incorporation of these natural fragrances and the various ways to spread their aromas around your home can help bring the outdoors into your environment, helping you feel more grounded and in touch with elements like earth, air, and fire.
Aromatherapy certainly can play a role in our mental health in its ability to alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Research is currently exploring how certain oils like jasmine, sandalwood, and bergamot can support treatment for depression.
Lavender, chamomile, and rose are often used to help with stress and anxiety, and they can also help promote quality of sleep.
Peppermint and Ylang-ylang oils are known for their ability to ease headaches and stomachaches, as well as muscle tension.
Beyond mere physical shelter, our homes have a profound influence on our mental and emotional well-being.
Understanding the connection between environmental psychology and interior design reveals that practices like minimalism, the KonMari Method, and aromatherapy have the power to improve our mental health.
Embracing aesthetics and functionality can transform our living spaces into havens that nurture our spirits, spark creativity, and alleviate anxiety and depression.