Most of us spend at least a third of our life in our own home, which is why it needs to be as comfortable and welcoming as possible. But for people living with mental health problems, the home takes on a whole new level of significance.
One in four of us lives with a significant mental health problem — usually stress, anxiety and depression. And whether we like it or not, we’re all emotionally impacted by our physical environment. While decorating a home in a particular way will never eliminate stress from our lives, it can make a positive difference.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, here are seven interior design ideas that could lower your stress levels.
Surround yourself with uplifting images
Surround yourself with the images that make you happy, content and relaxed. For you, these images might be of family members or friends. There might be a particular landscape that you find calming, or a holiday location that makes you remember happy times in your life. While it’s good to have positive imagery all over your home, pay extra attention to the bedroom. If the first things you see when you wake up in the morning make you feel happy and relaxed, there’s a good chance that your stress levels will remain in check for the rest of the day.
Introduce bright and vivid colours
Most of us live in decoratively neutral homes these days — dominated by shades of beige, white and brown. While too much colour can have the opposite effect, just a splash here and there can brighten your mood without you even noticing it. Hang a colourful picture on a blank wall; add some colourful candles to your mantelpiece; add some bright cushions to your soft furnishings. Splashes of your favourite colours here and there can make your entire home more conducive to rest and relaxation.
Harness as much natural light as possible
Natural light helps our bodies to function correctly. Not only is it a rich source of vitamin D, it is also crucial to the body’s internal clock. There is also evidence that confirms the link between natural light and our mental health. Exposing yourself to natural light is a good way of reducing stress levels, so set your home up in a way that harnesses it. For example, move furniture away from windows, pull your curtains and blinds up and paint your walls white — to reflect the sunlight around the room. You can distribute more of the natural light by positioning a mirror right in front of a large window in your main living area. It’s also important to keep your windows clean at all times.
A lot of clutter, mess and possessions lying around your home can make switching off very difficult. Plan storage in your home carefully, ensuring that all of your everyday possessions have their own home. Use chests, window boxes, hooks, cupboards to keep items off the floor and out of view. Create a calming environment in which relaxation is easy, and your stress levels should subside naturally over time.
Stimulate your senses
While calming influences are always welcome in a home, it’s also good to have something almost tactile in nature to stimulate your senses and connect you to your surroundings. One way to achieve this goal is to choose decor and furnishings with different textures. For example, exposed brick provides a welcome contrast to soft furnishings and carpet. Stone, steel, rocks, plants and textured wood all deliver an invigorating contrast to fabrics.
Create a bedroom conducive to quality sleep
If you suffer with stress, you’ll know that sleep deprivation makes it a lot worse. If you can sleep for between seven and nine hours every night, your stress and anxiety levels should be easier to manage. Start with a great mattress. Test a few out in stores before you decide on one that works for you. Use 100% cotton bedsheets, and invest in a foam pillow.
Choose restful colour schemes too — natural shades (brown, green, yellow) are usually conducive to decent rest. Finally, hang some blackout curtains to keep sunlight out of your bedroom during the light mornings of summer.
Bring Mother Nature indoors
Plants and flowers often have a positive effect on our moods. Not only that, they’re a source of oxygen. Having plants in your home creates a healthier, more positive environment — which has a soothing effect on people with mental health issues. Place a few potted plants in rooms you use for relaxation. Brighten up rooms with flowers, and hang plant baskets from the ceiling where appropriate.
Finding out which of these ideas works for you involves a little trial and error. But if you can make your home right for you, alleviating stress and all the associated symptoms might just become that little bit easier.