Your personal environment can impact your well-being and mental-emotional health. Home and work environments may influence your mood, impact your behavior and motivation, foster or discourage social interaction, and even create or reduce stress.
There are many ways to create a home environment that supports mental health, healing and improves your mood. This article will explain the studies behind how our homes affect mental health and will provide some actionable tips to create and foster a healthy home environment.
How Environment Affects Mental Health
How your environment affects your mental health may include a few different contributors.
Physical factors may include:
- Loss of sleep due to loud neighbors, a loud external environment, lack of environmental protection against heat or cold.
- Pollution or dirty environments may cause stress and sickness.
- Extreme weather conditions and lack of protection and insulation in the home.
Social factors may include:
- Experiencing stigma, racism, or prejudice in your neighborhood and community contribute to feelings of unease and lack of safety in your home.
- Lack of social support and unhealthy relationships within the home.
- Discord or lack of safety in the neighborhood or in the home can increase stress and anxiety.
Emotional factors may include:
- Lack of access to green spaces or nature contributes to feelings of stress.
- Lack of visual stimulation can produce unpleasant, uninspiring, and negative effects on mental health.
- Lack of adequate light can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression
- Untidy environments may increase anxiety and stress.
Why Your Environment Affects Your Mental Health
Scientific reviews on environmental exposure and depression point to biological mechanisms that may influence mental health from environmental factors. Studies show that environmental factors may change or alter the way that the brain sends signals. This disruption may induce feelings of depression, or depressive symptoms, and contribute to chronic stress.
Pollutants in the environment can also affect neurotransmitter functions, including the chemical serotonin, which directly impacts mood, cognition, learning, and memory. Additional factors such as noise, human-made electromagnetic fields, urbanization, and lack of natural environments may all also affect the body’s ability to reduce stress and may contribute to increased feelings of depression.
Additionally, there are connections with how clutter and lighting can also increase stress. Highly cluttered environments may produce too much stimulus in the visual field and restrict the ability to focus, causing feelings of distraction or the inability to process information.
Are Some People More Affected by Their Environment Than Others?
Some individuals may experience high levels of environmental sensitivity that may cause increased levels of stress from certain social, physical, and emotional stimuli in their surroundings. This high level of sensitivity may cause more serious reactions to environmental stimuli that make it difficult for the individual to feel comfortable in loud work environments, over or under-lit, disorganized, or have strong odors.
Environmental Factors in Your Home That Can Affect Mental Health
Environmental factors in the home that may affect mental health include:
- Colors of walls and furnishings that are uncomfortable and over/under stimulating.
- Arrangement and layout of furniture.
- Lack of textures and items that increase comfort.
- Spaces that restrict or do not invite socialization.
- Cluttered environments that are overstimulating.
- Inadequate or overstimulating lighting.
- Uncomfortable temperatures.
- Lack of safety.
- Overwhelming sounds and/or odors.
Home Updates That Can Improve Your Mental Health
There are some residential updates, repairs, or replacements that can create a more comfortable and soothing, or engaging and focus-increasing environment. The needs of every individual will be unique, some home upgrades may include:
- Curate specific moods for the room by installing wall finishing or painting rooms with bold colors that support activity and focus, or soothing colors that provide comfort.
- Install outdoor lighting and update locks on windows and doors to increase feelings of safety and security. Curtain and drape installation can also foster feelings of safety and privacy.
- Create a focus on outdoor and green spaces by planting and maintaining flower beds, caretaking, and pruning shrubs and trees, and keeping outdoor spaces maintained through the seasons for year-round use.
- Designate rooms for specific activities and remodel according to use. This may include home office remodeling for work and study spaces, or creating a work or relaxing and meditation space in your home.
- Consider light levels in different rooms. Look for opportunities to increase natural lighting, or install specialty lighting or dimmer switches that allow you to curate light to enhance your mood.
- Manage and remove uncomfortable odors with carpet cleaning services or textile laundering services.
- Invest in housekeeping services that support and aid in keeping the home organized and orderly.
Small Changes That Can Improve Your Mental Health
Large-scale updates and renovations to a home may not be financially accessible for all. There are also smaller and more financially accessible changes to a home that can make it more mood-enhancing, emotionally accommodating, and comfortable. This may include:
- Grow houseplants or small planters on a patio, or keep fresh-cut flowers in the home.
- Create a nightly 10-minute speed organization routine.
- Install shelving or reorganize closets to better accommodate organization.
- Choose colors in your decor that are invigorating or soothing to you.
- Use noise-canceling headphones when studying or trying to relax.
- Add lamps or open the blinds to allow for natural light in study or workspaces.
- Adopt a pet that provides comfort and security.
- Designate specific areas of the home for specific activities. This can support your ability to focus or relax, depending on the activity.
- Add extra blankets or fans that allow you to self-regulate temperature.
- Use scented candles or essential oils that offer pleasant smells.
Updating or making changes to your home to support mental health will foster feelings of comfort, security, and appropriate stimulation for the activities you are partaking in. Every individual’s needs will be different, so it is important to consider for yourself what makes you feel best, and then make renovations and small changes that support you as an individual.