Is the interior design in your home or office making you feel centered and productive, or sluggish and sad? You might be surprised just how much simple things like lighting, paint colors, and even decorative items can affect your state of mind each day. Sometimes, all it takes is a few easy (and budget-friendly) changes to completely transform the energy of a room, like getting rid of heavy curtains, switching up the color scheme, and rearranging the furniture. Here are five ways to use the power of interior design to boost your mental health.
Use Lighting Wisely
Just as harsh, bright white overhead lighting can have an invasive, clinical feel, soft ambient lighting sends us subliminal signals that it’s time to unwind. An abundance of natural lighting is ideal for positive feelings of well-being as well as intense concentration, so make the most of your windows by choosing curtains and blinds that don’t cut off too much light during the day, like sheers or roman-style shades. Full spectrum LED light bulbs can also mimic the effect of daylight, if you find your available windows lacking. At the end of the day, turn off any lighting that leans blue in color, which can suppress the melatonin our brains produce as a natural sleep aid, and turn on warm, low lights in shades of yellow and amber.
Maintain Flows of Air and Movement
If you’re feeling stagnant, trapped, or claustrophobic, it’s time to change the flow of energy in your space. You can accomplish that in a few different ways – namely, by reducing clutter, bringing in fresh air, and changing the layout of your furniture to make it easier to physically move through the room. Simply opening your windows, letting the sunshine in, and cleaning the glass can make a world of difference, especially if you can get a cross breeze from one window or door to another.
Think about your patterns of movement in the space. Is your typical path intuitive and unimpeded, or are there obstacles you have to work around? Try eliminating objects that don’t get enough use and moving your furniture around until the room feels more spacious and easier to navigate. A deep cleaning can also do wonders for your mental health.
If this concept speaks to you, a book about feng shui can help you learn more about inviting positive energy into your home. Feng Shui for Healing by Rodika Tchi is a great place to start.
Make Calculated Color Choices
Color has a major impact on how any given space affects our mental well-being, but depending on your cultural upbringing, you may react to certain shades differently than other people. The important thing is to be aware of how color affects you, and which hues make you feel cheerful, energized, calm, content, worried, irritated, or depressed.
For instance, gray has been a major color trend for the past few years, but it can make many people feel gloomy. Bright red can be agitating, while neon yellow is invigorating. Purple reads as luxurious and noble to some, but in countries like Thailand and Brazil, it’s a color of mourning. When you’re choosing paint, flooring, textiles, and furniture for your space, think about the emotions each of these colors bring up for you, matching them to the moods you’re trying to set in individual rooms.
Affirm Your Connection to Nature
Humans evolved in constant contact with nature, and we need that contact to feel balanced and healthy, even (or especially) if we live in urban environments. Houseplants can be a big help, even if you don’t think of yourself as an especially attentive plant parent. Start with plants that can get by even when neglected, like snake plants, succulents, cast iron plants, and ZZ plants, and you might find that after a while, caring for your greenery becomes a sort of meditative task. Apps like Planta make it easy to log the plants you own, reminding you when it’s time to water or give them more light. Bouquets of fresh flowers, when replaced often, can also make for a bright spot in any room.
Another way to connect to nature through interior design is by choosing items with curving, organic shapes instead of hard angles and straight lines. Find items like wall art, couches and chairs, coffee tables, lamps, and throw pillows with pleasingly curvaceous silhouettes to mimic the shapes of natural forms and foster the feeling of a womb-like contentment.
Indulge Your Senses
Don’t forget about the power of scent, sound, taste, and texture when decorating your home or workspace. Create little vignettes where you can surround yourself with whatever you find most comforting, affirming, or motivating. For relaxation, you could set up a reading nook with a cozy chair, a silky throw blanket, your favorite scented candle, and a smart speaker to play some quiet music or ambient noise. For studying or concentration, give yourself inspirational things to look at, like images of your idols or poignant quotes, infuse the area with an invigorating aroma like lemon, peppermint, or jasmine, and give yourself something to fidget with while you’re thinking.