We shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us.

Winston Churchill was no interior designer, but this line underlines the gist of this week’s article – what do the spaces we inhabit, from our home to our workplace, should offer for our psychological health?

Can’t shake off the feeling of stress, dissatisfaction, or restlessness? Turns out, changing the outside is key to changing your inside.

Fortunately, nature has equipped our mind with a number of effective methods to release that stress.

Less fortunately, we rarely give our mind access to those methods to release stress is.

This is where the role the spaces we inhabit throughout the day play becomes not only important but vital. No one enjoys stress, but between 8 hour work days, Maltese traffic, and an increasingly hectic lifestyle, not losing our heads becomes the last problem on our mind – when it should be the first one.

For this article, we’re going to discuss 7 formative ways the places we spend most of our time regulate our mental health.

1. Presence of Nature

A slew of research shows that even just 10 minutes of contact with nature significantly reduces stress. In a home or an office, this can be achieved by getting plants, internal gardens, art with depiction of natural scenery, and views to the outside.

Our advice:

Plants and greenery do not just help our bodies by supplying us with clean air, it also alleviates our mind and soothes us.

Read this article for a list of the best plants for your home.

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2. Conditions of Light

Did you know? People are likelier to experience depression during wintertime. Moreover, people who work night shifts (which is a very common work arrangement in Malta) likewise tend to struggle with mood swings and stress. This is because the amount of light available impacts your mind.

Our advice:

In your home or office, prioritise large apertures, natural light, and if the light is artificial, go for warmer hues that recreate the appearance of sunlight.

How does stress affect us?

It’s easy to tell if you’re physically sick. If we have a fever, it tends to mean our body is fighting off an infection. Once that’s out, our equilibrium is restored and we’re good again. When it comes to our minds, it’s a bit harder to gauge where we’re at, but there is one ‘mental’ condition we’re all familiar with, and that’s stress.

A majority of leaflets about ailments, illnesses or conditions will list stress as a major cause. Unfortunately, it’s the one ‘cause’ that’s almost impossible to define and harder to pin down. Now, that’s just stressful.

As neuroscientist Candice Pert puts it, “What you are thinking at any moment is changing your biochemistry.” To become stressed is to think negatively. And while it may seem innocuous and unavoidable, over time, stress affects how well your body heals, how efficiently it stores energy, builds muscle, how well it protects against infections, and how it ages. It also does some nasty things to our behaviour: Reducing our ability to remain patient, react well to change, and empathise with others.

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3. Patterns & Colours

It has become widely accepted that each colour, like magic, influences our mind differently. Red, like caffeine, can energise us; and green, like the sight of falling leaves, can make us feel mellow.

Unfortunately, many misunderstand this to mean they should find one colour ‘they identify with most’ with and stick to it, while forgetting about all the other colours. Your house should include all the colours – not just one!

Think about the activities you imagine yourself doing in a room, and pick colours accordingly. We’re not saying have every colour in one room. Rather, think about the activities you imagine yourself doing in a room, and find out which colours would help you get in the right mindset.

Don’t know where to start? The doorway is always a good first step – Read this article!

Our advice: Use all the colours in the rainbow!

Paints is an easy way to bring in colour, but try to add colour using different textures and materials. There’s no reason to paint limestone yellow when you can just sand it; moreover, you can bring a number of colours with plants, metals, furniture, and tiles.

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4. Materials & Textures

Nature is the world’s best designer for a reason. It might be pricier, but it’s always better to save up and buy something that is naturally available. Trust us, both your mind and your skin will thank you. When it comes to fabric and upholstery, this means prioritising cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo, linen, and silk over nylon, plastics, acrylics, rayon and microfibre.

Our advice:

When it comes to the materials that make up your home, opt for natural materials such as wood, metals, and limestone over aluminium, plastics, and concrete.

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5. Tools & Interaction

Are you sitting in every room? Consider dedicating a spot in the house (one that has good lighting, has at least one colour that isn’t grey, and contains a plant or two) to performing exercise. You don’t need to buy a gym, there are many exercises for every part of your body that need only a mat, resistance bands, and/or dumbbells.

Our advice:

Warmer colours such as orange, red, and yellow help stimulate our physical energies! Just don’t go overboard with them.

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6. Composition and Order

Layout and cleanliness is likewise important, nothing impedes your mind like clutter and disorganisation. If you don’t want to dispose of anything, get a couple of storage boxes, label them, and tuck everything away.

Advice:

Perhaps more so than with colours, the composition of a room is where a designer’s eye becomes indispensable. Too much of anything impacts our brain negatively, so variation and diversity is key. To make that work, you need a trained eye who can make sure you don’t have too many similar shapes in your room, that if you have four walls, not all of them are painted, and that you do not have three kinds of metals next to each other.

Want to find out more about this? Start with this article to find out about the best ways to show off artwork in your house.

Our team at House Malta is always on the look-out for spaces, places, and things that are being built up, torn down, modernised, restored, or re-purposed – be it by a big team or a one-man(or woman)-army.

Do you have a story, a person, or a place in mind?

Send us a message on our Facebook page or via email, [email protected]