Look Around, Look Within This MHAM

Have you ever noticed that a gray, rainy day can have an extraordinary impact on how you feel? Maybe you feel lethargic, or even sad. On the other hand, a beautiful, sunny day can have the opposite effect: leading to happy, high energy emotions. Most of us have experienced these shifts as the weather ebbs and flows, but did you know that your emotions and overall mental health can be impacted by your day-to-day surroundings as well?

It’s true, and this Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re joining Mental Health America in encouraging you to look around, look within.

When it comes to mental health, our natural and built environments each play a really significant role. Arguably the most important among these? Housing. Living in a safe, stable environment sets a strong foundation for good mental health, and those who find themselves in unsafe or inconsistent housing arrangements are more likely to feel distressed, isolated, or disconnected from their communities.

We each deserve to live somewhere that is calming and supportive to our health and overall goals, and this type of housing allows us to set up healthy routines and rituals. While securing safe and stable housing can be challenging for many due to finances, age, or a myriad of other reasons, you can try reaching out to state or local agencies to secure housing, removing any safety hazards in your home, or finding a space where you can find the comfort you are missing at home (which you may be able to find at a friend’s home or a nearby community center). 

Safe and secure housing is certainly the most important step in creating space to nourish your mental health, but other elements of your home can play a role as well. From the air quality to organization, natural light, and more, a healthy home environment is key. Below, we’re sharing a few tips from Mental Health America that will help you optimize your space to support your mental health. 

1. Try To Keep Your Space Tidy & Organized 
When you’re juggling a bunch of different responsibilities, sometimes keeping a tidy space can be challenging. But while you certainly don’t need your space to be spotless, research shows that clutter can be harmful to your mental state, contributing to trouble focusing or feelings of depression, confusion, or stress. A cluttered space can also make it harder for your brain to think clearly, according to a study conducted at Princeton University

If tidying your space feels overwhelming, start with a small area and set a daily timer until you’ve achieved your task. Practicing mindfulness while cleaning and being sure to put items away in their proper place can also help you lessen the tasks you’ll have to tackle later. Lastly, donating unneeded or unused items and thinking about the organization of your home can clear room in your space (and in your mind!). 

2. Make Your Bedroom Sleep-Friendly
Here at Standard Dose, we love to talk about the importance of sleep hygiene. After all, sleep is what fuels us, and not getting enough of it has a direct impact on our mental health. 

To set yourself up for success (and the 7+ hours a night the National Sleep Foundation recommends for adults), limit the amount of light in your space before bed, as too much of it can disrupt the circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep. As excess noise can also impact sleep, consider using white noise or earplugs to drown out any annoying sounds. Lastly, keep your bedroom cool: the ideal sleeping temperature is 60-67 degrees fahrenh. 

3. Check Your Air Quality 
While air quality may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about mental health, it’s important to take steps to ensure the quality of yours. According to a literature review study, “95% of studies on outdoor air pollution, mental health, and human/animal brains found that exposure to polluted air changes the brain.” Additionally good air quality can raise oxygen levels in the brain, boosting mood and focus. 

You can check the air quality for your area by entering your zip code at airnow.gov.  

Depending on where you live, opening windows or using an air purifier can help you improve the air quality in your home. 

Additionally, spend intentional time outdoors. Spending time in nature reduces stress levels, boosts focus, and can even support the immune system.

4. Create A Comforting Environment 
What makes a house feel like a home to you? Maybe it’s photos of your loved ones, your favorite candle, or a comfortable blanket. To create a home that feels more calming and supportive, try personalizing your space. If you can’t afford to decorate, simply moving around the furniture or opening up the blinds to let some natural light into your favorite rooms can make your space more comforting. 

Outside of your home, a sense of community with others in your neighborhood can help protect mental health. Work to create bonds in your community and support the businesses and people around you. This can look like partnering with your neighbors to carpool, running errands for each other, supporting local businesses to challenge gentrification, or sharing resources with those who need them. 

If you’re taking steps to improve your surroundings but are still struggling with your mental health, you may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition. Take a free, private screening through Mental Health America at mhascreening.com to help you figure out what’s going on and determine next steps.

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