The past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, massive wildfires, brutal heatwaves, and even the recent presidential election, it’s likely your mental health has taken quite a hit. Unfortunately, extended periods of stress, coupled with other mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, can do serious damage to your overall health and impact your quality of life.
With so many new stressors emerging seemingly every day, finding more ways to improve your mental health is crucial. Changing your environment to more positively affect your mental health is one solution.
According to experts at the US National Library of Medicine, “Scientific evidence is mounting that mental health, in general, and suicide mortality, in particular, are related not only to personal characteristics and life events but also to environmental exposures other than weather conditions.” While we might not be able to control all of the environments we’re exposed to, there are still some spaces where we can take charge and create a place that positively impacts our mental health.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Switch Things Up
When looking at environmental changes to make, you might be at a loss of where to start. One thing to keep in mind is where in your home do you feel most affected? And what can you change about those particular rooms? A relatively simple place to start is with your furniture and decor.
Certain textiles and fabrics can affect people differently. For example, elements such as color and texture can impact people with atypical sensory issues, such as autism. And while mental health conditions are categorized differently than autism, you can still borrow some of the same sensory-friendly designing tricks that often get utilized in the homes of those with atypical sensory issues.
Try redesigning your place with key sensory factors in mind. Fabrics and textiles such as plush velvet, fluffy pillows, smooth leather, and sleek wood can help prevent triggers and provide positive stimuli. Beyond your furniture, try adding more rugs to your floors and switching up the paint colors in each room. You might think that choosing bright and bold colors would help foster more positivity in your environment. Still, it’s better to stick with more calming, serene colors like neutral earth tones or pale shades of blue or yellow because color is one of the first things our brains recognize when we walk into a room. If the walls in your house are painted to reflect peace, optimism, and stillness, your brain will naturally follow suit. The same can be said about colors that can come off as cold, loud, or even boring.
Of course, if you don’t have the funds or time right now to completely makeover your home, little changes over time are still effective and helpful. Furthermore, it might become overwhelming and stressful trying to remodel all at once, which can make your efforts to improve your mental health futile. Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to ask for help painting or moving around furniture.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Another environmental consideration to take into account is the smell. Smell is directly connected with our brains. Odors around us get directed to the region of the brain that deals with emotions and memories. This is why some smells, like cookies baking in the oven or the scent of a particular perfume, can immediately transport us mentally to a different time, different place, and different mindset.
We often have positive feelings tied to old memories, and these emotions, such as joy or love, can resurface when we smell something that takes us back to a better moment in life. So try taking advantage of your brain’s natural response to smell and add more familiar scents into the areas of your home.
You can also opt for more objectively calming scents like lavender or jasmine. However, similar to most things in life, it’s important not to get carried away with too many different smells. This can overwhelm your senses and even cause headaches, making it harder to reap those crucial mental health benefits.
Try Something New
Sometimes, we have less direct control over our spaces. Whether you’re at work, school, or have shared spaces with roommates, it can be difficult to put into practice the environmental changes that can help improve your mental health. This can feel especially frustrating because your environment still impacts you in the end, yet you can’t do much to change the situation. Luckily, there are still ways you can improve your mental health, even when you’re stuck in a challenging environment.
If you can’t change your environment to cultivate a more positive mental state, try borrowing a few tried and true techniques that medical professionals use to help their patients. For example, certain postures are used in the healthcare field to make treating patients easier. However, some of these postures, such as Fowler’s position, have additional health benefits. Fowler’s position can help change blood flow, allow for diverse circulation, and even affect a person’s mental state. This kind of practice is also often used in yoga and meditation.
So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a place that negatively affects your mental health, try taking a moment to reposition. To do the Fowler’s position, sit upright (preferably in a comfy bed) at an angle between 30 and 90 degrees with your legs either bent at the knees or laid out straight. From here, if you have the time, try following a guided meditation to reap even more additional mental health benefits.
While it can be stressful feeling trapped in a negative space, doing what you can to combat those negative environments will still certainly help. It may take some trial and error before you’re able to pinpoint exactly what you need in your environment to start feeling the positive mental effects, but it’s worth the effort.
About the Author: Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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