Research studies support physical activity, digital health technologies, and contact with nature as a means to improve mental health, but what about our home environment?
Given that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, creating a biophilic home to help reduce depressive symptoms, mitigate chronic stress and burnout, or prevent anxiety is a real-life opportunity.
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and the “Healthy Dwelling 2030” campaign, this article illustrates the health benefits of bridging biophilic design elements in your home with self-care practices.
Biophilic design aims to restore humans’ innate connection with nature by emulating the experience of being in nature. Here are examples of research studies showing how natural environments can improve mental health:
Exposure to nature can increase positive emotions .
Forest bathing can reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms .
Contact with nature can reduce physiological and perceived stress .
More time spent in outdoor light is associated with improved mood and reduced risk for major depressive disorder .
Indoor plants can reduce stress, depressive symptoms, and negative emotions .
Flowers can foster relaxation, improve emotional health, and reduce anxiety and fatigue .
Touching wooden elements can increase relaxation .
Natural sounds can improve mood and decrease stress .
With all these benefits of exposure to nature, can you combine them with the health benefits of self-care to further boost their positive impact on mental health?
We recently published a peer-reviewed article about the design of biophilic interiors fostering self-care for people living with depression, migraine, and chronic pain . The “Healthy Dwelling” article provides evidence on the health benefits of both biophilic design and specific self-care practices helping to manage chronic health conditions.
Biophilic Design + Self-care = Better Health Outcomes (Design and photo: Dayhouse Studio)
SELF-CARE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”
Many research studies confirm that listening to music, physical activity, yoga practice, meditation, breathing exercises and nutrition can improve depressive symptoms (for references see Table 3 in the “Healthy Dwelling” article).
It is noteworthy that the European Medicines Agency approved lavender essential oil as a herbal medicine for mental stress and mood disorders. To alleviate anxiety symptoms, at-home practices include mindfulness meditation, sleep hygiene, aromatherapy, and music.
A HEALTHY DWELLING FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEPRESSION
Multiple elements are important when designing a biophilic home to support mental health. Here is an example to-do list when creating a healthy dwelling for people with depression:
Incorporating natural elements into interior design can create a restorative environment for the nervous system. Plants and fresh flowers support emotional health, while wood elements can also have a soothing effect.
Having been reported to “induce more positive moods” , create a dynamic lighting experience at home by combining bright direct sunlight with indirect lighting produced by lamps or sconces at varying times of the day. This combination helps to mimic the ever-changing light of the natural world and can add depth and visual engagement with a space.
To encourage relaxation and meditation, consider creating a dedicated refuge space in your home. This can be achieved by converting an existing nook or creating a cozy corner with a canopy net or a hanging planter, then adding a lounge chaise, and a diffuser for lavender essential oil to help create a calming atmosphere.
To facilitate physical activity at home, consider incorporating wellness equipment such as a spin bike or a step machine that is both functional and visually appealing. Having inviting exercise equipment can help motivate and encourage regular physical activity, which has been shown to improve mental health.
To enhance the overall mental health outcomes in a space, consider incorporating scentscapes through the use of aromatherapy and soundscapes with music or natural sounds. By delivering a multisensory experience, you can create a more immersive and engaging environment.
In summary, creating a healthy dwelling that supports mental health includes nature-inspired interiors, smart home technologies, wellness products, and many other elements.
Biophilic home environment fostering self-care to improve mental health (Design: Dayhouse Studio)
Biophilic home environments fostering self-care can benefit many people. Approximately 21 million of adults and 4.1 million of teens in the U.S. experienced a major depressive episode in 2020 (the National Institute of Mental Health data), while anxiety affects estimated 29 million adults in the U.S. .
In order to raise awareness about the home-health-nature connections, the “Healthy Dwelling 2030” campaign was launched in February 2023. We propose a three-step solution to improve individual and public health, as summarized below:
Sharing awareness about the home-health-nature connections via the #healthydwelling2030 campaign
What can YOU do to scale up biophilic homes fostering mental health?
If you are a mental health advocate, a caregiver, a healthcare professional, or a person who knows someone struggling with mental illness, consider sharing some or all of the suggestions described here, and expanding awareness about the “Healthy Dwelling” article and the “Healthy Dwelling 2030” campaign.
If you are a compassionate leader, a visionary investor, a conscious executive, or an enthusiastic philanthropist, be a catalyst for scaling up biophilic homes fostering self-care and mental health.
In conclusion, biophilic home environments provide real-life opportunities to improve mental health and well-being.
ABOUT OMNI SELF-CARE AND DAYHOUSE STUDIO
OMNI Self-care is a health promotion and consulting company that creates content for marketing the health benefits of self-care. The company provides evidence-based creative solutions for businesses and investors that value sustainable, health-focused growth and living.
Dayhouse Studio is a health-focused biophilic interior design company, grounded in sustainable practices and evidence-based research to improve well-being. The company offers services for both residential and commercial clients and is developing a product line for health-focused living.
The authors of this article, Grzegorz Bulaj, PhD, and Dorothy Huntsman are the Founders of OMNI Self-care and Dayhouse Studio, respectively.
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