6 Things You Can Do Around the House to Feel Mentally Better

Easy—and affordable—ways to make your space better for you

They say home is where the heart is, but that chestnut is being pushed to its breaking point as we continue to shelter in place during the pandemic. By now, most of us are eager for a return to the outside world, but we still have some hunkering down in store. The good news: as we remain safer at home, there are myriad measures we can take to ensure that we remain sane there, as well. Here’s a little insight from those who know best, including interior designers, spiritual advisers, and Feng shui specialists.

Get Your Garden On

For an immediate sense of well-being put your hands in the dirt. “The Vitamin D [from the sun] is essential, but also garden soil contains M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, thereby reducing anxiety,” explains Kathy Delgado, an interior designer who runs her own boutique called Vintageweave Interiors. “I encourage clients to begin with small pots and seeds if they feel they lack a green thumb. Double the benefits by planting what you can eat.”

Antique produce crates—which you can purchase online for as little as $10 a piece—create fantastic patio containers. If you have a little more to spend, terra-cotta pots are ideal for kitchen windowsill herb gardens. “Use chalkboard plant markers for visual enhancement,” adds Delgado. “Watching your plants grow and watering them daily undoubtedly increases self esteem. And for anyone experiencing loneliness, gardening is a sure-fire way to feel connected to Mother Earth.”

Even if you lack backyard space, simply bringing any sort of plant life into your home will disperse more oxygen throughout the interior which is proven to have physiological benefits. Delgado recommends nurturing succulents or palm bushes on either side of your bed. “Make sure you have something blooming, whenever possible.”

Clear the Clutter

“I’ve had a lot of clients come for new bedding and master bedroom overhauls,” observes Willa Ford of WFord Interiors, a Los Angeles-based interior design firm. “They want to feel less clutter and more peace within that sacred space.”

Even before the shutdown, Americans were tapping into a desire to strip down to necessities, amovement spearheaded by Marie Kondo, who became a household name thanks to her Netlfix show devoted to “tidying up.” The significance of a streamlined space is amplified when you’re spending all of your time there.

“Whatever we see with our eyes we ingest into our body—it affects us emotionally, warns June De Young, a spiritual healer and psychic medium to the stars. “Less is more. So choose a room—take out literally everything. Clean the floors, the windows. Then start putting back only what you love, one item at a time. You’ll be amazed at what doesn’t make it back in. Donate that stuff to neighbors or charity, for an added sense of well-being.”

Introduce an Aquatic Acquaintance

Bringing sea life into your home can immediately buoy your psyche. It’s not just that you’re acquiring new pets—which psychology shows can improve well-being—but fish tanks also come with filtration systems. According to De Young, the soothing white noise helps her clients find peace of mind. “It could be a tiny little tank for as little as $10,” she contends. “But you plug it in and the bubbly energy can keep you sane.”

She recommends a type of goldfish called oranda. “Get two of them for a 20 gallon tank and they will keep you going every day,” she adds. “I inherited Frank Sinatra’s fish. i would talk to them, play his music for them and say, ‘Here’s daddy’ [laughs]. It would always make me smile.”

Concentrate on the Kitchen

“A majority of us are spending more time in the kitchen than ever before,” observes Delgado. “You can upgrade the experience by adding a variety of tools into your repertoire.” She offers several suggestions: mixing boards of assorted materials—wood, marble, metal—antique bowls for mise-en-place, and a small splurge on ingredients that you wouldn’t otherwise use in everyday cooking, like imported salt or mustard.”

“Since we’re eating every meal at home, serve all dishes on a silver tray,” she adds. “Light a votive and make every single meal feel special whether you’re a family of five or one.” 

Look to the Spirits

If you have pictures of deceased friends and loved ones scattered about your living spaces, De Young is adamant about bringing all the imagery together into one area. “Create a little shrine in your home,” she says. “It really has helped so many of my clients over the past several weeks. Because they have them dispersed, but they need to be concentrated.” She then advises you to spend a small moment each day communing with this part of your home, and clearing your mind in a sort of meditative state.

Of course, many of us are turning to another sort of spirit altogether. “Barware sales are up 60 percent,” observes Delgado, who touts the benefits of building out a home bar. “Even a small corner of a kitchen counter can become bar central. Begin with a pretty tray or marble cutting board to create a staging area. Organize bar tools in a pretty antique glass. Keep fresh mint in an antique enamel canister filled with water, and other garnishes in depression glass dishes. You can use vintage French advertisement ashtrays to expand upon the bygone vibe. These are my bar styling tricks used at L.A. restaurants such as Petit Trois, APL Steakhouse, and others. I’ve consulted clients to make a mocktail every night with sparkling water, mint, and limes served over ice. It feels like a treat, while keeping the immune system up.”

Lighting Makes the Mood

“If you don’t have enough light, it will affect you negatively,” warns De Young. “Every morning I light a candle while I’m making my coffee. It sets a pleasant vibe for the whole day.” She also uses under-counter lighting—LED strips that you can purchase online for less than $20. Affix them under your cabinets, she contends, and they’ll improve your mood drastically.

“And don’t forget to light some incense, too,” she says. “Frankincense and myrrh have a calming effect. It makes you think of Christmas, which has a way of chilling people out.”

Delgado attains a similar state of being from daily baths. “It especially feels like a treat when using a favorite bubble brand,” she adds. “We’ve seen a surge in Côté Bastide bath apothecary products. Add in Epson salts and light a scented candle. There’s something truly euphoric about a 2 p.m. bubble bath.”

At the end of the day all the experts agree on the value of attitude. And your interior space is as much a reflection of it as it is its byproduct. “Creating a calming and welcoming aesthetic is more important than ever as we spend all of our time at home,” Delgado says. “The word ‘isolation’ feels cold and void of comfort. I prefer ‘introspection.’”

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