By: Rashida Ashley
Now more than ever, mental health is extremely important. Whether we realize it or not, everything we do and everyone we encounter affects our mental health. The foods we eat, the people we hang out with, and even the environment we live in. Our daily lives and busy schedules can sometimes make us forget the importance of continuously keeping inventory on the aspects that affect our mentality. Lack of time can cause us to order out. Being scared to move away from friends who are no longer for you can keep you in unhealthy relationships. Stress can even cause us to have no desire to clean our homes.
If you want to start taking accountability for your mental health, it’s time to make some adjustments in your life. These adjustments do not have to be grand; they can be as small as picking up a discarded sock off the floor. “The environment we live and work in forms part of the wider context of our lives, which – as any good counselor knows – is vital to think about when treating any mental health issues” (Society). You’re living and working space is a precursor that determines the state of your mental health. Since most of us are now working from home, it is even more important to pay attention to our surroundings.
Many factors within our environment play an important role in the total state of our mental health. Lindberg notes that your environment’s aesthetic and sensory details such as lightening, smell, and the sounds you hear can impact your health; even the culture and familiarity of the people you surround yourself with play such a vital role.
Let’s paint a picture for a moment. Say you live in an apartment building in the busy city we all know and love, New York. Like many other New Yorkers, you rent out a room for a comfortable price. The only thing is, your room has only one small window. This isn’t a big deal, you’d originally think, what does this have to do with my mental health? Well, let’s say the view doesn’t have a nice park across the street or even a few trees to make the air just a little bit cleaner. The view is a red brick building six feet away from yours. Instead of fresh air, bright light, and a feeling of freedom, you get stifled air, dark lighting, and a feeling of compression.
Going deeper into our reverie the lack of fresh air and bright light puts you in a very unpleasant mood. So much so, that you don’t feel like picking that sock off the floor and putting it into your hamper. Soon every article of clothing you have is sprawled out on that floor of yours. Now add three roommates who you have no history of knowing who all don’t get along, or who don’t make an effort to talk to anyone…talk about stifled energy.
Let’s kick it up a notch. Grab your keys and go for a walk outside. Before you open the door, you can already hear what outside sounds like and when you do decide to open it, the sound is blazing. As you walk down the street, you see trash on the pavement and other discarded objects. You’ve seen cleaner streets and this one just doesn’t fit the bill.
If this montage resonates with you even in the slightest, you might be feeling a little unsettled. That’s okay, at some point most of us have been there. You do have a few options. The first is, you could pack up your bags and find a more breathable space. Or if you’re unable to do so you could do a few things to add a little more character to your space.
“To make the most impact, begin with the room you spend most of your time in and arrange it in a way that is functional and free of clutter” (Sara Lindberg). There are several ways you can make your primary space bearable. You could purchase a few green plants of your choosing to add life to your space. Cactus plants are one of the easiest plants to maintain due to their ability to retain moisture. Another thing you could do is keep your window open consistently. You could also invest in an air purifier. This will help with not only the flow of air in your space but also its quality. To appeal to your senses, you can also invest in a few of your favorite scented candles, incense, or air freshener. A personal favorite of mine is sandalwood incense. When you have the time, you could put some of your favorite music on to clean, organize, and decorate your space. You could even attempt to bond with your roommates with some fun activities.
Of course, there are other things that you also might want to consider pursuing when it comes to your mental health and the environment you live in. It is important to be aware when you need help. If you are experiencing any symptoms of anxiety, depression or other ailments be sure to consult a professional for consistent help.
a Published by Alliant International University and Published by Alliant International University. How Environmental Factors Impact Mental Health, www.alliant.edu/blog/how-environmental-factors-impact-mental-health.
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed. “How Your Environment Affects Your Mental Health.” Verywell Mind, 25 Jan. 2021, www.verywellmind.com/how-your-environment-affects-your-mental-health-5093687.
Society, Counselling. “How Your Environment Affects Your Mental Health.” NCS, nationalcounsellingsociety.org/blog/posts/how-your-environment-affects-your-mental-health.
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