Is Your Home Depressing You?

Can your physical surroundings exacerbate or contribute to depression? Some experts believe they can. While living in a pristine mansion won’t necessarily make a sad person into a happy one, and many poor people seem quite content in small apartments and houses, studies indicate there is a link between how we live and how we feel. A Northwestern University study found a connection between recurring depressive episodes and poverty. And Alzheimer’s patients do a lot better when they’re put into newer, better-designed nursing homes and facilities.

Why do people’s surroundings make a difference to their mental health? Think about it. If you’re stuck in a dingy room with little light, where the floors are dirty, there’s a sour odor and the furniture is ripped and falling apart, are you going to feel positive about life? Hardly. Contrast this with how you feel when you walk into a beautiful home or office, where there are flowers and art and good scents and plenty of light flowing in from outside. It makes you want to breathe deeply and savor the time you spend there.

Proponents of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of placing things correctly to harness positive energy, believe that clutter and badly laid out rooms can affect everything from grades to relationships to physical health. If you’re not happy with the place where you spend a lot of time, try these tips from

  • Bring in the light. This is the most important factor in maintaining your mood. Move a favorite chair or desk close to a sunny window, or keep a small desk lamp at work to counteract the energy-draining overhead fluorescents.

  • Brighten your interiors. Freshen up a wall with a coat of paint, or recover a sofa in a warmer hue. Put at least one brightly colored accessory in each room where you spend a lot of time, and avoid somber art. Keep plants, fresh flowers, and bowls of fruit where you can see them and appreciate them.

  • Clean up. A good vacuuming session will shift your home’s energy and elevate your spirits. The same goes for taking a rag to a dirty tabletop or counter. And work on decluttering your space—try taking away nine things a day for nine consecutive days. Instead of gloomy or aggressive songs, play upbeat music while you work.