For some of us, it’s a natural inclination– there’s a desire to make our living spaces a place of refuge, a haven. Kids, for instance, often create cozy spaces – they build pillow forts, fill their beds with stuffed animals or create blanket houses. Yet as we get older, we sometimes forget how good it feels to curl up in a space that feels warm and welcoming. We may not realize just how much of an impact our physical space has on our mental state. But think about how differently you feel entering a dark, cluttered room as opposed to a bright and airy one.
“It takes a lot for people to recognize how their space affects them, to essentially put themselves first and focus on the importance of their own space,” says Mika McLane, MPS, LCAT, ATR, CCLS, of Westchester Creative Arts Therapy. “I encourage everyone to ask themselves: Have I taken the time to create an environment where I can thrive?”
Science has proven that our mental health is affected by our physical environment. Researchers have studied everything from how neat or messy a space is to the amount of light and the color on the walls. Even textures and sounds play a part. Creating a safe, comfortable place where you can relax and recharge is proven to boost your mood. Here’s how you can achieve that in your own home.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Your home should be a place of comfort and contentment, not a source of stress. And while it may seem overwhelming to clear out all the piles and get organized, once done, you’ll feel a greater sense of ease every time you walk through your home.
“If our space is chaotic or cluttered, it’s a microcosm of what’s really operating inside our heads – it’s telling us that we need to make some space in our minds, clear out the excess,” explains Jennifer Zauner, LCSW, clinical director of Sirona Therapy in Mount Kisco. “A great way to start that process is by clearing out our physical space.”
After you’ve cleared out and organized your spaces (see page 18), slowly bring new items in.
- Keep it simple; don’t over-decorate.
- Only fill your space with objects that are uplifting or meaningful; sell or donate items that aren’t.
- Remember that your house is meant to be a living-space, not storage for the stuff you don’t use.
Brighten & Lighten Your Rooms
According to the Newport Institute, light plays an important role in physical and mental health. It’s what tells us when it’s time to sleep and wake; if it’s too bright at night, it will disrupt our sleep. And, our sleep habits are closely linked to our mood. Plus, too little natural and/or artificial light in our rooms can increase our stress and anxiety, which also alters our mood.
To improve your lighting:
- Use lamps or overhead lighting that you find soothing. For example, soft light bulbs produce a more yellow light, which is warmer and cozier.
- Keep curtains open or replace curtains with blinds.
- Position mirrors on the walls across from windows to double the natural light that comes in.
“Colors create the mood in your home,” McLane explains. “Researchers have found that different colors have varying affects on a person’s mood. Soft, warmer tones are healing and soothing colors. For a livelier, more energetic feel, you’ll want to go with richer, brighter colors. Look at how you feel when you see the color bright red versus calming blue. When you think about the color of your space, ask yourself what kind of environment you’re trying to create – energized or calm?”
If you’re going for a more peaceful vibe, a good first step is to paint one wall of your room a soft shade of white or pastel to reflect light and create a sense of calm. If you’re drawn to cooler or brighter colors, then see how it feels to add some neutral-colored throw pillows, blankets, decor pieces, artwork or other accents while keeping your walls a brighter shade.