Your space + your mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month globally (in the Philippines, this is held in October). Both are important to me because they are opportunities to speak about mental health without fear of judgment or prejudice. Although I wish—since we have all survived a pandemic—that mental health conversations may be accepted and conducted every day, not just once or twice a year.

Society and Filipino culture have come a long way in terms of acknowledging and accepting mental health issues—that they do exist. While there are still groups who see it as a scarlet letter (I once heard: “Ganito ang faith natin, walang mental health [issues] dito”) support is now more available, open, and accessible (message me if you need a safe space!).

Let me state it for the record: our faith does not have anything to do with the state of our mental health. A person who bravely comes forward saying he or she needs mental health first aid or support could be praying constantly but still experiencing disorientation or is petrified because of fear of judgment from loved ones and fellow churchgoers. Kindness is not about religion.

The impact of your living space on your mental health

My journey of mindfulness has been going on for fourteen years. I have addressed a lot of triggers and identified glimmers, too — those moments that instantly lift our mood, save our day, and remind us of our worth. I have also learned that the quality of my sleep is a big factor, as well as where I eat, decompress, or just be — my living space.

“Living space can directly impact mood and anxiety. With increased clutter or disorganization in a person’s personal living space, it can feel like there is no safe place to recover from life,” says therapist Billy Roberts, in an article on Turbo Tenant.

GOOD FOR THE MIND AND BODY. Our space can affect our health, both mentally and physically. It can remove or cause stress and anxiety.

How do we optimize our space for mental well-being? Here are some things to try:

Declutter. “Minimalism” became trendy for a while, but also because a space free of clutter is also good for our mind. If you spot a space with tambak (clutter) in your house, you probably carry the same weight in your mind. So if you remove this clutter, you also create free space in your mind. (Search “declutter” on Netflix for helpful documentaries.)

SET THE MOOD. Aromatherapy through candles or oils works wonders so you won’t have to go to a spa. (All photos taken at Crown Residences at Tierra Davao)

Use multi-functional furniture. If you have a small space, get furniture to go with it instead of insisting on that pretty art deco coffee table that won’t leave you (and your pet) space to move freely. Mental well-being is also about being able to do simple exercises at home in the morning and before bedtime, so leave literal space for yourself.

Try the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo created this method to help us decide what to keep and what not to keep (which you can sell or donate). Do one room per day, put all items in the middle, then hold them one by one. Keep what you value and what makes you happy. Thank the rest for how they have served you, then let them go. 

Breathe better, feel better. House plants trended especially during the pandemic when the whole world was cooped inside our homes (this was especially challenging for condo dwellers I met during medical mission road shows). Plants really do help clean the air as well as make your space look better. 

THINK GREEN. Plants do more than make your space look pretty — they also clean your air and make it smell good!

It’s not simply aesthetic, it’s also science. If you have pets, though, look up which plants are safe for them, especially indoors. Better yet, get them cat grass to nibble on. There are several stores you can buy from on e-commerce platforms. Healthy pets make happy hoomans.

u Utilize color psychology. I’m a big fan of psychology and have studied it for myself, to help me understand myself better. In the process, I also learned to understand people better. Colors in our home affect our mood, emotions, and how we feel by simply being at home. I LOVE being in my house because I love everything about it and always photograph it. There is pride as much as there is joy — good feelings to feel every day.

And let’s not forget the lighting. I love natural light at daytime just as much as I love dim and mood lighting after the golden hour, heading towards the evening. It makes me happy as much as sunshine can. It also helps my mind calm down and my body to prepare for sleep, whose quality is very crucial to our mental health.

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How do you arrange your space to be good for your well-being? Tell me at [email protected].