The connections between art, aesthetics, the built environment, health and well-being are nothing new, but applying it to our homes and commercial spaces is beginning to gather momentum.
The subtleties of interior design can have significant impacts on our mental health and emotional state of mind, in ways we often do not fully appreciate.
Here are some elements of wellness focused design you can adopt that will contribute to a stronger sense of well-being.
Connect with nature
Biophilic design is an approach that seeks to connect people and nature, within our living environment and workspaces.
Research shows that incorporating natural elements can introduce calm and serenity, reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, and boost productivity and creativity.
The most obvious way to bring the outdoors in is through indoor plants: regular potted plants, hanging plants, a living plant wall (vertical garden) or a herb garden for healthier eating.
Personally, I love spider plants, orchids and aloe vera not only because they look lovely, they help purify the air we breathe in too (even at night, unlike other plants).
Other, both subtle and obvious ways to incorporate nature into your home would be to add artwork or photographs that depict scenes from nature, water features such as indoor fountains or colour schemes such as greens, blues and browns that reflect the outdoors.
Use raw materials and natural fibres like unfinished wood, raw metal, stone, cork, bamboo, stone and jute in the design of your home. Cotton bedsheets, wool carpets, raw stone decorations and rattan furniture can give your nest an earthy touch.
Let there be light
Lighting can play a vital role when it comes to elevating interior ambiances.
Something as simple as natural daylight can provide a tremendous health and wellness boost. Many studies emphasise that natural light enhances our mood, alertness and overall psychological health - besides fueling our Vitamin D requirements.
In contrast, dark and dingy spaces can cause our mood to downward spiral and make us less productive.
As crucial as it is to maximise daylight, it is equally important to minimise light in the evenings to help your mind and body unwind, and encourage the production of melatonin which ensures we get tired after dark – essentially, to regular our biological clocks or circadian rhythms.
First thing in the morning, be sure to open all windows to let sunshine and fresh air in. Arrange furniture to benefit from the sunlight coming in, and have sheer curtains to let as much light in as possible. If you work from home, position your desk close to a window so you can enjoy a view of the outdoors.
If natural light sources are limited, add more artificial lighting. Soft, warm lights are perfect for bedrooms and living rooms which are meant for relaxation. Bright, cool, white lights complement kitchens, bathrooms or home offices and provide an energetic feel.
Adding mirrors around a room can also help bounce sunlight around, casting more brightness between four walls.
Declutter your space and mind
If your closets are bursting and your desk is topped with piles of disorganised papers, you may want to take some steps toward a neater home or workspace.
There is a growing body of evidence that clutter can negatively impact mental well-being, induce physiological response and increase our level of cortisol (a stress hormone), making us feel anxious or depressed. It can impact our ability to concentrate on tasks and even our relationships.
Surprisingly, this negative effect lingers even after we get to bed. People who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and being disturbed during the night.
Feng Shui expert and author Tisha Morris refers to clutter as stagnant energy. "Where there is clutter in your home, there will be clutter in you — either physically, mentally or emotionally."
Pay attention to colours
How we choose the colours for our home is largely a matter of personal taste but it can also influence our thoughts, feelings and disposition.
The psychology of colour has long been recognised as an important factor in interior design: colours can evoke a wide range of spontaneous emotional reactions, from excitement to anxiety.
Light colours are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger, brighter and welcoming. In contrast, dark colours are refined and warm, giving rooms a more intimate appearance.
Warm, active colours like red, orange and yellow can energise a space, stimulate conversation, excite the mind and boost creativity. Passive, cool tones such as blue, green and purple create a relaxing atmosphere and help with mental focus. Neutral tones like white, brown and grey create a classic, timeless, natural vibe and are associated with balance and harmony.
Naturally, different colours incite different emotional responses in us all, so it is best to factor in personal preferences and select shades that you know will uplift you.
Personalise your space to reflect the life you want
The things that truly transform a space into a home are the personal touches, which applies to enhancing the wellness aspect as well.
Decorate with items that bring you joy and calm, or have sentimental value. This could be personal photographs, a collection of books, fresh flowers on the coffee table or that gorgeous tapestry that reminds you of your last trip to India.
Organise your home to reflect the type of life you want. To encourage your children to read, have the books close at hand or create a little reading zone. If you would like to cook and eat together as a family more often, design your kitchen to be more of a social space.
Designate a zen spot
Every home needs a sacred spot, one where you can retreat, relax and restore a sense of mindfulness after a hectic day.
This could be your balcony, a cozy reading nook or a comfortable spot in a quiet corner of the house where you can meditate or nurture your creativity.
Depending on your needs, an ideal zen spot may have plants, lamps or candles, soothing colours, comfortable seating arrangement and a sound system (just make sure it is otherwise tech-free).
Harness the power of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy, the practice of using pure essential oils for therapeutic benefit, can be an integral part of the wellness routine.
For those new to the trend, these oils are extracted from plants to capture their flavors, scents and "essence": the overall beneficial properties.
Oils such as chamomile, lavender and sage can help you relax, calm nerves and sleep more soundly.
Peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, sage, rosemary, lemon and thyme are anti-microbial and boost the immune system. These oils can help you breathe easier, be less susceptible to germs and keep a cold or flu away.
My favourite wellness home tool is the essential oil diffuser, a device which disperses oils into the air and fills the area with a natural fragrance. Add your favourite oil blend and allow this wonderful, natural remedy to sooth your senses and help you unwind after a long day.