How To Create a Home Environment that Improves Mental Health
According to the centre for addiction and mental health (source: CAMH):
- In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem.
- By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have—or have had—a mental illness.
So look beside you. If it’s not you who has experienced some form of mental illness, it’s likely the person next to you.
The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together. (Source)
So we eliminate toxic elements from our homes to try and avoid cancer.
But the trends in home design are actually driving anxiety and other forms of mental illness in both us and our kids!
Now, I want to begin by saying I’m an Interiors Professional, not a mental health professional. That said, as someone who works on other people’s homes I feel that it’s my responsibility to learn from talks given by mental health professionals and from researchers who specialize in environmental psychology because my job is to create spaces that make people feel good.
So I want to talk to you today about 5 things we can do in our homes to decrease anxiety, raise productivity, and improve overall well being.
Some of the things I’ll talk about cost very little. Some are free. Other things you may need to consider in time as they’re more of an investment.
The first, and possibly most important, is the use of colour.
Now we’ve known for decades that colour theory exists and that colour has been proven to affect our mood and levels of anxiety. (Source)
There are some universally known truths about colour that I won’t spend too much time on because most people have heard these already, like:
- Warm colours like yellow, red and orange can make people hungry. This is why we often see these colours in restaurants.
- Red is the colour of passion and energy. It can also make some people angry.
- Blues and greens are relaxing and help us feel more calm.
- Purple, because it’s a mixture of red and blue, promotes creativity. It’s energizing and relaxing all at once helping us tap into our creative juices.
- And making purple even more powerful, lavender creates a peaceful surrounding and relieves tension.
Have you noticed the white wash trend for homes online lately?
We’re painting everything white, just like we did in the 80’s!
We’re seeing this trend because of online filters.
Filters are creating artificially bright spaces that we are bombarded with every day online.
Unless you live in a glass house, white won’t actually look like it does in filtered photos. In most homes it will actually look like a pale grey.
We choose white because of it’s high LRV. LRV is Light Reflective Value.
Every surface has an LRV between 0 and 100 with zero being absolute black, and 100 being absolute white.
Surfaces with an LRV of 0 completely absorb light. Dark colours have a very low LRV with most black paints being around 5.
Whites and yellows have a high LRV usually around 85 meaning that the light bounces around off of those surfaces until being absorbed by lower LRV surfaces.
This has made us drawn to white walls as we try and recreate the light and bright (and overly filtered) rooms that we see online.
So should we stop using grey and white in our homes because colour theory says so?
But in order to avoid the negative mental health impacts of white and grey we must incorporate colour into our white or grey rooms.
According to colour theory, the best colours to support mental health are green, magenta, and turquoise for their soothing effects.
However you can choose any colour that makes you feel happy as many of us relate colour to previous experiences.
I usually recommend colours that you’ve loved since you were a kid because they’ll be the most timeless in your own more.
Neutral trends come and go about every 5 years. But your favourite colour will always be your favourite colour!
If you’re ready to redecorate, adding colour is easy. However, if you’re not quite ready to start from scratch here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use decor and accents. The key to doing this and having it look good is to repeat each colour in the room at least 3 times. If you decide to add some blue to your grey room, then just toss pillows won’t quite be enough to form a pop of colour that looks good. So repeat the blue again in the art and once more in some decor pieces around the room for a balanced look.
- If you’re unsure on which colours to use, look for a large piece of art or a rug that has the colours already in your space. There will likely be other colours in that piece that you can pull from as accents.
- The easiest way to mix colours is to keep all colours the same level of muddiness. Every colour can be compared to others as “cleaner” or “muddier”. When you’re new to colour, mix clean colours with other clean colours and avoid adding muddier accents into the mix. Or vice versa.
So we touched on Light Reflective Value and how we crave light.
However, what we didn’t touch on yet is how lighting trends are contributing to our mental health crisis.
We’re seeing this come out of the U.S. where environmental psychologists are studying the use of light, colour, and artwork in doctor’s offices and the impact it has on patient’s implementing treatment recommendations. (One source here)
Let me ask you — do we generally feel better on a cloudy day? Or on a sunny day?
A sunny day, right?
Well, the trend in lighting has been moving to cooler LED lighting and to stack in many, many, many LED pot lights.
We’re especially seeing this trend in newly built homes.
However, while you can get LED’s in a variety of temperatures, most people are choosing LED’s with a high kelvin rating.
Kelvins are a measurement for the warmth of lighting.
Incandescent bulbs tend to be around 2800K, or very warm. They cast a glow much like the sun and generally make us feel happier overall.
I can’t imagine ever feeling great under a fluorescent bulb. Fluorescents have been used traditionally in work environments where brighter, more stark lighting was required for detail work. Fluorescents range from about 3,100K to 4,500K.
LED’s also range from about 3,500K all the way up to 5,000K (often referred to as “daylight bulbs”).
5,000K light is extremely cool in temperature.. Much like a cloudy day. Looks great on the ‘gram, but not so great for our brains.
Here are my tips for creating a brain-friendly lighting scheme in your home.
- Obviously the environmental effect has also trended us towards the use of LED bulbs. However, a simple fix is to change the bulbs in your home to a warmer LED. We like 3,500K because it still brings in a lot more light than traditional incandescents, but is typically better for our overall happiness, mindfulness, and wellbeing.
As a bonus, environmental psychologists are possibly finding that warmer layered lighting may help kids listen better, too! So, if you have little ones at home every little bit helps!
- Install dimmers to every switch. It’s very inexpensive to have an electrician install a dimmer and allows you to turn down those harsh pot lights.
- Think of your lighting as three layers.
The first layer is your overhead lights. You may have pot lights, spot lights, chandeliers, pendants or none of the above. Overhead lights are a must in working zones like kitchens and baths. But they may not be as important in bedrooms and living rooms where we spend time relaxing.
The second layer is your task lighting, which are your floor, table and desk lamps. When the sun goes down, nix the overhead lighting (unless you’re working in the kitchen) and turn on your task lights instead. This helps to improve our circadian rhythm and put our body and mind at ease.
The third layer is accent lighting. Accent lighting is what takes a room from average to expensive looking. It might include washing window treatments with spot lights, picture lights above your favourite artwork, or lights inside of cabinets.
I think we can all see that clutter creates stress.
But did you know that minimalism also creates stress?
We’ve known for quite some time that decluttering gives us more zen.
However, now researchers have found that not giving the eye sufficient details to focus on can cause increased levels of anxiety in adults and children.
So this is a totally free solution that you can do this weekend.
Clear out the clutter if you have too much.
And add back some things that you love if you don’t have any decor out at all.
My best tip for clearing clutter is this: Begin with your closets.
We store the most clutter typically in our closets. So a great trick to use is the hanger trick!
Turn all of your hangers backwards. Whenever you wear something, flip the hanger forward again when you re-hang it.
After each season, donate the pieces that are still hanging on backwards hangers. They aren’t doing you any good in that closet!
People are spending about 90% of their time indoors, interacting more and more with technology.
At the National Forestry Conference in Alliston, a number of physicians and researchers pointed to the effects of nature and our mental health.
In fact, one physician even questioned if planting trees was more effective than medicine to aid mental health patients struggling with anxiety, stress, and other mental health diseases.
It was discovered that when we can’t be in nature, that even looking at a picture of a tree could help.
Nice artwork can be expensive, however getting out into nature with your phone and snapping some pics to print isn’t.
If green isn’t in your decor, then look for wildflowers that are. Every colour is found in nature!
Here are my Decor tips for implementing nature photography into your home:
Decor wise, try to aim for fewer larger pieces rather than many small ones — especially if you have a smaller home. This will keep the look uncluttered and give a better focal point.
We love using Posterjack.ca (#notsponsored) for printing photography. You can print large photos on gorgeous art paper for less than $100 then find a frame at Ikea or Micheal’s.
Make It You
“Personalizing your space is a really important part of expressing your identity, of self-actualization, and of control of your home.” says Bonnie Sanborn, an environmental psychologist and the design research leader at DLR Group.
She goes on to say “We’re always evolving as people, and decorating our home is a way of understanding ourselves and reflecting on that identity.”
Every piece in your home should make you feel something.
I’m not talking the whole Marie Kondo “does it bring you joy?”.
(Because the constant pressure to be perfect and happy is not doing us any favours, amirite?)
However, if I can’t tell who lives there when I walk in the door then your home isn’t fully expressive of you and you’re missing out on the joys of expressing yourself in the very environment you spend the most time in.
Think about it this way. When we’re kids, our parents let us decorate our room however we wanted.
Most of my girlfriends had JT and Leo posters everywhere.
I loved decorating, so I found a gorgeous Kelly green comforter for a heavy discount at a Ralph Lauren outlet…
Then I painted all the walls to match.
My mom hated it. It practically glowed.
But I loved that room so much. It brought me joy!
Of course, we change as people and while green is still my favourite colour, I tend to go for a more mature green nowadays.
As we grow older, we’re bombarded with more and more images around what the “perfect” home looks like… and we all start trying to make our homes look Pin-worthy rather than making them look like an expression of ourselves.
We get hung up in the fear that what we like will go out of style.
So here are my tips for letting your personality shine in your Decor, while still remaining timeless so you don’t get sick of it quickly.
- The best colour for your sofa, is your favourite colour.
A sofa should last you 10-20 years. But most of us get sick of ours after 5-6 because we tend to buy neutral coloured sofas thinking it’s the “safe” choice, when the truth is that neutral trends change rapidly.
If I walk into a home and see a pinkish beige, I immediately know it was last redecorated in the 90’s.
Then we shifted to a warmer yellow beige in the early 2000’s.
Then a more orange terracotta beige in the mid 00’s.
Then we saw a shift to taupe around the 2008-2012 timeline.
Then it was grey from 2012 to about 2016.
Then it was greige — adding some of that beige we all just stripped out of our homes back to the grey that felt just a bit too cold.
Now we’re shifting to white and black with stark contrast.
That’s the opposite of timeless.
If I asked every one of my 3-year-old niece’s friends what their favourite colour is, I’ll bet none of them will say beige, grey, or white.
So I recommend taking a step back and asking yourself what your favourite colour was when you were little. It’s probably still your favourite today (even if it feels scary).
Paint your walls neutral. That’s easy and inexpensive to change. But for your sofa, do it in your favourite colour. It’ll be timeless for your home. You’ll never get sick of it. And it’ll allow you to invest in a better piece that will last decades saving you a heck of a lot of money over time.
- Add select pieces that have history and meaning. We had friends once who wouldn’t hang a piece of art in their home unless that art came from their travels. Every piece had meaning.
Now, you don’t want to take this too far and hoard every single one of your family member’s possessions. Just because your grandmother loved that hutch, doesn’t mean you have to. But if it holds a special memory, you can work it into your design by repeating the tones and motifs around the room.
For example, my brother-in-law has a dining table that is a dark wood and means a lot to him. My sister ( his wife) hates this table but knows he’ll never let her get rid of it.
So, instead of trying to camouflage the table (which will only make it stick out more), she repeated the dark wood tones throughout the room 3 more times so that instead of loudly shouting “I don’t belong!” it recedes into the rest of the decor.
- When it comes to the hard finishes, like countertops, flooring, and tile, stick with the classics.
Hard surfaces are very difficult and expensive to change in your home. So, if you decide to install bright orange tile from floor to ceiling in your bathroom because it’s your favourite colour, that’ll be much more difficult to deal with when it comes time to sell.
Instead, keep the tile timeless like a classic subway tile instead of that trendy patterned encaustic tile. And let your personality shine with all of the pieces you can take with you like the window coverings, towels, and accessories.
If you’d like to explore what it would look like to get help with your renovation, redecorating or new build project, here are the next steps:
1. Book Your Free Discovery Call
Whether you’re doing a huge renovation/build or just need help selecting paint colours, all of our projects begin with a complementary Discovery Call.
When you book your call, we will ask you to complete our 5-minute Getting Started Questionnaire to help us learn more about your project and make the most of our time together.
On your 30-minute Discovery Call, Heather will probe further into your project and timeline. If she feels it’s a fit (and if you like us, too) then she’ll review our consultation options so that you can begin by working with us on a very small scale before fully committing.
Our consultation options range from paint colour and window treatment consultations all the way up to kitchen and bath consults.
2. Choose Your Consultation
Interiors projects are highly personal and we understand that it’s tough to bring in a total stranger to renovate or redecorate your home or commercial space. Because of this, we begin our projects with a working Consultation before signing you on to work with us under one of our Interiors Packages.
Our consultations are 1- or 2-hour working sessions at your home where your Interiors Professional will review your priorities, discuss ideas for your project, take you through some material samples, and go over our 10-Step Impressive Interiors Process.
We’re confident that at the end of this working session you’ll want us to continue with your project . However, if the consultation was all you needed, or you’d like to move forward without us, you’ll benefit from our comprehensive Consultation Report with all of the details we discussed to help you along your journey.
3. Pick Your Interiors Package
Only about 20% of what we do revolves around making things pretty, choosing colours, and selecting materials (although, we do this part extremely well!)
We spend the majority of our time working with vendors, manufacturers, and researching specs so that all of the technical details of your project will be just as perfect as the visual components.
When you work with us, you’re investing in a tried and true detailed process — not just a shopping service and pulling things together.
Whether you want us to handle every detail from the initial concept, to scheduling trades, to fluffing the final toss pillow…
Or you prefer to DIY and shop yourself…
We will deliver you a space that is stylish, comfortable, and a true reflection of who you are.