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How we view our home environment may both reflect and affect our current and future well-being.
An interesting study done at UCLA found that peoples’ descriptions of their homes - the specific words used - were related with their cortisol (stress hormone) levels and the quality of their mood.
When research participants described their home using primarily stressful words they also tended to have higher levels of stress hormone in their system throughout the day, and more often reported having a depressed mood.
Stressful descriptions of home include words and phrases such as cluttered, needs repair, needs cleaning, a lawn full of weeds, or toys scattered everywhere.
The research participants who described their home as being more restorative tended to have lower cortisol levels during the day and generally did not consider themselves depressed.
Restorative descriptions of home include words and phrases such as peaceful, where the family relaxes and plays, comfortable, pleasant yard, a place to unwind, or crowded but cozy.
People who give stressful home descriptions seem to see their residence as a to-do list of tasks that never ends. Those giving restorative descriptions tend to view their home as not necessarily perfect, but a place of pleasure and refuge.
Since our inner and outer lives constantly affect each other it is likely that the way we view our home influences our stress levels and mood, and that our stress and mood influence how see our home.
Those of us who experience depression know that the symptoms make keeping up with chores more difficult, sometimes impossible. As unfinished tasks accumulate stress and depression can intensify, maybe causing our home to appear more and more stressful—instead of restful. A more stressful appearing home worsens our mood, we get less done around the house, and so it goes.
If our views of the outer world and the experience of our inner world are constantly informing each other, we can use this to our advantage when coping with depression.
Accomplishing even small steps, or simple tasks during the day can help us view our home, and ourself, more positively. Viewing our home more positively may lower our cortisol (stress) level and help stabilize our mood.
When our energy, motivation, and self-worth are in a depressive low, no accomplishment around the house is too small to make a difference. Although making the bed, or putting dirty socks in the hamper may feel exhausting or pointless, our perception and stress hormones can register and reflect the improvement.
It helps, when suffering from depression, to have faith in the effect of small, life-affirming actions such as folding a sweater and putting it in a drawer, or cleaning the growing ring of cooties in the toilet bowl. Those small accomplishments make us feel more welcome in our own home, and make our home a more restful, restorative place.
Photo credit: Margo / flickr creative commons
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