Have you ever stopped to think about how you could build an ideal living space for yourself? Have you, in the very next moment, convinced yourself to move forward from the idea, simply because it would cost you an arm, a leg, and a large portion of your remaining sanity? So have I.
But here’s the thing: the room/house you live in can contribute largely to upholding whatever sanity you have left, and also have a significant impact on your mood and overall mental wellbeing. This, I believe from experience. A couple of years ago, while battling the most extreme stages of depression I’d been in, I stumbled upon a therapist who may have changed my view on the importance of interiors for life. Before she started therapy, she asked to see my house, and specifically my bedroom (the place I spent most of my time in). She said that we’d have to make some changes to my surroundings first, in order to ensure that the treatment I received was effective in the long run.
Even though I did not end up consulting with her afterwards, this really did strike a chord with me. I decided to test this theory for myself; so for the next three months, I saved up some money, and spent hours on Pinterest, trying to visualize how I really wanted my room to look. I wanted to create MY space, a place where I felt safe, which gave me joy; a place that helped me tackle the cynical and unkind thoughts that kept me up at night.
With something to look forward to, I got busy. I invested some money to get a new bed and a bookshelf made, along with a table on – brace yourselves – wheels. This table was made specifically to slide over and across the bed, making everything (unnecessarily) accessible from the comforts of my bed. Breakfast in bed was not just a luxury for me anymore, it was an everyday routine. The bookshelf, I would say, was the best investment I’ve ever made. Just the sight of it brought more joy to me than I could have thought possible at that point in my life.
The only other thing I had to spend on was paint – lots of paint. Since all my new furniture was white, I painted my existing furniture white to match the walls. And for the accent wall and the ceiling, I picked my then-favourite colour, purple. Painting the walls was another project I had been positively thrilled about. I had loved painting growing up, and it was always a therapeutic experience. I believed that painting my room, with the help of my cousin and a very active aunt, would instill a certain sense of achievement in me – as I was taking things into my own hands, bringing (hopefully) the change I was so desperately seeking. And boy, was it therapeutic.
After months of planning, and two days to execute, I had my dream room ready to be lived in. I added fairy lights – lots and lots of them, and after everything was in place, I lit up a scented candle and got in bed. I may never, truly, be able to explain how well I slept that night.
From a shabby, excessively pink room with little or no space to the room I could confidently call my safe haven, the transformation was monumental. Though, of course, I can’t claim that it cured me of my depression, I no longer felt imprisoned. There was a sense of serenity, of freedom – I felt like I could find myself again in a space that resonated with who I was. The abstract patterns on the ceiling, courtesy of my darling baby sister, kept my mind occupied while I lay in bed at night, leaving little scope for the “scary” thoughts to infiltrate. The white furniture and walls made my room look bigger, while the purple added depth. It made me feel safe, and it made me happy; and the state that I was in before revamping my room, happiness was not something I’d thought I could achieve.
The connection between interiors and sound mental health has been an issue dealt with for centuries, with Chinese Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra aiding with the promotion of polished environments. With the recent rise of Neuroscience, there is more and more research being done now on this very issue; essentially giving these age-old studies a stamp of approval from science. It has been revealed that colours affect moods and personality considerably. The right choice of colour in your room can boost your mood, ensure tranquillity, and also help with productivity. For instance, studies show that the colour blue lowers heart rates, and makes you feel calm and more centred, while green helps to reduce anxiety and increases motivation. The colour red, however, is known to cause anxiety, unless it’s used in moderation.
There are some guidelines, readily available on the internet for you to examine at length, on how to make your living space one that encourages more positive emotions. Some of the basics include the use the natural elements, such as wood – which promotes health and personal growth, and metals – which promotes strength and independence. Other elements like a shaggy rug or soft curtains in flowing fabrics can add warmth and depth to a room. It is also advised to allow as much natural light as is possible, and add more sources of light, according to preference, to any living space. The structure of the space also needs to be considered - a small, restrictive area can hamper your mental peace. It’s important to know how best to utilize an area, and make sure it’s decorated in a way feels open and liberating. A crucial element that you will see mentioned in almost every platform you check is the use of greenery. Adding plants, big or small, can drastically improve mood, AND the quality of air you breathe; it is, overall, the best medicine for sound physical and mental health.
Understandably, it isn’t feasible for all of us to turn our homes or even rooms upside down overnight. Some of these changes are expensive, time-consuming, and more stressful than we can take at the moment. But it is important to remember that not all changes need to be drastic; even a few minor alterations can help significantly. Here are some tips on how you can renovate your room without having to disrupt your life:
• Add some colour: Buy a can of paint, in a colour that you love, pick a wall, and let your inner artist thrive. If you’re feeling ambitious, paint the entire room! Make sure the colour you pick isn’t too overpowering, if you choose to do so. If painting the walls isn’t an option, put up pictures and make your own personal gallery. The pictures can be of you, your loved ones, paintings, or random photos you find, or a combination of all of the above. Just make sure they’re colourful, and make you happy. If nothing else, add statement pillow/cushion covers, lamps or vases in bright colours to amp up the space.
• Clean up: No, not the everyday kind. Really go in and get rid of everything that is of no use and/or no longer brings joy to your life. A clutter-free zone will give you a clutter-free mind. Moreover, deep cleaning your room once every few months helps to remind you to take care of your mental health the same way as you take care of your surroundings.
• Rearrange the furniture: Monotony never helped anyone achieve anything. Oftentimes, when our rooms end up looking the same for long stretches of time, the sense of monotony creeps up unbeknown to us. If a drastic makeover of the room is not a viable option for you at the time, try rearranging the existing furniture in your room. A little move here and a slight shift there can really help remove the dullness, and make the space exciting again.
• Create your corner: Whether it’s a zone in the house or a small portion of a room, find a corner and make it your own. Add elements that add cheer to your day: maybe some comfortable seating arrangement near a window, some lights, a small plant and a collection of your favourite books. Or you could opt for an isolated area where you don’t allow any technological devices, where you can sit peacefully and unwind. However you choose to do so, ensure that there is a designated space in your house where you can go to rejuvenate yourself every day.
These may all seem like a lot - too much, really. But applying any of these methods can radically improve your mental health, and the almost instant results will prove it to you. So create that new Pinterest board, keep these guidelines in mind, and revamp your room to make it an ideal space for your better mental health, that you can love.