It’s so important to our good health and wellbeing that the spaces we live and work in are designed to promote a sense of wellness and productivity. Today we’re seeing many companies putting more effort and research into the interior design of their offices, but when it comes to our homes it’s up to us as homeowners to put in the same effort to create that same sense of calm and positivity that promotes good mental health.
The advent of COVID-19 has caused many of us to become housebound, some for long periods of time, and this has had a negative impact on the mental health of many people. You may have wondered during this time if the interior design of your home has also had an effect on your mental outlook. The answer is yes, this could very well be affecting your mood. Even prior to the pandemic, many mental health professionals were examining the role interior design has on our mental health.
In this post we’ll take a look into how our outlook changes according to our surroundings, and the simple changes we can make to lift our mood.
How Our Mental Health is Affected By Our Surroundings
We’ve always known that it’s good for our mental health to be close to nature, and perhaps that’s because we only need to take a hike through the bush, stroll along the beach, or simply gaze out over a field, and we can feel our thoughts clearing and our breathing become easier.
Many people argue that human beings were not created to be indoors for long periods of time. Today’s modern human has evolved from humans who had a natural affinity with nature, and today’s love of natural interior design elements and indoor plant life simply taps into the primitive aspects of our DNA.
It was back in the 1980s that researchers in Japan were searching for a remedy to resolve burnout and began examining the practise of shinrin-yoku, which simply means ‘forest bathing’. What they discovered was that people who spend time walking in forests had lower anxiety levels, significantly lower heart rate, and better moods than those who spend most of their time in urban settings. In Finland, a similar study discovered that when people from urban areas took a short 20-minute walk through a woodland or park they had a dramatically higher rate of stress relief than people who walked through the city.
It seems that anything to do with nature helps us feel lighter and happier; there’s also evidence to suggest that looking at a painting of nature, or just looking out a window, can be soothing to our soul and help boost our mood. To take this even further, any kind of art has been shown to benefit the human brain because, when we receive stimuli of decorative elements, we’re automatically triggered to appreciate and enjoy patterns and evoke soothing emotions.
In addition to nature and art, what impacts us the most is sunlight. This is because sunlight controls our circadian rhythms, which directly affects our metabolism, energy levels, and our overall health.
How Colours Affect Our Headspace
Have you ever noticed that most dental practices, doctors’ offices, and other potentially anxiety-promoting locations are typically painted a light, soft green or blue? The reason for this is that our brain associates these colours with a calming feeling. In fact, colour theory dates back to the ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians, who used specific soft colours to decorate the rooms of patients with delicate mental conditions. Of course this is all subjective, because different brains will associate different memories or feelings with specific colours based on their personal and cultural history.
What is true, though, is that muted and pale tones have a calming effect, while saturated colours can make us anxious and too energised. Colour combinations should also be considered because while colour clashing and lots of patterns can increase stress, a monotone space can very quickly lead to negative thoughts. Some bolder, darker colours can make us feel more depressed, sadder, and angrier, while other softer shades make us feel calmer, happier, and more thoughtful.
How To Style Your Space
We now understand the importance of bringing nature into our spaces to lift our moods, and this is easily done by introducing flowers or plants to our offices and homes. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, artificial plants also provide a mood boost.
Taking this even further, it’s very important that we strive to get closer to nature in any way we can, so we suggest using wall art to create the illusion of bringing the outdoors inside, or alternatively, placing furniture near windows with a view of nature.
Another way of elevating our headspace is to clear our spaces of clutter. Over-decorating can be a trap, so be aware of not placing too many furniture items and other design elements in the one space. Hanging a mirror with a beautiful frame can look very elegant, and try to allow as much natural sunlight as possible to bounce around the room. Sunlight works wonders by improving our general mood and making us feel calm and focused. If you’re building, try to introduce as much natural light as you can. Do this by installing bifold doors, skylights, and large windows.
Today’s trends are more about curved furniture and warmer colours, and both these elements provide a sense of comfort and calm. Sharp points and jagged edges are design features that can cause anxiety if overused. For instance, a living room typically includes a statement piece like a coffee table with sharp or jagged edges. The better alternative would be a table with rounded edges which would allow the nervous system to relax.
If you want to feel embraced by the elements, we suggest earthy tones like sandstone and rust combined with dusty blue or sage. We’ve also noticed an increase in naturally tactile materials like stone, timber, and linen, including woven items.
Whether we like it or not, human beings are social beings by nature. Lack of human connection ultimately has a huge effect on our mental health, which is why it’s so important that we design our spaces to encourage connecting with other people. To do this, we encourage you to –
- Position dining settings and sofas in such a way that everyone has unrestricted views of others in your space; this simple trick will enrich the experience of spending time with your family and friends.
- If your dining table has a large centrepiece, before sitting down at the table make sure the centrepiece is removed.
- Make sure your furniture pieces are spaced out to allow ease of movement, allowing people to mingle and roam freely.