3 Common Design Practices That Unknowingly Harm Our Health
By Susie Frazier
If you haven’t started already, you’re probably considering a variety of self-care practices to feel better in the coming year. It seems like everywhere we turn these days, we’re hearing about wellness, whether it’s a new approach to nutrition, a revolutionary skin care regimen, or some energizing workout that also feeds the soul. However, taking better care of yourself involves more than what you put into your body or how you move your body. The latest scientific research indicates that design elements surrounding your body can also affect your health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend approximately 90% percent of their time indoors. This means not only are we impacted by poor air quality and the pollutants of any building, but according to thought leaders in neuro architecture, we’re also subjected to other sensory experiences that can be harmful.
Just ask the 41 million Americans, like me, who live with anxiety and ADHD. We’ll affirm that the discord of poor design in public places is something we experience every day. Even though the rest of the population has learned to tune out the abrasive features of many manmade settings, the price of that adaption is that people are becoming desensitized to basic feelings of mental disorders.
Instead of staging our spaces while on autopilot, it’s time we heighten our awareness about a few detrimental design features that unknowingly agitate our state of mind.
Architecture That Doesn’t Comfort Us
One of the most problematic design features of our time has been the development of the great room both in residential and commercial settings. These unnerving spaces typically feature vaulted ceilings and too many smooth, open surfaces that fail to hold the good energy of a room. They often can’t maintain a consistent temperature, cause amplified or echoed sound, and trigger an innate uneasiness about what might be approaching from above or behind. If we truly care about fostering well-being in our workforce and our loved ones, our settings need to get back to being right-sized in more mindful ways that envelop and nurture us.
There’s a reason why babies settle down in a swaddled blanket and why animals assemble in nests. They feel safe and comfortable when they’re surrounded. The same is true for most humans. Cozy nooks with rich textures and soft furnishings inspire people to carry out their most creative work, while also providing some much-needed refuge from the sterility of modern life.
Televisions That Take Over A Room
A television is a technology device, not a décor item that deserves priority in our homes. Although many households place televisions over their mantels and keep them on all day, they likely overlook that today’s constant programming may be harmful to their heads. We’re already subjected to pushy commercials at the gas pump, sensationalized reality shows at doctor’s offices, dramatic 24-hour news coverage at airports and blaring sports highlights at restaurants. According to Forbes, we are subject to between 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. We’re exposed to anything but silence, yet wellness is not possible unless we provide ourselves legitimate brain rest. One step we can take to improving this problem is to conceal our TVs with cabinets or sliding doors when they’re not in use. In certain public settings, the simple answer is to remove them altogether, since most people are watching programs on their own devices anyway. At the very least, these tactics would allow for some ability to disconnect from society’s onslaught of sounds.
Lack of Natural Elements Indoors
At the most basic level, all humans experience some degree of biophilia, or a subconscious need to affiliate with the natural world. This theory dates to 1984, when Edward O. Wilson wrote his book, “Biophilia.” New building standards released by the International WELL Building Institute have stated that an absence of natural elements indoors negatively affects mood and mental health.
If we fill our homes and offices with nothing but engineered materials, we are neglecting a basic biological urge that would otherwise be soothing to our psyche. A better practice is to integrate living plants into creative wall features or collect organic discards like twigs and pods and turn them into art or other decorative elements. No matter what kind of space you’re cultivating, remember that exposure to earth materials is an antidote to a restless mind.
By incorporating some of these design methods into your home this year, you can tale simple steps to improve your health, psyche and wellbeing.
SUSIE FRAZIER is an Emmy® award-winning producer and on-air personality for her lifestyle show “Movers & Makers with Susie Frazier,” which aired on NBC affiliate station WKYC TV3. She is the author of Designing For Wellness, a book featuring calm-inducing design tips that anyone can implement based on her 21 years of art commissions for hospitals, hotels, corporations, developers and private individuals. Since 2016, she has been the brand ambassador of Mont Surfaces, one of America’s leading suppliers of porcelain, natural stone, and engineered quartz for the building industry. Susie speaks publicly at events across America, writes articles for national media publications, and appears on TV sharing her design expertise.