Every generation thinks that they lived in the most turbulent and stressful times and there is certainly a truth to that. But these days, it seems harder than ever to escape the stress of modern life and to switch off from it all.
The average working week is roughly 60 hours – with 100 hour weeks not that uncommon anymore. Everyone is looking to strike the right work/life balance and also for ways to improve their day-to-day mental health.
The Mill Shop put this thought at the heart of their latest infographic which looks at the health benefits of a cosy family home.
You may have heard the saying “a healthy home is a happy home”, but there’s actually some scientific evidence that backs that up. A medical study undertaken in the US found a lower instance of asthma in homes that were deemed happier and safer. So, how do you make your home happier and healthier, and more conducive to switching off?
Give the Tech a Rest
Technology is one of the biggest reasons why people, especially workers, are struggling to relax. Because we’re always reachable and we have access to work emails and so on at all times, this makes it harder to fully switch off from the day. The temptation to check a notification is big, especially when it’s work-related.
On top of that, technology is connecting us with the world and we’ve become reliant on the internet to tell us what’s going on, and we’re increasingly struggling with what we see. The political turmoil of recent years has seen the term ‘headline stress disorder’ become a common phenomenon. If you have felt particularly downtrodden due to the news, you’re not alone. And with technology, it’s harder than ever to escape it.
Keeping informed is a virtue but the media is constantly churning out doom and gloom at all angles. No matter what your views are, if it’s not the current state of politics raising your blood pressure, then it’s the mounting pile of evidence pointing towards an imminent mass extinction event. It’s brutal, and it’s doing us no favours. So it could do everyone some good to be less informed, because how sure are we that we’re even getting the best information? Try to keep a healthy distance and observe the news with a critical mind.
In a UK survey, the two things that mattered most to respondents was a happy home and family time. Changing your attitude to technology and how you use it around the house can affect those two things. First, it almost goes without saying that stepping away from tech will encourage and foster family time.
Say no to a TV dinner and eat around a table. The Spanish term ‘sobremesa’ refers to the time spent talking at the table with loved ones, after you’ve finished your food. If you want more family time, you need to adopt some sobremesa in your lives. It’s also easy to get blase about the food you’re eating. Eating away from a screen, with your loved ones and taking the time to enjoy the company and savour the food on your plate should be encouraged.
Say no to checking work emails when you’re at home. This is a difficult one and it’s up to you to discern whether you can do this. It’s very easy for us to say that you shouldn’t check your work emails at home, but then you might feel like you’re a bad employee for not always being reachable.
It’s a regrettable situation that this is how we’re made to feel but that is simply a symptom of the current working world. What we will say is that not replying to a work email outside of work is likely to be much less of a big deal than you think it will be. And you are completely within your rights to be firm with your personal time. But we understand that not checking them may cause you more stress than checking them. So, trust your instincts on that one and try to be firm if you can.
Other than that, reducing your time spent looking at a screen is always good. You can even use your devices to distance yourself from them, as weird as that sounds.
There are apps that provide fun incentives to not use your phone and you can make a little game out of using your phone less. Your software settings are likely to have screen time reporting and the functionality to put time limits on certain apps. This is a good way to reclaim time. Think of it this way, if you’re spending four hours a day on your phone, that is a quarter of your waking life and it should go without saying that this is obviously not good for you long term.
If you feel like you already have a healthy and balanced relationship with technology, but are still struggling to switch off, another key place to assess is your home.
Is your home set up for relaxation? There’s a number of things to consider and incorporate into your home to improve relaxation and to make it easier to leave your work at the door. First, is your house organised? A cluttered home will lead to a cluttered mind. Mess can lead to depressive symptoms and increase your stress levels, luckily cleaning it up is cathartic and satisfying. It can feel like a lot and finding the impetus to clean is the hardest thing.
But it’s not just about tidying up, auditing your belongings at home is a great thing to do. Incorporate a more minimalistic approach to life is good for your mind, good for your bank balance and good for your personal space. We are encouraged and conditioned to constantly spend and consume. This results in us accumulating things we don’t need or even use. Evaluate your belongings and, as hard as it may be, be ruthless and dispense of anything that isn’t adding value to your life.
Minimalism isn’t about doing away with all your worldly possessions, it means doing away with your possessions that aren’t needed and bring you no tangible enjoyment or value to your life. Say you have a large collection of records that’s taking up loads of space, but you love nothing more than thumbing through them, listening to them and adding to the collection, then keep doing that! It’s adding value to your life.
Organising your belongings so you know exactly where they are, while creating a kind of ‘system’ for your house makes it easier to keep your home tidy and being organised is fun. It gives control back to your life and it makes you feel like you’re being proactive and just doing something good and useful.
If you already have an immaculate, tidy and organised home, or you’ve just actioned our advice, the next thing to consider is how personal your space is. Your living space is sacred and personal to you, but does it look that way?
A strong sense of self is really important for your mental health. How can you truly know how you relate to anything in the world if you don’t know yourself? Without a sense of self, you can feel invisible, you can feel like you have no control and you can just feel lost. Getting to know yourself is a constant process and with every day you get to know yourself more and more as life throws more challenges at you. But you can root your sense of self in your surroundings.
Let your home tell your story. What matters to you? What are your values in life? What’s your favourite colour? What’s your favourite design style? These are all questions to ask yourself that should be answered with how you present your home because they all tell the story of you. You should be returning to a home that can only be yours.
Finally, get cosy! Pillows, blankets, candles, incense, slippers, rugs, get rid of hard edges in your home and make it a cosy cove. You want your home to feel like it’s giving you a big cuddle when you walk through the door. Lighting is really important in this, warm, comforting lighting can really transform a space.
A happy home is a healthy home and actioning our tips can help you reclaim some health, peace and satisfaction. Switching off from work isn’t with the intention of reducing your output and commitment, but rather the opposite. A happy employee is a productive employee and a healthy work-life balance is crucial to happiness.