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Can your home or workplace affect your mental health?

It goes without saying that some environments are more conducive to certain activities than others. For instance, the quiet of a library makes it an excellent place to study, while the blaring music of a concert creates ideal conditions for dancing. Obviously it would be futile to try studying at the concert or dancing in the library — so why do we expect ourselves to be happy in depressing environments, or relaxed in distracting situations?

How the space around you influences your mind

Numerous studies have proven that factors like natural lighting and even noisy traffic can have a significant impact on mental health. Just think about how unpleasant it is to be in a crowded cubicle or a stuffy home for a few hours, let alone an entire lifetime. You might not be able to pinpoint exactly what’s bothering you about a space, but generally disorder, poor lighting and ventilation, dreary decor, and a lack of hygiene can all contribute to discomfort and uneasiness. Prolonged exposure to spaces that don’t seem safe, clean, or inviting sometimes trigger stress and even depression.

This knowledge isn’t new

We’ve long been aware of the effects of environment on mood and mental health, even before any of these studies were conducted. The ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui, for example, centers around bringing oneself in harmony with both the natural and built environments. Followers of feng shui strive to achieve balance by intentionally designing architecture and selecting and arranging plants and furniture, so that qi, or the flow of energy, remains unblocked.

Ways to optimize your surroundings

Whether you believe in the specifics of feng shui or not, you can probably attest to having felt bad vibes upon entering a particular room or building before. Maybe you felt trapped or claustrophobic, or perhaps you couldn’t think straight. This negativity can often be cleared using a few simple tricks:

  • Remove clutter to reduce distractions and clear your mind.
  • Open a window to let in a breeze and some sun.
  • Dust, vacuum, and mop to cleanse both physically and emotionally.
  • Decorate with colors that make you happy.
  • Put up pictures of the people, places, and pets you love.
  • Change your sightlines (ex: try turning your desk to face a window instead of the door, or moving your couch to open up your living room).

More tips on improving  your mental health

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of factors that contribute to mental wellness — and we’ve only scratched the surface! For more information on improving your mental health, sign into your LifeSpeak account or request access from your HR team.