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While we generally see ourselves as silver-lining kind of people, the reality is, bad days happen to good people. Sometimes you really do just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing seems to go your way. And while it can be hard to pull yourself out of it, just remember all things (both good and bad) must come to an end at some point, and your troubles will too (we promise). Besides, thanks to an optimism bias, our brains are wired to look on the bright side. It's true. But if you need a little more than science to pull you out of the gloom, then it's time to change up your surroundings and create a safe haven to escape the world.
The Danish version of this is called hygge while the Swedish rendition is lagom, but really it's all about designing your happy place, one that's both warm and stylish yet evokes instant calm. "I think a sign of good design is how it makes you feel," interior designer Lane McNab told MyDomaine. "I love creating a space that immediately puts a client at ease, makes them feel comfortable, happy, and reflects their personality, but also offers an additional wow of beauty, quality, and visual interest." Ready to get started? We tapped four interior designers to share their décor tricks that are guaranteed to make you happier (and healthier).
Go Light and Bright
If you really want to feel happier at home, McNab says the first step is to create a soothing, light-filled environment. The quick solve? "Take a page out of the Scandinavian design handbook and go light and bright," she said. "Find ways to accentuate the natural light you have available (where possible). There's nothing like a bit of sunshine to brighten your mood." Don't have much natural light at home? McNab has a few tricks up her sleeve for that too. "Warm whites—not too cold or gray—give the illusion of a longer day and more sunlight," she advised. "Try using strategically placed mirrors, across from a window with a beautiful view or in a dark corner to brighten it up, and maximize the light you do get. This is especially important if you're susceptible to the winter blahs."
Create a Neutral Backdrop
While a neutral backdrop seems like the antithesis of happy (more blah than hurrah), McNab says it's actually the perfect foundation for creating a joyful space because it highlights all your beloved collections, inspirational art, prized photos, and sentimental objects. "Thoughtfully displayed collections that trigger positive memories and emotions will make you happy every time you seem them," she said. "So you should give them a place of prominence and if possible, splurge on that piece of art you've been wanting and hang it front and center. The beautiful colors, imagery, or even the unusual composition that first caught your eye will continue to deliver good feelings." On the flip side, McNab recommends getting rid of anything in your home that you've clearly outgrown. "We all evolve and change as we move through life, and your home should reflect that," she said.
Bring in Nature
The health benefits of spending time in nature are scientifically proven. Immersing yourself in Mother Nature restores your mental energy, reduces inflammation, and improves concentration. But when you work full time, it's not always possible to get the outdoor exposure you need. The simple answer is to bring the outside in. "Even if you live in the middle of a big city in a high-rise building, a few hardy indoor plants (that require very little maintenance) will go a long way to making you feel refreshed and closer to nature," said McNab. "If you lack a green thumb, try easy-to-care-for succulents and other low-maintenance indoor plants including snake plants, rubber tree, spider plants, air plants, and even a well-placed fiddle leaf fig. A little greenery goes a long way to cleaning the air and lifting your mood."
But if you're more of a black thumb than a green one, Regan Baker of Regan Baker Design says fresh flowers are a great alternative. They brighten your mood and change the tone of any room," she said. "Plants and flowers can be hard to keep up with, but they are so worth it."
Use the Power of Symmetry
When everything feels out of control, keeping structure at home can be a steady constant in the mess of life. The simple resolve for this is symmetry. McNab says using this when displaying items or arranging furnishings will help to reinforce a feeling of order and comfort. "Our brains are drawn to symmetrical arrangements and vignettes made in groups of three, so keep this mathematical idea in mind when arranging collections and furnishings," she said. "I like to add a playful twist on symmetry when creating arrangements by having one piece be a little off. This adds a bit of fun and visual interest."
Ditch the Clutter
If you're really serious about creating a happier environment, then Annie Lowengart of Ann Lowengart Interiors urges us all to eradicate the clutter, once and for all. "I really do believe that if you can get yourself to a point where you're only keeping things that serve a purpose or bring you joy, it will clear up not only your physical space but your psychological space too," she stressed. "That is a big part of being happy. It's so easy to become attached to your things. The more you have, the more that has to be cared for. So my number one piece of advice would be to just invest in beautiful items that bring you joy." Word.
Add Pops of Color
If you really want to transform your space and dial up the joy meter, don't underestimate the power of color. "I'm a big believer in saturated color, so much so, it's become integral to my design business," said Lowengart. "I had a client who loved this bright, saturated green hue. It's the color she always chose for her personal belongings, like stationary, and it brought her so much joy. So when we looked at the most-used space in her primary residence, we decided to do the walls in that color. It was a bold move, but such a great expression of her. It's always uplifting when your personality is expressed through your designs."
Create a Designated "Happy" Space
When all else fails, dedicate an area in your home that can become your "happy" space; a place to escape, relax and rejuvenate when you're feeling anxious, stressed, or unhappy. "For some, this happy place might be a reading nook with a big comfy chair and pillows," says Baker. "For others, it's a place where their favorite pictures are displayed, serving as a thoughtful reminder of the important things in life." But for Wilkinson, it's simply about creating an area that brings you joy. "Whether it's a bathroom with a luxurious soaking tub, a walk-in closet for your favorite shoes, or a writing desk with a view, this space should serve as a private place for quiet reflection away from the noise of your everyday schedule," she said. We couldn't agree more.
Garrett N, Sharot T. Optimistic Update Bias Holds Firm: Three Tests of Robustness Following Shah et al. Conscious Cogn. 2017;50:12-22. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2016.10.013
Franco LS, Shanahan DF, Fuller RA. A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(8). doi:10.3390/ijerph14080864