March 5, 2021

BML-25

Whatever it takes

How to Design Your Home to Boost Your Mood and Curb Stress

Woman sitting in her living room, reading a book with her dog
Woman sitting in her living room, reading a book with her dog

RyanJLane/Gettty

After hunkering down in your home for the last year, the importance of creating a happy retreat has never been more clear.

“Our surroundings affect our mood, emotions, and behavior, often in ways that are below our level of awareness,” says Toby Israel, Ph.D., a design psychologist, the author of Some Place Like Home, and an expert on environments that encourage positive thinking. “The decor of spaces sends us messages — and we want those messages to be uplifting.”

Based on her research, Israel shares home design ideas that will cultivate a sense of comfort, excite optimism, and dial down the stress in your humble abode. (While you’re re-designing your home, don’t forget to craft a kitchen that encourages healthy eating.)

Create Both Solo and Social Zones

“For a healthy, happy home, you need to satisfy the range of human needs,” says Israel. On one end of the spectrum, there’s serenity and quiet; on the other end, the energy that comes from gathering with others. Building a calm, private space can simply entail a loungy floor pillow (Buy It, $37, amazon.com) in a cozy corner, a reading nook, or a hammock (Buy It, $30, amazon.com). Your social zone should draw people together to connect: an outdoor firepit or a few chairs casually set around a coffee table.

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Infuse Your Own Personality

A home that’s lacking in personality — yours — can make you feel lost and ungrounded, says Israel. “Showing off meaningful objects like books or travel souvenirs reminds you of your passions, values, and joys,” she adds. Besides mementos, think about what you’re invested in now too: bold pillows, pottery you’ve made. With this home design idea, you can go with one piece or 50 — the choice should be natural to your style. (Displaying these calming candles can also help set the vibe in your home.)

Make It Inspiring

Out of all the home design ideas, this one is the most simple. “It’s empowering to have something in your home that invites you to look ahead with excitement daily,” says Israel. “There’s research showing that hanging artwork you can project yourself into — a painting or a photo of a beautiful landscape, an exotic locale, a thrilling adventure scene — can actually summon those positive feelings.”

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Play to Your Clutter Type

For some, visual noise is mentally overwhelming. For others, being über-organized feels rigid and tense. Mismatching your decor and your natural inclination can generate a lot of stress, says Israel. That’s why this home design idea is all about complementing your style. Stashing things out of view will calm the clutter-anxious. For those less tidy, sticking important notes to the fridge and stacking papers on side tables will create order while staying casual. (Related: Organizing My Apartment Saved My Sanity During the Coronavirus Pandemic)

Bring in Nature

“When you surround yourself with greenery, it’s a reminder that regardless of what’s happening with you personally, there’s a bigger positive cycle of life,” says Israel. “It can put the current crisis in perspective and help you stay motivated.” Some potted plants are all it takes to put this home design idea into action, though Israel likes to go a bit bigger: “I hang a climbing vine (Buy It, $65, bloomscape.com) like a hydrangea from the ceiling and drape its tendrils around a curtain rod to create a wild effect.”