How the way your house has been designed, built, decorated and furnished can affect your stress levels and overall health.
Our homes affect our health – as do our schools, our offices, and all the other places in which we spend our time.
When it comes to looking after our health, we’re now all pretty much used to considering how our diet, exercise, stress levels, and even our thoughts, could be better managed as a way to improve how we feel. However if you, or someone close to you, are unwell perhaps you should look a little closer to home. It’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s elements inside our own living spaces that can often contribute to all of that stress.
So – how does this happen? How could our own home possibly be causing us stress?
There are many levels on which this can work:
Picking the plot of land on which our house will be built can be one of the most important decisions we make, as there are some areas of the land which cause us stress: this is called ‘geopathic stress’. The earth has many energy lines running through it, much like our own meridian lines. It also contains many ‘power spots’. Spending long periods of time over these areas, especially when their natural electromagnetic radiation has become distorted, stresses our bodies.
It’s well known that spending consistent time over these areas can disrupt our immune system, which can make us more vulnerable to a variety of health issues. For that reason, we want to make sure that the lines don’t run under our bed, or our desks. If we know about these areas before we build, we can either place the house away from them – or make sure that they run under the rooms in which we spend the least time, such as laundries and bathrooms.
Hopefully, our homes provide us with a place to rest, regenerate and repair. It can be stressful ‘out there’ in daily life, and we need somewhere that we can retreat to: a haven. Whether or not this works for us can depend upon the design of our house. Does it support calm, peace and rest? Or, does it keep us active, on the go and feeling restless? This comes down to both the design of the house, and the materials used within it.
The floor plan:
Does one room seamlessly flow to another? Are the rooms to human scale, or overpowering? Are there nooks and crannies into which we can nestle and curl up – or vast open spaces in which it’s hard to find a corner to settle and rest? Are there rooms in which we can find peace and quiet, or is it so open that the noise can always reach us? Do the rooms invite Nature inside, or do we feel cut off and isolated? All these factors can make the difference between a home that makes us feel nurtured, or one that adds to the stress.
How was the house built? With natural materials that nourish us – or with synthetic materials that ooze chemicals into our atmosphere? Is it a breathable house that allows for a natural flow of air into and out of the home, acting as the lungs of the house, allowing toxins to be naturally expelled? Or, is it an air-tight box – built in an attempt to conserve energy, but actually helping to trap chemicals inside, contaminating the air that we breathe? Construction methods have changed markedly in the past 60 years, and often the priority seems to be time and cost, rather than producing a house that makes us feel great.
Harsh, hard materials, such as metal, glass, and high gloss finishes are very reflective. They can cause light and noise to bounce around the home, making it energetically very ‘active’. Even though we often can’t consciously sense this, it can be very difficult to really rest when living in a house that’s designed to these high levels of activity.
Homes made of natural materials and finishes are generally far more calming. Sandstone, timber, clay, earth, straw, bamboo, wicker, linen, wool: they all come from Nature, and so we resonate with them. Plus they help to absorb energy, noise and light. They cushion us. They help us to rest.
We all need daily access to natural light to keep healthy. However, the quality of that light is very important. Endless walls of glass can let in so much light that it becomes glaring – again depriving us of the chance to really rest. This is especially important in our climate, where we’re lucky enough to get so much sunlight. We need to make sure that we don’t overdo it. Skylights above beds can prevent us from sleeping properly. Too much glaring light makes a house very ‘active’: it can make a house feel very agitating. Reducing the amount of light, or softly filtering it can make all the difference to how it feels to us.
Conversely, living in a house that’s constantly dark and deprived of natural light can become very depressing – literally. We increasingly spend large amounts of time living and working indoors – if we’re only ever exposed to artificial light it affects not only our moods, but also our immune system. Try to make sure that your home allows you to connect with soft, natural light. And, don’t forget to spend at least some time outside – preferably in the gentleness of early morning or evening light.
As well as building materials, the way in which we decorate our homes can also contribute to our chemical load. Paints, varnishes, glues, fillers, plastics and synthetic finishes all contain chemicals that are known to affect our health. In many cases, these toxic materials can continue to off-gas into the air that we breathe: sometimes this continues for years. This literally means that we are constantly breathing in polluted air.
There are natural finishes now available – products that can not only make your home look fabulous, but will also help to protect your health into the bargain. This is particularly important to remember when it comes to newborns. The nesting impulse means that almost everyone feels compelled to decorate their baby’s room just before they bring them home from hospital. The vulnerable immune systems of newborns can be particularly susceptible to the toxic load contained within these products. Please try to decorate well before time, use natural products, and ventilate thoroughly.
All colour vibrates, and how each colour makes us feel, depends upon whether or not it resonates with us. As an example, red is the strongest and most intense colour, and whether or not we’re able to handle that strength depends upon a variety of changeable factors, such as: our personal make-up, what we’re going through at the moment, how stressed we are, how much we need to rest, and also how well our immune system is feeling. Red is often just too strong for people who are feeling tired or a little under the weather.
Colour is an intensely personal choice and, what suits one person, may well not suit another family member. When decorating any building, do try to take everyone’s preferences into account. If someone feels very strongly about a colour, please try to work around this as, living with a colour that they know doesn’t suit them, can be a very real cause of daily stress.
The vast majority of the furniture and furnishings that we put into our homes nowadays is not made of natural materials. They usually contain chemicals that are toxic to our health. It’s been estimated that in the US, 90% of furniture is now made from materials such as MDF: compressed boards held together with glues and chemicals. This is used in bookcases, desks, seating, beds, bedside tables, dining tables, kitchen and bathroom cabinets – and is a common substitute for timber in almost any household situation.
Sofas and chairs are usually stuffed with foam, and upholstered in synthetic fabrics, all of which contain, and are sometimes also treated with, chemicals. Many fabrics, including those used in upholstery, curtains and carpets, have been treated with stain-repellents, which contain PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). PFOA is a chemical that’s classified by the EPA as a ‘likely carcinogen’, and is known to be particularly detrimental to health.
Again, all these items can continually off-gas chemicals into the air that you’re breathing. The most common of these is formaldehyde, which is associated with a whole host of physical reactions. It is also known to make people sensitive to other chemicals, and is linked to Multiple-Chemical Sensitivity. It can be an interesting exercise to Google ‘formaldehyde’ and see just how prevalent it is in the everyday items we use at home.
Technology and communications:
There’s just one other area we should look at – how our homes are becoming increasingly filled with electronics and communications technology. We adopt these for convenience but, without our realising it, these have become another source of stress. Electromagnetic radiation emanates from many of our everyday household electrical appliances. However, once you’re aware of this, and move about a metre away from an appliance or cable, you’re usually out of the field of radiation. This is particularly important in bedrooms – make a point of moving everything away from your bed.
That’s not the case with our ‘wireless’ devices such as cordless phones, computers, entertainment systems and household alarms. These wireless systems can only work if they fill your house with a cloud of microwave radiation so that signals can be picked up wherever you need them. Hence the term ‘electrosmog’ – it is literally a smog of electromagnetic radiation within your home or office. These combine with the additional radiation coming into your home from external sources of radio, TV and mobile phone transmitters to create even denser ‘electrosmog’.
One very easy way to cut down on this is to eliminate the use of ‘wireless’ and go back to cables. With cables you have a choice: you can move away from them. With wireless, you can’t. You’re living within a cloud of radiation: 24/7.
This is particularly important for young children, as their brains are particularly susceptible to the interference from the microwave radiation associated with mobile and cordless phones, and other wireless devices. Overseas governments such as the French, German and English, have already issued general health warnings to parents about the dangers to children associated with these devices.
Awareness for health:
Many of the issues that have been raised above are very easy to remedy. Once we’re made aware of them, we can take action.
We need to start looking at our buildings in a different light. They are a very important part of our overall health plan; an integral piece of the puzzle that is holistic health. By becoming aware of the part that our homes, offices and schools play in our well-being, we can learn how to start looking after them, so that they, in turn can look after us.
Alison Wilson is a speaker, author and consultant – educating people in how simple changes in their homes can safeguard their health. She will be holding a Building Biology and Creating Healthy Environments Workshop on 16-17 August at Gudhara Holistic Sanctuary.
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