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Surprising Ways Home Decor Can Boost Your Happiness

No matter where you live, careful design can turn your space into a sanctuary. Elements like room layout, sounds from the street, even the color of your throw pillows come together to determine the character of your home. And that includes much more than looks—design influences your mental and physical health in surprising ways every day.

We spoke with Neesha Berry, MD, an internal medicine doctor from St. Mary Mercy Livonia in Livonia, Michigan and Medical Director of the St. Joe’s Medical Group in Farmington Hills, Michigan, to learn about the connection between health and design. Here are nine simple ways to make over your home and improve your outlook at the same time.

Choose sand or sky (grey, ivory, white) colors for backdrop items like your couch or carpet.  Include furniture or accent pieces with wood paneling.  Decorate with items that show nature like floral pillows or high-resolution photos.  Bring in real, but responsibly sourced items from the outdoors like finished driftwood.

LET THE LIGHT SHINE IN

If possible, make the sun your primary source of light during the day. This may help:

Lower your electric bills.
Improve your sleep: Sunlight sends visual cues to your brain to help control your circadian rhythm. In one study, for example, people with windows in their offices, slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than those working under artificial lighting.
Ease pain: Hospital patients with windows facing trees require fewer pain meds and recover faster than those facing brick walls.
Boost productivity: Daylight promotes alertness and, in one study, students scored 10 percent higher on exams in rooms with natural lighting.

“Don’t place furniture in front of windows,” says Dr. Berry. “You should be able to open them to let in natural air and light. You want to see the flowers, trees, birds and people walking past.” If glare becomes an issue, or if sunlight spikes your AC usage, invest in transparent window films, which can reduce glare and improve temperature control.

Include stylish hanging plants like philodendron, which thrives year-round and only needs to be watered when the top layer of soil dries out.

Keep a container garden inside or a full garden in your yard, recommends Berry. Whether it’s just mint and basil, or something larger, you’ll benefit emotionally from caring for the plants, and physically from eating your own fresh produce.

“Certain colors help you relax and unwind,” says Berry. “Blue may remind your of the ocean, cream, sand on the beach, and pale gray is almost universally calming.”

Note: While the above colors are traditionally thought to produce these effects, culture and personal experience ultimately determine the emotions people associate with colors. Saturation and shade can also change how visually straining or distracting a color appears, influencing your reaction to it.

Place a fan with different speed settings in your bedroom for white noise while you sleep.
Play Fireplace For Your Home on Netflix in the background while working or relaxing. (Yes, it’s a continuous video of a crackling fireplace.)
Keep a small, decorative fountain in your bedroom, recommends Berry. The sound of flowing water is very calming.

Lavender is especially well known for encouraging sleep and relaxation. Not to mention, nice-smelling things like fresh flowers, essential oils and candles are just enjoyable additions to the home. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should check with a doctor before using essential oils.

BANISH CLUTTER

Clean out your closet and donate old clothes to a charity like Dress for Success, which helps women achieve job security and independence by providing support and professional attire.

Don’t leave shoes in a heap at the bottom of your closet. Fix shoe chaos with a shoe rack, over-the-door organizer or under-the-bed drawer.

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