6 ways your home helps you feel happy, healthy

If you find yourself wanting to get out of the house a little more than usual, it may be for good reason. Your home may be giving you the blues, or even worse, it may have some serious negative effects on your body.

Each day, most Americans move from one built environment to another. For those spaces, designers and owners have put thought (be it very little or a lot) into how to set up those spaces and what amenities to install. All those decisions impact the mental and physical well-being of individuals.

Our home is a place where we seek refuge. However, many houses face design hurdles or have amenities and features that could produce negative impacts on our health. Here are six ways your home may be bringing you down.

1. Sleep barriers

Dr. Robert Brown, the author of the recently released “Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home,” said many homeowners may not realize the effect their home has on their ability to enjoy a good night of sleep. One of the primary reasons for disrupted sleep may be tied to technology.

Light from phones and laptops, along with electromagnetic frequencies from Wi-Fi routers, will disrupt the body’s pineal gland from producing melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles, the physician explained.

“Even looking at your laptop or cellphone for a time before going to bed, studies have shown it can delay the production of melatonin by your brain,” Brown said.

Even if a modem or router is in a distant room, precautions should still be taken.

“EMF travels a good distance, and the brain receives information. … I recommend people put it (routers or modems) on an appliance timer so it shuts off automatically (at night when sleeping),” he added.

2. Indoor air quality

Consumers are more conscious than ever about paints containing harmful volatile organic compounds and other products that may bring air toxins into the home. However, they are often misled on two points when it comes to in-home air quality, Brown said.

When it comes to VOCs, air purifiers like HEPA filters do not remove them. Plants do. That’s why the physician/author suggests keeping a small plant in each room of the home.

Home filtration systems, such as HEPA filters, do eliminate micro-particulates found in air fresheners, candles and even fumes from cooking. On another note, Brown strongly advises against using any plug-in air fresheners.

“The association you may have with a fragrance may affect emotions, but it’s not the same with an air freshener, even though it may kind of smell like that fragrance. It doesn’t have the same reaction,” he said.

3. Full-spectrum lighting

A home’s lighting can strongly impact mood, adds Atilla Lawrence, an assistant professor of interior architecture and health care design at UNLV. More specifically, full-spectrum lighting, which covers the full magnetic spectrum from infrared to near ultraviolet, promotes a good mood, the professor says. Natural sunlight is considered a full-spectrum light.

“It will help you be more energetic. It’s going to put you in a much better mood. … It supports the circadian rhythm,” he added.

If you are in the design stage of a home, Lawrence said, a lighting pro who can design a space with ample natural full-spectrum lighting while suggesting the best full-spectrum light sources and bulbs may be well worth the investment.

4. Picture perfect

Nature promotes happiness, and that’s why going to the ocean or mountains has a calming effect, Lawrence said. This is largely because the air contains negative ions, he explained. However, a similar calming effect could occur with large wall images containing visuals of nature.

“You’re not getting the negative ions, but there is a calming effect,” he added.

Dak Kopec, Ph.D., an associate professor and master of health care interior design at UNLV’s Paul B. Sogg School of Architecture, said research from the 1980s and ’90s involving children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder showed these children were able to better control symptoms with brief and periodic exposure to nature. He and Lawrence recommend finding large digital technology images for the wall.

Atmosphere North America, a Las Vegas-based company, offers a wall-hanging product that includes four televisions in the portrait position. Its “films and moods” setting allows people to have large nature scenes streaming throughout the day. Colors are displayed in a rich digital format and give depth to the room.

The product has been used in bars, lounges and hotel rooms. Technology like this could be helpful for homeowners who have homes on small lots in crowded subdivisions and may feel boxed in, Kopec said.

“In today’s housing market where land has become more valuable, many housing developments are placed too close to one another, and the ability to look off into the distance has been compromised by walls,” Kopec added.

5. Home arrangement for elders

Lawrence also speaks to the importance of social interaction in a home and how it can encourage healthier, happier families. Today, multigenerational homes where grandparents are living with their children are becoming more common.

When it comes to the layout of a multigenerational home, Lawrence said it’s important to arrange environments in a way that allows for the inclusion of older family members. Arrange seating areas so that people are not more than 6 feet apart, he said, so that conversations can be easier to have, especially for a person who is hearing impaired.

“A grandparent hard of hearing that is 10 feet away may not hear what’s being said. … This can lead to some level of isolation,” he added.

6. Water woes

Every faucet or showerhead in a home can directly contribute positively or negatively to one’s health. Having clean water available is critical, especially in a desert environment known for poor water quality.

More than 90 percent of the valley’s water is recycled, and there is simply no way for the local water authority to purify it to a drinking water level, explained Greg Eisenhauer, general manager of Sunny Plumber in Las Vegas.

Consumers should know there are basically three types of water systems available: water softeners, water filtration and reverse osmosis systems. Softeners only reduce the hardness of the water by exchanging one ion of calcium or magnesium for an ion of sodium or potassium — whichever is used by the homeowner.

Softeners, however, do not eliminate chlorine, which municipalities use to keep dangerous bacteria at bay. Chlorine, however, is not good for one’s health. Other toxins like chromium also may also be present in the water.

With water filters, Eisenhauer said, “Filtration is only as good as the media,” meaning whatever the filter is designed to remove, it will, but these systems often bring limitations.

RO water, he added, removes all toxins, including chlorine. Some residents will seek out the local municipality’s water report to better understand which contaminants may still be in the water. Then they can seek out a filtration system that can remove the targeted toxins. Or they may spend more with a whole-house RO system.

“The only way to purify is with RO. … A whole-house purification is expensive, but in the long run it’s worth it,” he added.

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