Every Friday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, host Minaa B., a licensed social worker, mental health educator, and author of “Owning Our Struggles,” interviews experts, wellness advocates, and individuals with lived experiences about community care and its impact on mental health.

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Take a look around your home, office, or wherever you’re currently standing while reading this article. What are you noticing? Does your area feel cramped, or do you have room to breathe? Really take a look at the colors around you. Are the walls sky blue, or are they vanilla white? Maybe you’re surrounded by pets, kids, or a bunch of people. Soak it all in for a couple of minutes or so. We’ll wait.

*Cue Jeopardy! theme song*

Welcome back! Now that you’re grounded and present—how do you feel? Are you stressed? Do you feel like a caged animal or feel pretty chill?

This exercise was meant to help you see how your environment influences your mood. We may not think about this often, but trust us—our physical space definitely has an impact on how we feel.

Still not convinced? Well, here’s what therapist-turned-interior designer Anita Yokota, aka “Your Go-To Home Therapist,” told The Verywell Mind podcast’s host Minaa B.

“As a psychology intern, I did a lot of home visits. One of the first things that I learned to do…is observe the emotional climate of the home,” Yokota says. She adds that visiting clients’ homes from Compton and all the way to Malibu “taught me so much of how our home environment can really affect our mood, [and] it can affect our relationships that live [in the home].”

Because of her experiences as a therapist, Yokota fell in love with interior design and now works to help people design their homes in ways that foster good emotional health and well-being.

She’s adamant that interior design can be used as a therapy tool, and she was kind enough to share some quick tips we can use to make our homes mental health-friendly.

Interior Design and Architecture Impact How We Feel 24/7—Seriously

Considering that we’re always somewhere, in some space, we’re always going to be affected by our surroundings.

To get a bit more granular, people living in the United States spend approximately 90% of their time inside man-made spaces. That’s…a lot.

Our inside spaces are super important, and architects regard interior design as one of the most crucial parts of architectural design. And since we can’t see the outside of our homes from our bedrooms, we should really direct our attention to our indoor spaces.

People living in the United States spend approximately 90% of their time inside man-made spaces.

Studies even show that our physical environment can trigger or reduce symptoms of various mental health conditions.

Getting Cozy With the Elements of Interior Design

To understand the relationship between environment and mood, let’s familiarize ourselves with the important facets of interior design.

Our home environment can really affect our mood, [and] it can affect our relationships that live [in the home].”


ANITA YOKOTA, THERAPIST-TURNED-INTERIOR DESIGNER

Anita Yokota

Three important components of interior design include:

  1. Color: All of the shades/tones in a space.
  2. Decoration: This can include things like art and decor.
  3. Lighting: Includes light from lamps, ceilings, and the amount of natural sunlight a room receives

If You Want to Feel More Relaxed—Go With Blue

Think back to a time when you were younger and choosing a paint color for a room. Or maybe you can recall a home interior of a friend’s house or a T.V. character you liked. Maybe the color you found yourself drawn to then was a bright pink.

But, perhaps your tastes have changed now and you may be completely turned off by an all-pink room (FYI, no judgment if your room is still pink, by the way). Pink is an exciting color, of course, but if you’re seeking a more peaceful environment, pink may not get the job done.

For instance, if you’re at a spa, it’s not likely that you’ll find a pink wall. Instead, you’ll see shades of zen-inducing blues and greys.

Most People Are Drawn to Cooler-Toned Rooms

Remember that spa from a sentence ago? There’s a reason why people feel at ease at spas. Aside from the luxurious pampering, the whole environment of a spa feels *so* chill, and the cool colors assist in creating that feeling.

To back this up, a study that had participants look at two digitally created living room images found warmer interior colors to feel more exciting and stimulating. Cooler-toned interiors were shown to provoke feelings of restfulness and convey a more spacious vibe.

Another study mentions that people generally prefer cool colors like cyan, green, and blue over warm colors like red, yellow, and orange.

Whites and Beiges Are Great For Smaller Spaces

It’s clear that color has a huge impact on how we feel. Yokota says, that paint colors including “white paint, creams, and beiges, are wonderful ways to absorb light and bounce it back into a small room.”

Add Some Green to Your Home to Increase Productivity

The color green is often associated with positive feelings. We think of trees and grass both of which act as symbols of life.

Anita Yokota, Therapist-Turned-Interior Designer

Having a little plant by your desk is so amazing. It’s like a subconscious way of being productive without you even knowing it!

— Anita Yokota, Therapist-Turned-Interior Designer

The great thing is that there are so many shades of green to choose from. You can put a jade couch, emerald accent pillows, and sea foam-colored throw blankets all in the same room!

Yokota also says that adding green plants to your living space works too.

“Research has shown that the color green and plants improve your memory, concentration, and focus,” Yokota explains. “So having a little plant by your desk is so amazing. It’s like a subconscious way of being productive without you even knowing it!”

Let the Light In

Think of how you feel on a bright, sunny day versus how you feel on a cold, dreary, and rainy day. Pretty big difference, right?

Direct sunlight feels amazing because the light from that big yellow star in the sky can actually decrease anxiety. Even indirect sunlight shining through a window can reduce feelings of depression.

Natural light and brighter spaces can instantly lift our mood. So, lighting in homes is really important.

To make our home spaces more work-friendly, Yokota recommends “ample lighting.” And, if you lack a window in your workspace, you can add a “happy light or some kind of mood-boosting light.”

Clutter Has No Home Here

Clutter and messiness can make a room feel smaller than it really is. And too much stuff lying around can increase stress and make us feel unhappy about life. So, get cleaning!

Yokota emphasizes the importance of organization and says that tidiness can set us up for success. She says, “Research has shown [that] organization decreases that cortisol stress level that we’re constantly on a high from. We want to be high from serotonin and dopamine [and]…lower that cortisol level as much as possible.

Organization Tips & Tricks

Here are some simple ways to organize your home:

  • Use baskets and trays to keep all of your mail
  • Install hooks to hang your keys
  • Put bins under your beds to house sheets, comforters, and blankets
  • Categorize your toiletries (haircare/beard care, skin care, period products, cosmetics) using drawer dividers
  • Put clothes on hangers (you can organize them by clothing type or season)

“Things like [baskets and tray liners] automatically calm our mind down,” says Yokota. When everything has a designated space, it’ll be easier to find whatever you need when you need it. So, say goodbye to running around the house in a frenzy looking for that one perfectly broken-in hair tie!

What This Means For You

One of the best things about interior design is that we can personalize our space—it’s the perfect time to be selfish. If you want to feel good, your home should look just the way you like it.


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