Interior design at home for personal mental health

January 16, 2015

As someone who has experienced personally and knows of many loved ones with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, this post is very close to my heart. I’ve contemplated over whether to write this sort of post for a very long time; associations with mental health have been hushed and given the “chin up” treatment, but now I feel as though we are finally able to begin to talk about it.
One aspect of mental health is being able to feel that we can talk about things, it’s as simple as that. Often those who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and depression don’t know who to talk to or how to even begin to get support and guidance to remedy their condition.

There is a huge focus on and support for those suffering physical illnesses but not so much for mental health (though this is improving with time). Your mind and body are connected, therefore your mental health massively affects your physical health.
As an interior designer within an architectural firm I work on various healthcare projects, some of which are designs for mental health centres. The choice of colours, textures and use of lighting is vital to the patient’s recovery.

1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year

– About a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain
– Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men and about ten percent of children have a mental health problem at any one time
– Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
– Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women and self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
– Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder
Source: Mental Health Statistics 

Take a look at your loved ones; your parents, sisters, brothers, friends, children and colleagues. At least one of them is likely to be suffering at this moment. This affects everyone, whether you are suffering yourself or need to be there for someone close to you.

Before a loved one was admitted to rehab for a 6 week period, their home was basic and their living quality was, in my opinion, a little bleak. Their home felt unloved with no visible personality.
My initial concern was for their home coming after rehab; what happens after they have completed treatment and are sent home to the life and environment where they experienced great anxiety and depression in before?
Whilst they were in rehab I went over to their home and made a few changes, it was an emotional experience and I managed to see into how that person had lived for so many years. From this experience I have gathered some tips for you, which may enable you to improve your environment.

Everyone is affected by their physical environment, whether they realise it or not. Some of you may be experiencing some level of anxiety and/or depression on a daily basis without knowing it. So what can we do to improve our home environment instantly? I’m not talking about a huge overhaul, I’m suggesting small changes that will make a difference to your mental health and overall feeling of well-being and happiness. Sometimes it can be very difficult to put your finger on why you’re not feeling “yourself” and this can have a great deal to do with your home.

1. Surround yourself with positive images
Maybe landscapes that you can immerse yourself in, or photographs of previous holidays you’ve been on that you absolutely loved. Also photographs of loved ones, remind yourself of the people you have around you that care about you, without necessarily having to see them physically if you’re not feeling up to it. Though, talking to close friends and family about your problems is always advisable, try not to shut people out.


2. Sleep
Is high on the agenda for a clear mind, if you’re not getting the recommended full 8 hours, you could begin to feel stressed. Invest in a decent mattress, spending roughly £500 if it’s a large double, also pillow covers, bed sheets and duvet covers should ideally be 100% cotton. You spend so much of your life sleeping so make it high quality rest. Buy some comfortable, soft pyjamas to keep you warm and snug, it will be a welcome sight in the morning mirror if you choose a fun pattern!


3. Introduce bright colours to your home
These can be in the form of cushions, throws, wall hangings or pictures, you don’t need to go splashing paint on the walls. Think about your favourite colours or pick a particular hue from the images you love, then you can search online for things that you’d like to form the colour in your home, or even draw, sew and make it yourself, if you feel up to it.

Coloured pillow

4. Natural light
Helps with various forms of depression, especially S.A.D. As soon as you wake up open the curtains/blinds and get walking around your home, make yourself a herbal tea or whatever you fancy and gaze out of the window a bit, even if its a little dreary. If you’re inside all day make use of your space, move around it according to the sun’s path. Finally give your windows a clean with some vinegar and newspaper, you’ll be surprised how much more sunlight will enter your home. When it comes to artificial lighting don’t use overhead lighting unless it has a diffusing shade, your home will feel more comforting with soft lighting from lamps dotted around and maybe even some fairy lights? (I just love fairy lights). You can also get a lamp that gradually wakes you up in the mornings like a natural sunrise for those dark winter mornings.

Natural light

5. Plants are your friends 
Nurture them and they will nurture you back. As most of you know (I presume) plants give out oxygen, therefore having them in your home will improve your breathing whilst also keeping you in touch with nature, which can have a calming effect. Some people think it’s weird to talk to plants, well actually it helps them grow because of the carbon dioxide when you breathe out. Ain’t that noice?


6. De-clutter and clean your home 
There may be things laying around that psychologically pull you down, I won’t go all Feng Shui on you, but there is something to be said about only having one bin in your home to avoid build up of rubbish. Trinkets are lovely when they’re displayed properly and not just shoved on mantle pieces and window sills, if they’re small objects maybe think about getting some box frames and displaying them on your walls instead.


7. Organise your drawers, cupboards and wardrobes 
Simply shutting a door or drawer will not do, you’ll know what’s behind there and it will stress you out – some more than others, especially someone like me!


8. Appeal to your senses
Although you may feel disconnected and mute in your senses, there is one way to get back to feeling connected. Choose materials with texture, make sure it’s pleasant to feel your way around a space. We were not made to only feel the slick designs that are around today, though they are appealing to the eye, a more natural approach to surfaces may help.


9. Fill your home with music
Sing and dance around your home, who cares if you look like a loon, no-one will see you, it’s your home – embrace it. If a neighbour sees you it’ll give you an excuse to laugh.

Dancing Singing

10. Invest in some “me time”
Treat yourself to a bath once a week with scented candles and bubbles, or even just 5 minutes of yoga and/or meditation will help you to relax.


If you would like any further advice on this topic, please do get in touch with me through my contact page.

All images can be found at Pinterest