A Happy Home – Designing Anxiety-Free Interiors

Image: Sulking Room Pink: Farrow & Ball

Social media can be a negative experience in so many ways so I was really heartened, earlier this month, to see such an overwhelming show of support on World Mental Health Day.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise, with prescriptions for medication in England up over 100 per cent between 2006 and 2016.  Women are more likely to be affected, but men are more likely to take their own lives.

On a more positive note, however, there is a noticeable and encouraging change in attitude towards mental health issues in society today.  We are more likely to tell others that we are experiencing problems and we are more accepting of living and working with those experiencing problems.

I have suffered with anxiety myself, particularly after the birth of both of my children when tiredness and the sense of responsibility took their toll.

In managing anxiety I have found it to be the little things that make a difference.  Reminding myself that things don’t need to be absolutely perfect.  Going for a run even if I really don’t think I have the energy.  Spending time in my own home with those that I’m closest to doing what I like best.

In the mix of things that can alleviate symptoms, having a home that is as conducive as possible to wellbeing is up there.  Our home is our haven, our safe place when things get rough and, if we are lucky enough to have somewhere that can provide that sense of comfort, there are a number of things we can do – without spending piles of cash – to maximise that sense of calm.

Biophilic Design

Image: Lived in 365

Most of you will be pleased to learn that Biophilic Design – or the concept of fusing design with natural elements for wellbeing – is one of the most important factors.  Whilst the modern world can see us increasingly divorced from nature, bringing it back into our homes in the form of houseplants and a stronger connection to our gardens can be great for both mental and physical health.  As an extra added bonus, they look great in Instagram photos.

Whilst larger plants can be pricey, it’s possible to find some great ones cheaply at Aldi and Lidl if you keep your eyes peeled and, if you read up on propagation methods, to steal shoots from family and friends to grow your own.

Colour Schemes

Colour too can have a profound effect on our mood and choosing the right hues and tones for the right areas in our houses can help to create areas of activity and of sanctuary.

Blues are known in particular for having a calming effect and so are well suited to bedrooms or areas of relaxation.  It has also been shown that pink helps to calm and reassure, even reducing feelings of anger and aggression to the extent that it has been trialled in prisons.  A good excuse, if you ever needed one, to use Farrow & Ball’s new Sulking Room Pink.

There is still a place,however, for bolder colours if you love them.  Reds, yellows and oranges can be great in more active environments such as playrooms or kitchens with red in particular being said to be appetite stimulating – just in case you’re struggling to get your kids to eat their greens.

Storage

Image: Lived In 365

I always know when I’m starting to feel a little anxious because the mess around my house starts to feel more and more overwhelming as does my need to find somewhere to put it.  Visual clutter can exacerbate feelings of anxiety adding to a sense that life is spiralling out of our control.

The easiest answer is probably not to have kids (jokes) but if that fails then its storage, storage, storage.  When everything has its place, even if it’s not quite in it, everything feels more right with the world, so storage is the thing that I have continued to invest in even when we have tried to reduce expenditure on other household items.  Boxes for toys, shelving for trinkets and baskets for pretty much everything, and particularly so in the bedroom where a tidy room can actively contribute to a good night’s sleep.

Lighting

We know from increased awareness of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – that natural light can have a huge impact on our mood, increasingly important as the nights draw in and we see so little daylight outside of working hours.

Accordingly, maximising natural light in our houses is a good way to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.  In our playroom, we recently raised the height of our patio doors when we were looking at replacements to bring in more light and the effect was amazing (don’t tell my husband because it was his idea).  We also chose not to add any kind of window treatments to get the full effect which is a good (and cheap!) option if you are not overlooked and can get away with it.

It’s a lovely place to sit as soon as you wake in the morning to let your body know it’s morning and reset your circadian rhythm.

When it comes to artificial lighting it’s also worth investing in bulbs with a warm white glow (as opposed to cool white) and also adding dimmers where possible to provide a brighter light during the daytime then remind your body that you’re heading towards bedtime later into the evening.

Retreats

Image: Lived In 365

Finally, think about where in your house you might build a little retreat.  Particularly important if you have kids, or you live with others and so you are typically surrounded by noise and clutter that you can’t always control.  This might be your bedroom, it might be your bathroom, or even a grown up living room for after the kids have gone to bed.

Focus on making that room everything that says retreat to you.  All of the elements above – plants, natural light and softer light sources, calming colour and storage – of course but also think about scent from candles, dried lavender or whatever you like the most, textiles in the form of soft and comfortable cushions and tactile throws, and a layout which allows you to do the things you love in the simplest and most enjoyable ways, whether that be curling up with a book next to a beautiful lamp or under a blanket watching a huge TV.

There is no simple answer to anxiety, no fix all that will make it go away.  There are, however, so many little things that we can do which when put together can make a real difference to our mood.  Add a few simple changes to your house to other elements such as exercise, time with friends and family and good nutrition and above all, be kind to yourself.