How to design your home for better wellbeing

The way our homes are designed and decorated can affect our mood. Here’s how interior design can boost mental health and wellbeing.

Interior design can be used to create mood in your home, but did you know it can also affect mood?

The way our homes are designed and decorated can affect our mental health.

It makes sense then to try and create spaces that make us feel happy, comfortable and calm.

Melbourne designer Shay Conway says designing interiors with mental health in mind is a trend that is gaining momentum.

“During the pandemic, people really started to focus on the atmosphere they were creating in their homes and how that can affect mental health and wellbeing,” Shay says.

Here are some tips on how to design your home to boost your mood.

Get the lighting right to feel more joy

Natural light in the home can significantly affect your levels of happiness, with more natural light giving you greater joy, according to one study.

Researchers found people were happier in a room with a window that faced the equator (facing the sun), whether the day was cloudy or sunny.

They also found the larger the window, the greater the sense of happiness.

Shay says to bring plenty of sunlight into the home through windows, but also don’t forget to consider artificial light.

“My tip for using lighting for mental health would be to use as much mood lighting as possible,” she says.

“Using bright, offensive lighting can easily make us feel overwhelmed, whereas dim, ambient light creates a sense of calm.”

Bring in pot plants for a happiness boost

Get your green fingers ready.

Science shows that indoor plants have a raft of benefits, including reducing stress and negativity, raising performance and productivity, and improving wellbeing, according to a report by the University of Technology Sydney.

“Humans developed in a green leafy landscape and we’re therefore hard-wired for the feeling of ‘green is the good place to be’,” the report says.

Having greenery outside can also be good for your mental health – and maybe even reduce your chances of dying.

A study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found women with homes surrounded by more vegetation had a much lower mortality rate than those with less vegetation.

The researchers thought lower levels of depression could be one of the main reasons for the lower mortality rate.

Minimise unattractive outlooks for better wellbeing

Nobody likes having an ugly view out the window.

For a happiness-boosting interior, minimise unattractive views where possible.

“People living in an apartment may look out into another building, which can be quite an unpleasant view,” MindstyleCo interior designer Shelly Thorpe says, citing a common problem.

“You can use a sheer curtain that obscures the outlook but allows natural light to filter in.”

Choose colours that make you happy

Colour is thought to influence our emotions and mood.

Bright, warm colours (reds, yellows and oranges) stimulate energy and happiness while subdued, cool hues (blues, purples and greens) are soothing and calming, notes non-profit organisation Mental Health America.

Shelly says the trend for crisp white interiors has shifted to more neutral tones such as greens and browns and “that’s been driven by the wellness movement”.

However, no actual set palette will guarantee better mental health as it depends on you and what you like.

Shay notes: “I feel just as at peace in a space with bold colours, patterns and textures, as I believe this kind of design can bring so much joy.”

Declutter to feel more relaxed

Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally, and constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done, according to psychologist and author Dr Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Today.

Shelly says organising your living space can have a transformative effect and recommends planning designated storage spaces for belongings.

This doesn’t mean adopting a completely minimalist approach to design.

“It’s just nice to have enough storage so your spaces feel clean and ordered,” Shelly says.

Create a space in your home for wellness activities

“I’ve definitely seen a lot more people wanting separate wellness spaces, like a home gym or a space to do yoga or meditation,” Shelly says.

She recommends designating specific areas in your home for self-care practices and making them fit for purpose.

If the designated space is in a living space, have adequate storage nearby to store everything you need when you’re not using it.

Reduce noise for a soothing effect

Heavy traffic, neighbourhood renovations, loud music – unwelcome sounds can come at you from all angles when you are at home and they can have consequences.

Noise and noise sensitivity can impact both our physical and mental health and impair our quality of life, a Korean study reports.

Try and incorporate sound-absorbing features such as solid doors, curtains, rugs, carpet, double-glazed windows and acoustic panels.

And turn on some soothing background music to enhance the ambience further.

More on creating a healthier home:

Written by Alex White.