Turning Your Home into Your Haven

April 24, 2023

For some of us it’s a natural inclination– the desire to make our living spaces a place of refuge, to make them a haven. Kids, for instance, are naturally inclined to create cozy spaces – building pillow forts, filling their beds with stuffed animals or crafting blanket houses. Yet as we get older, we may forget how good it feels to curl up in a space that feels warm and welcoming. We may not realize just how much of an impact our physical space still has on our mental state. But think about how differently you feel entering a dark, cluttered room as opposed to a bright and airy one. 

“It takes a lot for people to recognize the affect their space has on them, to essentially put themselves first and focus on the importance of their own space,” says Mika Mclane, MPS, LCAT, ATR, CCLS, of Westchester Creative Arts Therapy. “I encourage everyone to ask themselves: Have I taken the time to create an environment where I can thrive?”

The science behind it all

Science has proven that your mental health is affected by your physical environment. Researchers have studied everything from how neat or messy a space is to the amount of light and the color on the walls. Even textures and sounds play a part. Creating a safe, comfortable place where you can relax and recharge is proven to boost your mood. Here’s how.

Out with the old, in with the new

Your home should be a place of comfort and contentment, not a source of stress. And while it may seem overwhelming to clear out all the piles and get organized, once done, you’ll feel a greater sense of ease every time you walk through your home.


“If our space is chaotic or cluttered, it’s a microcosm of what’s really operating inside our heads – it’s telling us that we need to make some space in our minds, clear out the excess,” explains Jennifer Zauner LCSW, clinical director of Sirona Therapy in Mount Kisco. “A great way to start that process is by clearing out our physical space.”


After you’ve cleared out and organized your spaces, slowly bring new items in:

·  Keep it simple; don’t over-decorate.

·  Only fill your space with objects that are uplifting or meaningful; sell or donate items

that aren’t.

·  Remember that your house is meant to be a living-space, not storage for the stuff you

don’t use.

Brighten and lighten your rooms

According to the Newport Institute, light plays an important role in physical and mental health. Light tells us when it’s time to sleep and wake, and our sleep habits are closely linked to our mood. Too little natural and/or artificial light in your room can increase your stress and anxiety, while light that’s too bright at night disrupts sleep, which also alters our mood.

To improve your lighting:

·  Use lamps or overhead lighting that you find soothing. For example, soft light bulbs

produce a more yellow light, which is warmer and cozier.

·  Keep curtains open or replace curtains with blinds.

·  Position mirrors on walls across from windows to double the natural light that comes in.


Colors create the mood in your home,” McLane explains. ““There is research to support that different colors have varying affects a person's mood. Healing and soothing colors are soft, warmer tones (like cream and beige). For a livelier, more energetic feel, you’ll want to go with the richer, brighter colors. Look at how you feel when you see the color bright red versus calming blue. When you think about the color of your space, ask yourself what kind of environment you’re trying to create – energized or calming?” 


If you’re going for a more peaceful vibe, a good first step is to paint one wall of your bedroom a soft shade of white or pastel to reflect light and create a sense of calm. If you’re drawn to cooler or bright colors, then see how it feels to add some neutral-colored throw pillows, blankets, decor pieces, artwork or other accents while keeping your walls a brighter shade.


Create ambiance with scents
We’ve all had the experience of smelling something that calls up a positive memory and lifts our mood, even if just for a moment. And that’s no accident; our sense of smell lives in the same part of the brain that processes our emotions. To find the right scents for your home, some experimenting may be necessary! Check out shops that sell perfumes or essential oils and see which ones elicit positive feelings for you. Once you find your ideal scents, look for diffusers, incense, candles, and room sprays that contain one or more of those fragrances.

Add some texture

The right tactile elements can really enhance the coziness of your interior; they feel good in your hands and on your body, and can also create a sense of depth and warmth in your space.


“Texture is important because touch is part of our five senses,” Zauner explains. “At Sirona Therapy our clients have many things to touch, including soft blankets on the chairs and couches, aesthetically pleasing pillows that are soft to the touch, stones and rocks, fidget spinners, crystals and pottery pieces.”


Some ideas for incorporating texture in your home include: adding a textured wool throw or knit blanket on your sofa, a wooden table, chairs with textured upholstery, grass cloth wallpaper, textured ceramic pieces, and/or faux sheepskin rugs.

Bring the outside in

We live in an overly connected world, and have fewer and fewer moments of quiet and stillness these days. Nature helps! If you can’t get out into nature as much as you’d like, or you just want a more grounding home, try bringing nature inside.


Elements that can add an earthy feel:

·   Ceramics

·   Photos of nature

·   Plants & flowers

·   Small herb gardens

·   Table-top water fountains

·   Unfinished wood pieces

·   Wood floors

Take your time

Most people can’t turn their home into a haven overnight, especially if children and animals are in the mix.


“Take it slow, don’t try to transform your whole space all at once” says Zauner. “Even simple things can have an impact. You can add accent accessories (such as a throw pillow, a rug or flowers in a pretty vase), put candles in every room, and hang art you love on the walls. You can also arrange your seating area in a way that facilitates conversation.”


But don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune – this shouldn’t break the bank!


“Your investment in your space doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money," says Mclane.  “It’s more a matter of investing the time to determine what you really want from your space.”


Haven-ing your space should be an enjoyable project, so give yourself the time to enjoy it and do it right!


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