Dealing with Anxiety: Set Up Your Apartment for Success 

Your living arrangements can have a dramatic impact on your mood. Even the layout of your NYC apartment is important. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Urban Health found that apartment layouts in which rooms all branched out from a corridor were more associated with depression in women than apartments in which rooms branched out from a central living space.

We can’t easily change the apartment in which we live, but we can make adjustments to decor that can help lift the spirits and improve mood. I often suggest that my clients make changes at home to support the work we are doing in our therapy sessions. Try some of these things to help improve your mood, especially if winters are dark, dreary, or cold where you live. 

  • Bring in the light: Uncover your windows to bring in as much light as possible. In rooms where you may want privacy, such as your bedroom and bathroom, you could add interior shutters or a curtain that only covers the lower half of the window, leaving the top open to the light. Natural light also helps the circadian rhythm in the brain which sends signals to us when it’s time to unwind and sleep.
  • Change your lights: That said, light sensitivity is commonly associated with anxiety, and certain lights are very disruptive. Fluorescent lights have been found to affect melatonin (which is needed to sleep), increase panic attacks, and even induce seizures. Light from blue lightbulbs has a calming effect. This is not to be confused with the blue light emitted from technology screens, which has been proven in studies to have the same anxiety-producing and sleep-disrupting effects as fluorescent bulbs. Therefore, turn off the screen and let your brain relax. Even better, have parts of your home that are designated “technology-free.”
  • Decorate with blue: Blue light is not the only way blue can have a calming effect. Try painting your walls in blue, adding some blue pillows or a tablecloth, and maybe a wall hanging in a calming blue pattern.
  • Hide the clutter: Cluttered environments increase levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Put your technology behind a cabinet that can be closed. Remove knickknacks from your shelves so that your shelves look half empty. Thin out your closets and donate your extras to an organization that helps those less fortunate. If it’s hard to let go of things, imagine someone else’s joy in being able to use the item you are considering getting rid of. You will then have the satisfaction of helping others while you help yourself.
  • Add plants: Not only do plants help clear the air of toxins, but interacting with indoor plants by touching, smelling, and caring for them can reduce stress levels. If you’re afraid you won’t keep your plants well watered, ask someone at a plant shop which houseplants best handle neglect. Believe it or not, there are houseplants that thrive when you forget to water them for a couple of weeks. And you can always set an alarm on your phone to remind you to water your plants regularly.
  • Add soft textiles: When you’re dealing with anxiety, soft textures and cuddly blankets are calming and soothing.
  • Use scents to soothe your senses: Lavender is a well-known mood calmer. Try sachets or collections of dried lavender in a pretty bouquet next to the sofa. (As a bonus, lavender is a lovely shade of blue!) Other scents, such as lemon and grapefruit, can brighten your mood and provide positive energy. Consider potpourri or diffusers to provide an enhanced sensory experience to suit your needs. 

Try some of these easy changes to your home and see if they help reduce your anxiety. If you feel you need more help, please find an experienced therapist near you. If you live in the New York City area, reach out to see how I can help you.

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