Wellness design is a fairly new term that involves easy or more complex approaches to create spaces that support health, happiness, and well-being. The focus is on making our living or working space connect and inspire our lifestyle while encouraging good habits.
Lighting, air quality, healthy building materials, nature connection, movement, and the design of an area to enable a better relationship with food and exercises are some aspects highlighted in this context.
The COVID-19 outbreak emphasized the importance of having a safe and healthy place to live. Suddenly, we were stuck indoors. Our houses were assuming different purposes such as workplaces, schools, gyms, and playgrounds. Not every home was equipped for times like this neither could perform those many roles. It made clear we need to change and adapt.
That is when wellness design plays an essential role. It might seem complicated at first, but it is not. Anyone can apply this concept of creating a healthier space without spending too much money.
Who will guide us through this task of improving our home is the expert Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC, a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, and the author of Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press) - available now where you get books.
Jamie is not only an authority in wellness design but someone who found motivation and inspiration on it for her own life. In her book, she shares some of the strategies that helped her lose about a hundred pounds. Additionally, in the interview for this blog post, she mentioned visual motivation cues around the house. There is much that we can learn from her:
"I also organized my garage so that my training gear is always easy to grab and go, and my medal rack with the past trail run trophies is right there on my garage wall when I come in or out of the house that way."
Making room for a healthier home
You do not have to become a minimalist to design a healthy home. However, some principles of a simple lifestyle can help with this task.
"The best advice I can give as a starting point is free: Declutter! Rather than take on your whole house or apartment at once, choose one cabinet or room to go through. This reduces the amount of dusting you have to do, adds storage capacity, and reduces stress.” says Jamie.
Jamie also became a Certified Aging in Place specialist inspired by her grandmother's needs for safety and accessibility. She explains that accessibility is one of the five facets of wellness design. The others are health and fitness, safety and security, functionality, and comfort and joy.
Another easy way to make a home safe and comfortable is also a common strategy applied by minimalists: keeping everything organized, having a designated space for every item. Jamie reminds us that it helps to eliminate trip hazards, too:
“These can include pet bowls too close to walkways, charging cables or lamp cords crossing walk space, or loose rugs.”
Housing arrangements for the well-being
We all know from experience (or at least have heard a lot) that nature connections and interactions play a central role in mental and physical health. Plants, animals, nature sounds such as ocean waves and birdsongs can bring calming messages to our brain, reducing stress, helping the body to relax and function properly.
That might be the result of biophilia (love for life), a term used by the biologist and author Edward O. Wilson in his book, whose title is, not coincidentally, Biophilia. The hypothesis suggests that we tend to connect with other forms of life (nature and animals).
With little investment, you can bring nature inside. Choose from a variety of plants such as succulents, cacti, orchids that thrive indoors with some attention or herbs and spices that will boost health while adding aromas and making food tastier.
“Add plants to your space, particularly where you work and sleep. This is a feature of biophilia, and it can help improve your indoor air quality and mood," adds Jamie.
Talking about ways to reduce stress and boost health, creating a safe space for self-care is another recommendation from our specialist:
“It might be a corner of a room or balcony, but somewhere you can enjoy quiet time, nature (ideally, whether through a tree view outside or houseplant, for example) and even scents and images that calm you. You don’t need to buy things; just block out noise, news/social media, and savor personal pleasures like art, music, lavender candles, etc.”
Children also need a safe space to rest, grow, and thrive. Their rooms can contribute to that by offering fewer distractions and stimulations. Electronic devices (television, computers, smartphones, tablets) should be kept out of their rooms. The blue light affects the release of melatonin, a sleep hormone, and disrupts the natural sleep-and-wake cycle. Fewer toys in the bedroom can also diminish distractions and lead to good-quality sleep.
How to organize an efficient kitchen space
If there is one thing that the pandemic changed, it is our need for cooking. People are spending more hours in the kitchen. However, preparing every meal is not fun, even for those who love cooking - I can testify to that! Can you imagine it for those who do not appreciate the task at all?
“Cooking is really not my thing, though eating healthfully is. My approach has been to make my space as easy to use as possible, so that making healthful meals is not a chore.” says Jamie.
So, to eat well, she optimized her kitchen. Here is how you, too, can take your home cooking set-up to the next level:
- Cabinet organizers to find tools more quickly
- Hands-free pull-out faucet
- Sink with ledges for resting items when prepping
- Machine-washable cutting boards
- Anti-fatigue mat for longer periods in the kitchen, especially on a meal prepping day
Wellness Design Trends
If a survey from 20 years ago said we used to be indoors 90% of our time (that is according to the 2001 National Human Activity Pattern Survey), I am curious about the data we will have for 2020-2021. Our homes became our sanctuary, our entire lives. More than being indoors, we were locked in one unique place. The trends in design are considering all that.
The need for more target lights in the kitchen, bedrooms, and areas transformed into an office or school class became evident. If bright rooms were not a problem before, they are now. But there is much more to that.
“I think we’re going to see more low-maintenance finishes, hands-free functionality, accessibility, indoor air quality improvements (with virus reduction), water quality and leak management and an emphasis on private outdoor space.”, adds Jamie. “I also think we might see more flex rooms that can be turned into second home offices or study spaces if needed.”
Remember I said at the beginning of this article that creating a healthy place does not have to be complicated? So, let's sum up what we learned from our expert Jamie:
- Start by decluttering, removing everything that can be a safety hazard or are not valuable to you or your family;
- Make the kid's bedroom a place that inspires rest and a good night's sleep. Focus on keeping fewer toys and remove electronics from their room;
- Add plants to places where you work and sleep;
- Create a safe space for self-care;
- Optimize your kitchen to make cooking easier, safe, and even fun;
- Lastly, focus on things that bring up happy memories and visuals that motivate you to achieve your goals.