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How interior design choices can boost your mental and physical health

Neuroscientists have figured out what interior design choices, from flooring to lighting, can help create homes that improve our mental health, decrease stress and fatigue, and even spark creativity

Humans 13 April 2022

New Scientist Default Image

Leonie Bos

YOU might recognise the sensation from visits to a friend’s house – the feeling that a space is good for you. Perhaps it is a sense of profound relaxation, as if you left your worries at the door. Or you may have found the perfect office space that leaves you buzzing with creative ideas. Yet try to explain why you felt that way, or recreate those effects at home, and you fall short.

According to the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, there are rules of harmonious living that affect the flow of energy through your body, and many modern design gurus take a similar line, dishing out guidance in lifestyle magazines and Instagram accounts. They advise on the shape of rooms, materials in furnishings, colours on walls and organisation of books – it may make your home look good, but does it make you feel good?

While there is nothing wrong with going with your gut when it comes to decor, there could be a better way to make design choices. A growing number of neuroscientists are collaborating with architects and interior designers. With carefully controlled experiments using objective physiological and psychological measures, they are starting to systematically test the influence of design elements on brain and body.

The work couldn’t be timelier. The rise of remote working has meant more time at home for many. Whether you want to boost your mood, lower your blood pressure, decrease your bad habits or ease the burden of dementia, this research can provide evidence-based strategies to optimise your living space for your physical and mental health.

The roots of this work lie in …