Are you on a journey to optimized health and wellness? Ready to take control of your health and well-being and wonder what the next step may be? I can completely relate. After years of maintaining a healthy diet, daily movement and slowly ditching toxic cleaning supplies among many other measures myself, it is time to look at the home.
A Healthy Home is a foundation for a healthy life. Having a healthy home can reduce the risk of chronic disease, headaches, cancer, asthma and allergies. It can even help improve sleep, promote better eating habits, improve productivity, among many other benefits!
Whether you are building a new home, remodeling or need a small update, a Healthy Home is obtainable! You may be ready to take control of your health and create a home that allows you and your family to THRIVE. But maybe you do not know where to start or how to do it.
In this article you will learn the elements of a Healthy Home and the best places to start designing your own wellness focused home.
The Journey to Health and Well-Being
According to Holistic Health Practitioners, there are 8 Pillars of Health and Well-Being, these connect in so many ways to the 8 Elements of a Healthy Home. As we dive into each Element you will begin to see the connection between the built environment and our health and well-being.
Quality air is one of the most important factors in creating a Healthy Home. Indoor air quality can be 2-10x more harmful than outdoor air and with all the toxins currently existing in our homes, this statistic can be quite alarming. We often hear how dangerous outdoor air pollution may be, but it is rare to hear about indoor air, but the fact is we spend 90% of our time indoors and it is time to address how our air quality is harming our health.
Our homes contain many pollutants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, radon, asbestos and the known cancer causing pollutant, formaldehyde. The pollutants cause long and short-terms effects such as:
- Allergies and Asthma
Long Term Exposure Includes:
- Neurological Disorders
- Hormone Disruption
- Reproductive Issues
It is actually unusual for a home to have good indoor air quality, in fact 6 of 10 homes are shown to be poor in quality of air. So how can we improve? We can start by eliminating the amount of toxins in the home. Simple ways to start are:
- Removing toxic cleaning products (My favorite nontoxic cleaners include Norwex and Melaleuca)
- Open Windows and Doors
- Remove Shoes at Entryways
- Avoid Plug In Air Fresheners and Some Candles (Consider Using Essential Oils instead which have a number of health benefits)
These are the easiest ways to improve the indoor air, but the changes will be small. Currently paint and flooring are the two biggest contributors to poor indoor air quality. They can both off-gas for years, releasing harmful fumes such as formaldehyde and VOCs. When you remodel or build new, it is important to consider the quality of these two as well as insure you have the proper ventilation in your home.
Having quality air in your home will increase your enjoyment in life, lower stress, decrease toxicity and improve sleep.
The next element of a Healthy Home is water. Quality water is vital to our health and well-being. Water carries nutrients to all cells in our body and oxygen to the brain. It allows the body to absorb and assimilate minerals, vitamins, glucose and other substances.
Water becomes contaminated during the Hydrologic Cycle and can contain the these pollutants:
- Hard Minerals…. And more!
So how do we create healthy drinking and bathing water? The only way is to filter your water, and this goes for any type of water from town water to well water. My favorite solution is a whole home water filtration system because it guarantees every faucet will have clean drinking and bathing water.
Pro Tip: If you are renovating, have your water tested to find out what are the specific contaminants in your water because every filtration system will filter out different types of chemicals.
These next elements are the least commonly known concepts when it comes to designing a Healthy Home, but are just as important as Water and Air.
I know we are all living very busy lives and it may be difficult to prepare a fresh, health meal everyday. This causes us to turn to fast food and unhealthy choices. But, when designing a Healthy Home, we can actually design in such a way that promotes healthy eating and makes it easier for you and your family.
So what does this look like? If you have a kitchen that is laid out really well and planned to have multiple people in the kitchen to help, with plenty of counter space to pre prepare meals; this will make the process of cooking more efficient and more enjoyable.
For this element we will go into natural and artificial lighting. Light actually has one of the biggest impacts on our mood and sleep patterns and should be highly considered when renovating or building your home.
In Healthy Home Lighting design, we focus on Circadian Rhythm. This is our internal clock that runs on a 24 hour cycle, this internal clock requires alignment with natural light (the sun) for our bodies to function at the most optimized level. When we are not in alignment with our Circadian Rhythm we will experience symptoms such as:
- Weight Gain
- Slower Thinking
- Behavioral Changes
- Sleep Disruption and Insomnia
In order to get back into alignment with our internal alarm clocks, we need to focus on the type and level of light we receive throughout the day. Our bodies want bright white light at the beginning of the day to stop the production of melatonin, which will give us energy to start the day. During the day, natural daylight from windows is best. And at night, we want more of an orange light (think of candlelight or a fire), this will prepare our bodies for sleep.
This color and level or light mimics the sun, and the interesting thing is, our bodies cannot tell the difference between artificial light and the sun. We can only tell the difference between color and intensity. To read more about light, see our previous blog post here.
To optimize the lighting in your home, focus on the bedroom and TV room first. If you currently have white bright light or blue color light, switch your bulbs to a warm orange light (2500-3500K). And if you are building new, focus on putting your bedroom on the east side of the home so you can wake up with the sun and be naturally energized in the morning!
Most of us do not have active jobs or active means of transportation, which means we are sitting a lot during the day. Sitting for too long increases your risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It can also be bad for your mental health, our bodies are happy with movement.
We can actually design our homes in such a way that encourages movement! There are many ways to do this, but some fun ways include incorporating a yoga room or area, using an exercise ball as your desk chair, or getting a sit to stand desk, you can even design your own climbing wall. Anything that allows the body to move throughout the day and gets you inspired to do so is going to be beneficial to your overall health.
This next element is all about comfort. This be thermal comfort, sounds and smell. Thermal comfort is important for health as well as productivity. If we are too warm we feel tired, when it is too cold we are restless and distracted. It can also cause:
- Bad Mood
- Lack of concentration
Having poor sound control can make us feel distracted and irritated. Controlling sounds has a lot to do with the layout of the home, but also the finishes and construction of the home. Having a home that is acoustically pleasing can make us feel more at ease and peaceful in our homes and minimize distractions and mood changes.
There is so much more we can go into on this element including:
- Having a retreat space in home
- Optimal Storage and Organization solutions
- Use of natural materials and live plants
- Designing for the 5 Senses
Mental health is one of the most buzzed about health issues in today’s climate. And our homes should be a place where we come as a retreat at the end of a long day. A messy home can stimulate the release of cortisol (stress hormone) and leave use feeling anxious and depressed.
Ways we can enhance our mental state at home are:
- Reduce visual clutter
- Incorporate nature (Biophilic Design)
- Designate a space in home that promotes productivity
- Have a designated “Calm” room or area
Here is an exercise, walk around your home and pay attention to how you feel as you move about from room to room. How do you react to looking and living in your space?
My favorite method of enhancing a space for mental health is to simply incorporate house plants. Snake plants and spider plants are some of the easiest house plants to care for. We have an innate desire to be connected to nature, which is often why we feel so good when visiting a beautiful outdoor space. Plants have life and give us life! They also help clean the air, going back to the element of indoor air quality.
Pro Tip: A clear open home, resembles a clear open mind.
The last element of a Healthy Home is Safety. Building codes are put into place to set a level of safety standards, but it doesn’t go far enough to address the monumental amount of accidents that are happening in our homes.
So we want to focus on going above the building standards to ensure we can live safely in our homes, particularly when we age or become disabled. If you are building or remodeling consider these important factors to help prevent accidents from happening in the home:
- Bathroom: Most accidents happen from slip in falls in the bathroom. You want to make sure you are selecting slip resistant flooring. What you will look for is the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF), this number is often located in the specifications of the tile and the higher the number the better. But you will at minimum want a tile with a DCOF of .42.
- Rugs: Rugs can account for many trips and falls that happen in the home. To decrease this risk, use a non slip backing or double sided tape to keep rug securely fastened to the floor.
- Floors: Keep cords, furniture and small objects out of main walkways and do not put electric cords under rugs or carpet.
There are many more factors that go into designing and building a Healthy Home, we have barely scratched the surface in this article. But I hope that you have taken away a few points to begin incorporating into your own home!
Ready to start on your Healthy Home? Need some guidance and direction? Check out our services! https://buildelement.com/services/
If you are ready to take back your health in a holistic way through Evidence Based Design, call us for a free Discovery Call.
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