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Decorating is good for your wellbeing

It’s official – decorating is good for your wellbeing. Expert Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing, Bupa UK explains.

If you’re thinking of sprucing up your home, July is a popular month to channel your inner designer. Last July, Google searches relating to sprucing up our homes soared:

  • ‘Desk ornaments’ searches in July 2022 were ten times greater than the yearly average
  • ‘Design and décor’ searches in July 2022 were eight times greater than the yearly average
  • ‘Budget décor’ searches in July 2022 were seven times greater than the yearly average

From restoring feelings of calm, to bringing a sense of accomplishment, a well-decorated room can be great for your wellbeing. Here, Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa UK, explains why summer is a great time for us to dig out our dust sheets.

Decorating as behavioural activation

Design planning, the act of decorating, and enjoying the fruits of your labour can have a positive impact on your sense of self. Setting yourself productive activities, like decorating, can be classed as ‘behavioural activation’.

For those struggling with low mood or depression, behavioural activation means changing the way a person interacts with their environment. Decorating can be a pleasant and purposeful task to incorporate behavioural activation, as it incorporates several points of focus to achieve your goal.

During the pandemic, many of us struggled with our mental health. Spending much more time at home may have led to you working out ways to improve your environment. Whether it was making walls more colourful, or buying new decorative items, there’s a biological basis to try and make our environments more aesthetically pleasing – and that’s to help enhance our wellbeing.

Getting the most of your home décor project

A lot of planning goes into decorating, but if you use the SMART technique, you’ll help get the best of the wellbeing benefits of your project.
The SMART technique:

Specific – Make sure you go into the specifics of what you want to achieve from your project before starting it. For example, instead of striving to ‘refresh the living room’, make it more specific, like: “I want to paint my living room walls the following colours” or “I want to spend this much on reupholstering my living room furniture”.

Measurable – Set yourself a period of time to achieve your goal, so you have a solid time to complete it by. How long do you want your project to take? How much would you like to spend on materials? Which hours of the day will you set aside to work on your project? Thinking about the answers to these questions will help you to figure out when you’re likely to complete your goal.

Achievable – Be sure that your goal is achievable. Don’t set yourself too much, too soon. Whilst it’s good to aim high, aiming achievably is better for your wellbeing, and may help you to budget more effectively.

Relevant – Setting a goal with a true purpose helps you to see more value in it, meaning you’re more likely to achieve it. Don’t decide to decorate just for the sake of it. Think about what these changes will bring to your home and your life.

Timely – It’s advisable to think about whether setting yourself this project is achievable at this time in your life, and in the amount of time you’ve set yourself to do it. This helps you to ascertain whether it’s the right time for you to take on this task.

Brain benefits of an enriched environment

Research shows that an enriched environment can enhance brain function, compared to less stimulating environments. Other studies show that environmental enrichment can improve resilience (our ability to cope with stressful events), and increase our motivation to complete tasks.

It’s thought that a good environment enhances a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays an important role in strengthening memory and generating new neurons in the brain. This area of the brain also helps to regulate and process stress and anxiety.
Taking the time to improve the appearance of your home not only helps to create a more enriching environment, but it can help to improve your quality of life, too. Whether you want to decrease your home’s clutter or want to reconfigure a room, you don’t have to overhaul your environment completely to gain wellbeing benefits


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