January 18, 2019

Decorating to reduce anxiety

Feeling the pressure at work? Is your commute driving you crazy? Are world affairs keeping you up at night? Life is stressful, but your home should be a haven.

The way we decorate our homes plays a major role in our sense of well-being, and the good news is a few design tweaks can help reduce anxiety and soothe those frayed nerves. Here are a few ideas that will have you breathing a deep sigh of relief.


Your mess is causing stress. Piles of paper, clothes or junk are a constant reminder that you have things to do, so just looking at them can make you worry. Throw out, recycle or donate unwanted items. Pay particular attention to clearing floor space. Having more room to walk around gives your home a greater sense of openness. One way to keep the clutter under control is to have a place for everything. The newspapers go here, the shoes go there — and as soon as they’re done being used, they go back in their designated space.

Bring the outdoors in

Studies have shown that indoor plants can reduce stress and boost your mood. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, try succulents or air plants. A vase of fresh flowers also can reduce depression and anxiety.

Calming colors

Because colors can affect your mood, try to give at least one room in your house, preferably the bedroom, a calming paint color for the walls. My home is filled with bright, energetic colors everywhere, but I painted my bedroom a pale blue for a stark — and relaxing — contrast. Other soothing colors are soft gray, muted green and, yes, white.

Go monochromatic

After choosing a relaxing hue, try not to add any pops of color that will startle you out of your tranquility. Furniture and accessories in the same color family are easier on the eyes and make a space feel more expansive.

More solids, fewer patterns

Selecting pieces that are solid colors also is more calming. To keep the room a stress-free zone, stay away from bold prints like polka dots or chevrons. If you insist on patterns, try tone-on-tone prints that are more subtle.

Limit the tchotchkes

Just because you have shelf space doesn’t mean you have to use it. Being minimalist with your accessories, be they picture frames, candles or travel souvenirs, allows your eyes to relax in a room without being overstimulated.

Let in natural sunlight

Exposure to daylight has been shown to reduce anxiety and triggers endorphins, so open the curtains and let the sunshine in. Lack of sunlight has been linked to seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter months. As for indoor lighting, try full-spectrum lightbulbs, which provide a full range of light similar to natural sunlight.

Make some scents

Different scents produce different aromatherapy benefits. Some of the ones that reduce stress are lavender, lemon and rosemary. Introduce the scent into your home with candles, sachets or reed diffusers. Scent is a personal thing, so you may have your own fragrances that lighten your mood. I once put a reed diffuser with a red currant scent in a room I designed in a showcase house, and so many people who walked in said the scent made them happy. I should have sold extra boxes of them.

Incorporate soft textures

A lot of hard surfaces can put you on edge. Sure, wood and concrete floors are popular, but a soft area rug will add to the cozy factor and make you feel like you’re embraced in a hug. Ditto for soft pillows and blanket throws.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.