The latest report from the Happiness Research Institute was released earlier this year. Titled “Wellbeing Adjusted Life Years”, this report investigates how can we produce the greatest happiness return for humankind? Interesting reading, especially in light of COVID-19.
In many countries around the world, including developed countries, average wellbeing levels have stagnated or even declined despite continued economic growth. No matter where in the world we look, health is one of the most important determinants of wellbeing. In both high and low income countries, physical and especially mental illness often pose a greater threat to quality of life than unemployment or poverty. Depression is shown to be the most burdensome disease in Europe!
Couple this with the fact that humans today, and especially with the ongoing effects of COVID-19, are spending up to 90% of our lives indoors.
So, how can we design our homes to ensure that they nurture our mental health, and not exacerbate mental health problems? There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.
Here are four main things that you can change in your home to improve your state of wellbeing, and live your best life possible.
- Eliminate Clutter
Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has climbed bestseller lists all over the world as people have embraced the awareness that clutter has a negative effect on our state of mind. In fact, I have heard it said that being surrounded by clutter is as stressful to us as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder! So, it goes without saying that the first thing we should do, when it comes to making improvements to our homes, is to de-clutter.
One way to help achieve this is to have adequate storage for the possessions that we chose to hold on to. Storage is the one thing that my clients consistently ask for as it is often distinctly lacking in homes, both new and old. Storage ranges from having a stylish box on your coffee table to hide those ugly TV remotes, to a large bank of built-in cupboards, and everything in between!
- Introduce Elements of Nature
Since the beginning of human evolution, we have been connected to the natural world, observing the changing seasons, learning what foods grow when, and when we can celebrate earth’s bounty, or when we need to build up reserves for the leaner seasons.
The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why flickering flames and cascading waterfalls captivate us; why forest bathing is such a powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world; and why having a pet has restorative, healing effects.
The use of biophilic design in our spaces has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.
Even as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature can lead to positive emotions, mental restoration and other health benefits.
- Use Colour
Colour is an incredibly powerful tool to use in our homes. As Karen Haller, author of The Little Book of Colour says, colour “… communicates feeling, creates a mood, affects our energy, our appetites, our sleep, and has a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing and on the behaviours of everyone we live with.”
Colour has the power to positively support us emotionally, yet so often we chose to decorate with so called ‘neutral’ colours on behalf of the future buyer of our home, or because of what our friends and family will think if we don’t. This results in us living in places we don’t really like, in the hope that others will.
However, it’s important to note that when choosing our colours, we need to be mindful to choose the right colour for how we want the space to feel, as well as picking the right shade for our own personalities.
- Add Personality
This is the final item that really turns a house into a home. Stamping our own mark on our space restores our equilibrium in this world, reminds us of our journey through life, and inspires us.
Bringing personality into our homes involves layering in pattern and texture, and displaying art, decorative items and collections. It is about choosing furnishings that play with scale or proportion, and adding in items with quirky, offbeat designs. It’s the little things that make you smile.
Your home should always tell your unique story.
With these four tips, you can transform your space into one that nurtures you psychologically and physically, contributing to your overall health, happiness and well-being.
”Life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called human.”