There are an estimated 18.8 million adults in America diagnosed with some type of depressive disorder. Not only that, but pretty much everybody will experience mild depression in their lifetime. One way to support a healthier mental/emotional state is being in a house where you feel “safe, secure, and relaxed,” recommends Jane Williams, Coordinator of Clinical Services for ServiceNet Inc. in Massachusetts. “The impact of your space on your overall mood is really important.”
Williams, who visits most of her clients in their homes, and has worked extensively on her own house, has become very aware of how we are affected by the place we live. She gave a personal example of being stuck in the kitchen while her family was enjoying a gathering or television show. “My solution was to cut a hole in the wall. Now I don’t have to feel left out of my family’s activities when I’m cooking,” explains Williams.
The No. 1 Depressive Element to Get out of Your House
“Clutter,” warns Williams. “It’s not so much about how clean your house is. It’s more about what you face when you walk in the door every day.” Williams adds that seeing clutter, unpaid bills, etc. every time you come home “can put you right over the edge. You are constantly being reminded of things that need to be done. And the people who tend to procrastinate, you’re not fooling anyone, it’s still there.”
William’s solution, and one she uses herself, is to designate a space that can be “uncontrolled,” such as a closet, or drawer, or even a room.” Essentially, if you are able to organize your belongings, and take unnecessary clutter out of the equation, you're likely to experience less stress, and therefore, less depression.
Home Improvement Projects Fight Depression
“Even when you don’t think you can do something, once you have accomplished a (home) project, you get to feel so much satisfaction. Whenever you see your work, you think, ‘Hey, I did that,’” says Williams. Williams adds that it isn’t even so much about saving money as the experience of satisfaction.
If you feel you aren’t up to a project or repair, hire a contractor, barter, or ask a friend or family member to help. Williams suggested for bigger projects, such as painting, to hold a work party. “Not only do you get the work done, but you get to have healthy social interaction,” comments Williams. “Expand your resources. Maybe you can get an intern or apprentice from a schooling program to help you.”
Let in the Light
Human beings are strongly affected by the amount of light we are exposed to. Light stimulates a cascade of hormones and chemicals in our bodies that affect us in a multitude of ways. Simply adding full-spectrum lighting to your home can improve your overall mood.
“Full-spectrum lighting is huge. It’s used clinically for people who experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder),” Williams states. Go for sheer curtains instead of heavy draperies. If you have a room that has no windows, you can either build a false window from scratch or with the help of a kit. The false window can be backlit or have a scene behind it. Mirrors also expand the feeling of light and space, especially if two or more mirrors face each other.
What Makes You Feel Good?
“It’s important to surround yourself with whatever it is that makes you feel good, such as photos, memorabilia, or art,” suggests Williams. “And the converse is – if it doesn’t make you feel good, get rid it!” Small touches, such as a scented candle, can have a big effect. Williams cites an MIT study which researched strong reactions to the scent of toast: “It reminds many people of being taken care of when they are ill.” Smell has been noted to be our strongest sense, potentially inducing positive feelings and a sense of relaxation.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Williams reports that some people, including her, find that their house may be too big for them. A house that is too large can be stressful or tiresome to take care of. Williams decided to shut up part of the house when her children went off to college in order to save on energy costs, cleaning, and maintenance time.
Williams suggests asking yourself what in your house makes you anxious and what relaxes you – and work from there.
Updated January 29, 2018.