Is Your Home Healthy?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
These last few months I’ve been doing research on wellness design and what makes a home healthy and happy. I literally was in search of scientific studies on how people can be happier in their homes and sure enough, I found them. Now that we’re being told to stay home for the foreseeable future (something I never thought I’d type), it seems more fitting than ever. There are a lot of factors that play into a healthy home that are based on facts, not personal opinions, and I cover the major ones below. For the first time in my life and probably many others, staying inside is quite literally saving lives. However, if your home isn’t healthy, it may feel more like a prison when this is all over.
Regulating your circadian rhythm
While I do believe in privacy and drawing your shades or curtains at night, I urge you to open them all up during the day. Especially in the morning, as it has been proven that morning light (between the hours of 7am-10am) improves mood and overall sense of well-being. If we’re shut in a dark, windowless office all day, it will lead to feelings of jet-lag and tension. I think we’ve all experienced this at a job at some point and let me guess, productivity wasn’t an all-time high? Science has actually proven that looking at nature, even through a window, will increase your happiness.
Our circadian rhythm is a 24-hour pattern governed by an internal clock that regulates important biological functions, such as sleep, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism (Augustin, Sally. Designology). Having improper lighting can decrease your quality of sleep (haven't you read Why We Sleep?!), alertness and cognitive functions, not to mention it may play a role in obesity and depression. But like many things, technology can help us overcome this issue with the smart lightbulb like this one by GE that is adjustable between 2000-7000 kelvin to support the body's natural cycle. These can also be set to a schedule so you'll have a higher kelvin and cooler light (like the sun) in the morning and a lower kelvin and warmer light in the evening, when your body is winding down for relaxation and sleep.
Image courtesy of Lamps.com
2. biophilic design
increasing natural elements
This is a fancy phrase that simply means adding nature into your indoor environments. Whether it be plants, water, air, sunlight or other natural elements, like wood. In fact, just looking at the organic movement of wood grain has been proven to relax humans. Biophilic design has been widely tested in commercial spaces and proven to reduce stress and improve overall quality of life. This aligns with the proven theory that humans have a natural inclination to be in nature, so why not have a connection to nature in your home?
So the next time you’re renovating or buying a new home, don’t forget the importance of indoor/outdoor spaces, where the sun will rise/set, and what your view looks like. I know this can be hard in the city but that’s all the more reason to fill your home with plants (try a living wall!) or a unique water feature.
3. Air Quality
reducing indoor pollutants
The New York Times published an article that claimed we are exposed to more pollutants indoors than we are outdoors, this article was from 1981. The push for indoor air quality certainly isn’t new, but it is necessary. In fact, the EPA has said that indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air depending on where you live.
Have you ever heard of sick building syndrome? This often impacts offices but is certainly doesn't discriminate against homes. It occurs when there is poor ventilation and other pollutants like radon, cleaning chemicals and allergens in the air. It can actually cause people to feel sick with respiratory problems and headaches. A radon test is easy and inexpensive but if you’d rather go big, invest in an air quality monitor like this.
If your basement or apartment is damp, make sure to run a dehumidifier so you’re not inviting mold. Having hardwood floors versus wall-to-wall carpeting is a good way to keep allergens out but not everyone has the ability to replace flooring. An alternative would be investing in a quality air purifier, like this one. In the summer months, make sure to clean your AC vents regularly.
The most natural way to improve air quality? PLANTS! English ivy, peace lilies, snake plants, spider plants and aloe have all been proven to purify the air.
It all sounds a bit daunting, I know. Maybe we should be wearing masks at home too?! Just kidding. It doesn't matter if you rent or own, live in a city or suburb, there is always something you can do to improve your environment. Of course, these are not the only ways you can improve the health of your home; there's also color, space planning, clutter, etc. that can make a huge impact on your life and as we adjust to our new reality, home is more important than ever.