During the long winter months, living spaces can be a boost or a burden to flagging mental health.
“The physical environment can be both the cause and the symptom of someone’s mental health,” therapist Noah Star says. “What we do outside of us speaks to what’s inside of us and can become a possible tool. That sense of progress we get when we maintain our environment can be an achievable, positive step to better mental health.”
While a complete overhaul of a home may not be prudent during a pandemic, there are some small things people can do to maximize the positivity of their space. Tara MacTavish, interior designer and owner of Changes by Design, has a few pointers.
Organize your space
While things may seem out of control in the outside world, a person’s home environment can feel crushing and disorganized.
“Especially if you are starting to spend more time inside, it can start to feel more crowded, which can really make you feel out of control. Right now, when we are stressed and feeling out of control, the one thing we can control is to make our spaces organized and livable,” MacTavish says. One way to do that is “having a place for everything, whether that (means) getting some storage boxes (for) when you are done with it” or another solution.
“The lack of sunshine and colour depresses my spirit,” MacTavish says. But while painting a wall might not be prudent, MacTavish says there are some easy ways to incorporate colour, like adding new pillows or throws to a couch.
If able to paint a certain space, happy colours like bright yellow or green could help boost mood.
Display items with meaning
“Let’s make sure we display those things that really bring you joy. Let’s bring them out and look at them (to) remind you of the good times,” MacTavish says.
Find your light
Depending on budget, there’s the option to add lighting. “Now that you are working from home, you have to think ‘Do I have good task lighting? Am I feeling tired because I’m working in a dark space?’” MacTavish says.
Using cooler tones for a work space can make focusing on a task easier, while living areas can benefit from relaxing, warmer lighting.
Set the tone
Setting the tone for beginnings and endings can make or break a day, MacTavish emphasizes.
Entryways “are important. Making them organized, as well, because they can become overwhelming. It is the first thing (you see), and your day has been really stressful, and (if) the first thing you see is chaos, it sets the tone for being at home,” MacTavish says.
“And if you could do one thing for yourself every single day, it would be to make your bed and make sure it invites you to enter it. After a (hard) day, and you have your bed made, you open your bedroom door, and your bed is made, there is this sense of accomplishment and peace when you enter. It sets the mood for going to bed.”
Published in Volume 75, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 14, 2021)