In 30 seconds…
Everything around you has an effect on the way that your body works and develops. The foods you eat, the peers that surround you, and even the noises you hear are all a part of an endless list of environmental factors that influence you each day and can affect your mental health.
We find it important that people are made aware of the social and environmental factors that impact one’s mental health and take advantage of the great eye-opening opportunities the month of May offers. Being aware of the factors that influence you is the first step to making positive lifestyle changes.
How The Environment Can Impact You
Our environment is a combination of both physical factors such as where you live and the people around you both in your home but also on a wider community scale
- The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people (and the subsequent benefits of social support). For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family to stay and visit with a patient.
- The environment can influence peoples’ behavior and motivation to act. For example, a dingy corridor filled with extra hospital equipment will invite staff to leave another item in the hall, whereas a clean corridor and adequate storage will encourage staff to take the time to put the item away.
- The environment can influence mood. For example, the results of several research studies reveal that rooms with bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve health outcomes such as depression, agitation, and sleep.
Home and Work Environment
On average, most people spend about 40 to 50 hours per week at work. Because you are spending roughly 33% of your waking time in a working environment, it has a substantial impact on your mental health. Some of these impacts include:
- Influence on your mood
Rooms and offices with bright colors, both natural and artificial, can reduce depression and anxiety. When decorating your home or work office, consider using more green, as it has been linked to increased creative thinking and concentration. Avoid dull colors like gray and beige as they are under-stimulating and depressive.
- Impact on your behavior and internal motivation
If you are an unorganized person and tend to live a life surrounded by clutter and mess, then your mental health may be negatively impacted. For example, if your daily routine consists of you just dropping off your belongings on the floor when you come home from work or scattered on your desk, then it encourages you to have scattered thoughts and poor concentration. By keeping your work and living area open and free, you may experience an increased level of mental awareness. Having a clean environment also motivates you to maintain a level of organization with your daily tasks.
- Impacts interaction with family and guests
Having an unappealing and clustered work or home environment can be uninviting to guests and family, while having a clean area encourages people to engage and chat with you. Regular social interaction has been linked to increased immune system, reduced depression, better sleep, higher productivity and mental sharpness and overall longevity, according to a Bringham Young University study.
Physical health is an important foundation of your mental health. We know that people who are not physically healthy are at higher risk for depression, disease, cardiovascular disorders, obesity, and cancer, but a healthy (or unhealthy lifestyle) can be equally as impactful on your mental health. Regular exercise, dieting, spending time outdoors, positive relationships, and relaxation and meditation has shown to help prevent age-related cognitive loss and psychosis.
Here is a simple list of things to avoid that will help you practice healthy lifestyle habits:
- Smoking and drug or alcohol abuse
- Overworking or unhappy work environment
- Poor diet
- Poor sleep
- Lack of relaxation time
Every year, more than 42 million American adults suffer from some sort of mental illness. Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are the top of the list, but they aren’t the only conditions to be aware of. When you neglect to make healthy lifestyle decisions you are more susceptible to many more negative impacts on your mental health. Some of these impacts include:
- Lack of ability to fully enjoy your life
- Lack of ability to convey various emotions
- Lack of ability to identify and develop your personal strengths
- Lack of ability to balance diverse life aspects
- Lack of ability to recover from a depressive state
Don’t hinder yourself. Be conscious of the home and work environment you’ve created for yourself, and make positive lifestyle changes to ensure that your mental health is in good condition.
Most of us will experience a change in our mental health due to environmental factors—especially during COVID-19. For some, the effects may be minimal, but for others, the toll on mental health will be significant. If you are experiencing an increase in symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health condition, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a physician or mental health expert as soon as possible.