4 Ways to Achieve an Anxiety-Friendly Home

published Feb 27, 2019
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light wood tones are featured along with white bedding and walls in this Scandi minimalist bedroom
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Designing a cozy home isn’t just about on-point aesthetics. Have you ever thought about how your home actually makes you feel? Interior designers and therapists alike believe home design influences your well-being and emotions, and can even exacerbate your anxiety and stress levels.

Whether you are facing clinical anxiety or situational stress, creating a peaceful living space is a great first step toward preventing—and managing—stressful emotions. Curious about how to get started? We spoke with some mental health experts about the best ways to de-stress your house or apartment. Here are their best suggestions:

1. Start with decluttering

It may seem obvious, but the organization (or lack thereof!) in your home environment plays a big role in how you feel. Have you ever noticed that it’s more difficult to relax when your living room is a mess? Or that you can’t fall asleep when there’s an unfolded pile of laundry at the foot of your bed? Turns out, there’s a psychological reason for it. Katie Krimer, a New York-based therapist, says a cluttered space contributes to a cluttered mind.

“It’s pretty remarkable to see how someone’s anxiety or stress can be reflected in their state―people keep unnecessary items, pile clothes up on a chair or the floor instead of putting them away, and keep items scattered over tables, on shelves, or in cabinets,” she says. “A messy space can exacerbate an already anxious state of mind, so committing to decluttering and doing a deep clean of your home can drastically influence your mood and stress levels.”

Jenny Matthews, a therapist in Minnesota, recommends two regular decluttering practices to promote a peaceful mind: picking up your things daily so they’re easy to find, and purging items you don’t need at least once a year. “I like to use the one-year rule. If I haven’t used something in a year, then I won’t miss it,” she says.

2. Visualize a serene home environment

Now that you’ve eliminated some immediate stress triggers from your home, start thinking about what items and experiences add a sense of serenity to your daily life. Emily Cosgrove, a therapist and life coach, suggests a visualization exercise to get you started down the right path for designing a peaceful living space.

“What vibes do you want to get when you’re home? What do you want it to look like? Spend time focusing on these feelings and feel them, then write them down. This will help you be intentional about decorating your space,” she says.

Once you’ve settled on an overall “vibe” for your home—it’s like a Pinterest board for mental health!—it’s time to envision specifics, like decor and paint.

(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

3. Decorate with intention

While that bright-colored accent wall may be on trend, how will it affect your daily mood? If curating a peaceful home is a top priority, then choose your color schemes and furnishings based on how you want to feel, not what’s trending on Pinterest.

“When thinking decor, choose paint or furnishings that connect with your visualization and list of feelings you created earlier. What colors help you feel relaxed and at ease? What textures help you feel relaxed and cozy? What inspires you, comforts you, and relaxes you? These are the thoughts to consider when you’re decorating,” Cosgrove says. “Be intentional and choose objects that help you feel those feelings you connected to or that create joy and happiness inside when you use them or look at them.”

4. Make some practical additions

If redesigning your whole living room will break the bank or compromise your mental health, focus on smaller changes that will still facilitate noticable changes in your home’s mood—and yours. Evanye Lawson, a Georgia-based therapist, says simple, sensory additions can pack a big punch in setting a serene ambiance.

“Bring in all of your favorite tangible items into your space that enhance the senses. Have candles, incense, indoor fountains, soft lightening, soothing or vibrant colors, music that relaxes you or makes you feel good, crystals, or anything that adds texture such as fluffy rugs or vases,” she says. “Walking into your space seeing these things that make you feel good automatically lifts your spirit.”