Humans have evolved over tens of thousands of years to become sophisticated, astute, technologically advanced creatures with a vast capacity for problem-solving and survival. Yet some areas of our brain remain primordial, stuck in some ancient era where nature is the master and life is in perpetual danger. This part of the brain can affect your mood, your ability to relax and create stress and anxiety without an obvious reason. For most of us, open spaces such as beaches and neat lawns create a feeling of calm, whereas cramped, dark woodland, or noisy, untidy streets cause anxiousness, even fear. Your surroundings have a continuous subconscious impact on your wellbeing. You may not be able to control the world outside, but home can be made into a safe, relaxing environment in which to de-stress by following a few simple steps.
1. Color and nature
One of the quickest remedies to create a calming and relaxing space is by letting in plenty of natural light. Begin by taking a look at any windows, doors and skylights and check they maximize the available daylight. A simple rethink of the window dressings can make an enormous difference to any room. Consider what’s outside; if you have a view, exploit it. If there’s no grand vista, can you add a point of interest like a statue or a bird-feeder to allow the mind to gaze into the world?
Next, add color that creates a calming mood. This usually means painting swathes of soft colors, such as pastels and gentle greens or blues. Avoid any prime colors and plain black or white, but don’t let it be boring! Avoid sharp contrasts by picking colors that sit comfortably with each other. There are plenty of beautiful fabric and paper designs that focus on entwined gentle colors and shapes without becoming dramatic or oppressive. Try to keep it light, soft and balanced without any distracting busy detail.
2. Furnishings and accessories
Once you’ve finished decorating the room, you can improve the mood by surrounding yourself with things that you love. This could include photos of loved ones, artwork that inspires you, or furniture that is comfortable and inviting.
To retain the restful feeling, complement your soft-tone palette with natural materials like woods, stone, leathers and anything else that reflects the natural world. Add lots of indoor plants for oxygen – get plants you know you can care for (because a sick plant is not a good look!) – maybe try a small water fountain for a soothing sound, or other elements that help you to feel at peace. Try to avoid any imitation materials because this space is about you, and you will always know that a plant is plastic, or a fabric is faux, even if others don’t notice.
Once the furniture and accessories are in place, pay some attention to the symmetry and balance. The mind rests when things are in balance and enjoys the beauty of symmetry. Once you notice that a light-fitting is askew, it’s going to irk you every time you walk in! Some things are hard to fix, but others are easily done by moving a few objects. Any good book on feng shui is full of tips on creating natural balance in the home, many of which are easy to put into practice with a little guidance.
3. Working spaces
Calm and soothing are fine in spaces designed for rest and relaxation, but sometimes you need a room to work! You can boost your creativity by creating a space that is conducive to thinking and problem-solving. A good workspace should enhance creativity without adding stress. It’s good to begin with a well-lit workspace – tired eyes irritate the mind – add plenty of storage space to give you room to move freely. Try to have closed cupboard space for everything, so you can start each day without clutter. Then add elements that spark your creativity, such as an art wall or a whiteboard for brainstorming. Lawyers, for example, will often have a wall of legal books and surgeons might have a skeleton on display; not because they plan to use it regularly, but to create a working mood and mindset. Consider what defines your profession and makes you ready to work?
6. Key considerations for wellbeing in interior design
Humans feel relaxed in certain spaces for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common factors include:
a) Natural elements: Humans have evolved to be surrounded by nature, so being in natural spaces, such as forests, beaches, and mountains, can help us to feel relaxed and at peace. This is due in part to the calming effects of natural sounds, such as the sound of wind in the trees or waves crashing on the shore. Natural spaces also tend to be less cluttered and noisy than urban environments, which can also contribute to feelings of relaxation.
b) Privacy: Having a sense of privacy can also help us to feel relaxed. This could mean being in a quiet room by ourselves or being in a space with only a few close friends or family members. When we feel like we can relax and be ourselves without being interrupted or judged, we are more likely to feel calm and at peace.
c) Comfort: Being in a comfortable space can also help us to feel relaxed. This could mean being in a soft, cozy chair or on a comfortable bed. It could also mean being in a space that is well-lit and temperature-controlled. When we are physically comfortable, we are more likely to feel mentally relaxed as well.
d) Control: Having a sense of control over our environment can also contribute to feelings of relaxation. This could mean being able to choose the music we listen to or the lighting in the room. It could also mean being able to close the door or draw the curtains to create a more private space. When we feel like we are in control of our environment, we are less likely to feel stressed or anxious.
No matter what your needs are, there are many ways that interior design can be used to improve your mental wellbeing. By taking the time to create a space that is comfortable, relaxing, and inviting, you can create a home that is conducive to good mental health.