Enhance Your Mood by Updating your Home

Mimicking nature with sights, sounds and smells will help find joy at home.

Laurie Allen
Finding small ways to create comfort at home can improve your mood.

In these desperate and unusual times, a healthy dose of nature can buoy spirits and promote well-being. But then, so can sitting on the other end of the sofa.

It may sound far-fetched but doing something as simple as changing your seating position can change your posture and perspective, which in turn can bring new energy and positivity, says Rebekah Matheny, an associate professor of interior design at Ohio State University.

“We are moving beings,” Matheny says. “There is empirical research that shows when you alter one element in a space, it visually distracts us, and that’s a good thing. It creates a new spark in our personal energy.” This can be easily achieved by moving a plant, a piece of art or an accent chair.

Increasingly, home and building designers draw inspiration from nature—its sights and colors, sounds and scents. Matheny says human beings have a psychological need to connect with nature, which has been formalized into a principle called the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design.

Harvard naturalist Edward O. Wilson coined the term biophilic, which literally means “love of life,” in 1984 to describe what he saw as the human need and affinity for nature. Proponents say biophilic design, now a concept used in the building industry, helps reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity, and promote healing and well-being.

Matheny says people can use the principles of biophilic design to bring more comfort into their homes by introducing fresh plants and flowers, and using nature-inspired patterns in fabrics, flooring and wallcoverings. “It doesn’t have to be overt,” she says. It can be suggestive of nature through a subtle leaf or branch pattern in a sheer curtain or wallcovering, for example.

Designer Julie Paulino likes to play recordings of singing birds or moving water. “Those [are] sounds that inspire you to relax,” she says. “It’s all those beautiful sounds you don’t hear when you are indoors.” Soothing music is another option.

Peggy Smith, a designer and owner of Howard Brooks Interiors, says color definitely is a mood changer. “Lighter, happier colors really do affect someone’s disposition,” she says. “Gray is going away. We’re seeing more beiges again, which brings back a warmer tone.”

Also, shades of green and blue create a visual connection to nature, Matheny advises.

“How do we make our new normal a bit more joyful?” she asks. “It doesn’t have to be an overall rehab.”

According the designers, smaller ways to create comfort at home include:

Use scents: Matheny says scent can both energize and calm, depending on the aroma and time of day. An app-controlled aroma plug-in containing two different scents allows people to breathe in one scent in the morning and another later in the day.

Careful lighting: Designers dig dimmers for turning down the visual volume in a room. Small table and floor lamps are recommended over harsh, overhead lighting. Smith likes to put lamps on timers so homeowners don’t return to a dark house in the evening.

Good organization: Paulino recommends making the bed each morning, keeping your office area decluttered and writing in a daily gratitude journal.

Cozy comfort: It’s still cool, so cozy it up with throws, rugs, candles, art and other objects that make you smile.

Visual greenery: People without green thumbs, take heart. It’s OK to use life-like artificial plants and flowers, provided they are high quality. Watching an unhappy plant wither and die isn’t a mood lifter, Paulino advises. Do whatever works best for you when it comes to green growth.

Window views: Looking outside is an ideal way to redirect focus and ignite feelings of well-being.

In the periphery: Matheny says it’s also important to pay attention to what’s in your peripheral view as well. Seeing a vase of flowers, a beautiful candle or nature-inspired wallpaper out of the corner of the eye can kindle imagination and creativity.