By making smarter choices for our spaces, quarantining for longer periods of time can become more manageable.
Physical spaces can nurture our mental and emotional health through a comfortable living, working and sleeping environment, while alleviating stressors that can cause us anxiety in the short and long term.
Lack of space can contribute to and exacerbate other wellness issues, directly or indirectly, such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (WELL v2, 2018).
Below is a compilation of resources you can use to improve your situation at home, whether it’s personal or environmental. These suggested solutions range from educating you about mental health resources to using natural elements in your indoor space to improve your mental well-being. In addition, the majority of these solutions are economical and fast for students: the majority cost less than $ 100 to implement.
A positive mental health environment at home is important because:
- Poor mental health is attributed to at least eight million deaths per year worldwide, or 14.3 percent of the world’s population, and increases the death rate of these people by about 2.2 percent compared to a healthy adult.
- 30 percent of all adults develop some form of mental illness in their lifetime, 35 to 50 percent in high-income countries and 76 to 85 percent in low- and middle-income countries live with it, respectively, without receive treatment.
- Untreated mental health problems such as depression can lead to suicidal ideation and suicide, which alone cause 800,000 deaths per year worldwide.
(Source: WELL v2, 2018)
By making smarter choices for our spaces, quarantining for longer periods of time can become more manageable, enjoyable, and perhaps more optimistic, especially during the harsher winter months of a COVID pandemic.
Here are 10 DIY ideas for a positive mental health environment at home (from an individual’s setting to spatial settings) within a reasonable price range:
1) learn about mental health
Educating yourself about mental health is important as it prepares you to recognize signs and symptoms ahead of time, in yourself and others, and to gain knowledge on how to heal them.
There are many resources on the Internet, but if you live in Canada, please refer to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health here.
2) Take a 10 to 20 minute nap in the early afternoon, as needed
Although it is recommended that adults (aged 18 and over) get seven to nine hours of sleep per day (MayoClinic.org, 2019), this can sometimes be insufficient, either due to restlessness or lack of amount.
Consider taking a 10-20 minute nap in the early afternoon, if needed, to restore your energy and mental focus. Set an alarm to not exceed 30 minutes, as it has been shown to disrupt your sleep cycles at night.
Also, make sure the nap environment is comfortable, relaxing, and conducive to rest. If your mind is anxious, consider taking a notebook and jotting down these things to clear your mind to make the napping process easier.
3) spend 30 minutes perfecting a hobby each day
By allowing you to focus on something productive, a hobby can bring joy and hope when struggling with mental health issues. Some possible hobbies you could try:
- Music (includes singing, playing, songwriting)
- To exercise
- Reading (i.e. self-help books)
4) Ensure a clean and organized environment at home
There is a saying that goes that a cluttered space is a cluttered mind. Buy non-transparent storage and cabinets so that they allow you to store things out of sight. By keeping your spaces minimal and organized, it can encourage a person to focus their efforts on more productive matters. This will also make cleaning easier in the future.
5) buy houseplants in regularly occupied spaces
The intake of natural elements inside has a calming effect on our mental health. You can buy as many plants as you want, but a general rule of thumb from a cleaner air quality standpoint is to buy one houseplant for every 100 square feet (SF) of space. . Look for plants that “speak” to you when shopping for plants, but most importantly, have fun with them!
6) Use outdoor and natural spaces
If home containment isn’t in order, try to maximize your time outdoors by exposing yourself to green spaces, bodies of water, and enough sunlight for vitamin D, which regulates and improves our mood.
Plus, a change of scenery and routine can be a powerful and effective way to help someone struggling with their mental health. By withdrawing from a stagnant and possibly negative situation, an environmental change can sometimes trigger a ‘mental reset’ that can help us see things more clearly from a new perspective than when we are stuck in it.
7) Design your space using natural materials and elements
Furnishing your home with elements of wood, brick, terracotta, stone, and other natural materials is a great way to incorporate natural design elements into your space.
Plan ahead using photomontages that evoke a certain mood that you want to emulate, then purchase furniture and accessories accordingly.
Play with color, texture, patterns, and other design elements and principles. Make your space comfortable and enjoy the process.
8) Respond holistically to all functional elements of a comfortable space
Not only must a space be beautiful, it must find a holistic way to balance the following functional parameters to make the space comfortable, such as:
- Sound masking
- Thermal control
- Seating and ergonomics
- Visual privacy
9) Plan your space (s) with a variety of uses
Do you have a workspace that faces a wall with minimal daylight? Balance that with a laptop dock in the living room right up against the window with plenty of daylight.
Do you have an open exterior balcony / patio with lush greenery and seating? Balance that with a more intimate, darker, and more comfortable living room space.
The idea here is to encourage a contrast of mental landscapes so that a person at home can always find the best place to be based on their mood and daily preferences. Plus, the variety also encourages people to move around and be less sedentary.
10) Designate a quiet space at home
If space permits, designate a space in the home, preferably 75 square feet minimum as suggested by WELL v2, for non-work purposes as a quiet, contemplative or reading space.
It can also be a self-designated “No Social Media Allowed” area so that a person can decompress stress from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. This can sometimes be caused by our potential misuse of it as a way to hide our issues or other societal pressure issues, such as the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) effect.
Sam Luong is an architectural intern from Toronto who has worked on a variety of large-scale architectural projects for international firms. Sam is also passionate about physical health and wellness and one day hopes to design a smart tech home. He also runs his own consultancy, Studio Cloud Nine. If you like the following content, please give it a Like and follow it on their Facebook group or Linkedin page at Studio Cloud Nine.