Seven ways you can make your house a healthier place to live
There’s no doubt 2020 has been the year of staying in.
Many of us have spent months not just working at home, but spending most of our time there too.
As a result, it’s never been more important to look at how your home can affect your health.
Here, we reveal some simple ways to help you turn those familiar four walls into a health-boosting sanctuary.
1. Sound of silence
Noise pollution isn’t just an irritant, it can impact health too.
A 2011 study by the World Health Organization showed that prolonged exposure to excess noise not only increased stress levels and lowered concentration, but also led to a higher risk of heart disease.
Soundproofing expert Ben Hancock (oscar-acoustics.co.uk) says excessive noise levels are a “proven health hazard”.
To dampen sound, invest in some thick curtains and soft furnishings in plush fabrics such as suede and chenille.
Use rugs on hard flooring and place wall hangings or upholstered furniture against walls that are shared with neighbours or face roads with heavy traffic.
2. Light it up
One of the key elements in feng shui is letting natural light flow around your home – and for good reason.
Natural light can improve mood, concentration and even sleep quality.
“It’s an easy way to infuse a sense of wellness and tranquillity at home,” says interior style adviser Rebecca Snowden.
To maximise natural light in a room, try hanging a mirror opposite the window.
“This will reflect and double the sunshine coming in,” Rebecca says. “Also set up your workspace as close to the window as possible to take advantage of the light, and give your eyes a screen break by looking outside.”
3. Allergen alert
Even the cleanest homes can be full of allergens such as dust, which can set off sneezing, runny noses and rashes.
Max Wiseberg of Haymax says: “Vacuum floors and clean surfaces regularly, as this minimises the amount of dust in the air. Vacuum your beds and fabrics to help remove dust and pet allergen particles.
“If you have children, keep toys in a cupboard to prevent the build-up of allergens. It may help to vacuum the toys too.
“And if you have pets, keep them off sofas and beds as much as possible. Ensure that they are well groomed to minimise pet allergens.”
4. Breathe easy
The air inside our homes often contains more pollutants than outside, thanks to chemicals released by everything from cleaning products to cooking.
But investing in house plants can help redress the balance.
“Plants are brilliant anti-poll-utants,” says Claire Bishop, from Dobbies Garden Centres.
“They increase oxygen levels and have been shown to reduce cold-related illnesses.
“Peace lilies are one of the best plants for removing indoor pollution, as they purify the air by absorbing pollutants through leaves and roots.
“Meanwhile, Boston ferns are ideal for bathrooms as they improve humidity.
“Aloe vera purifies the air of formaldehyde and benzene – chemicals commonly found in household cleaning products. And snake plants are recognised by Nasa for removing toxins and releasing oxygen at night, helping you breathe easier – so definitely one for the bedside table.”
5. Colour boost
Colours don’t just change the look of a room, they can affect health too.
“Many of us don’t realise the impact colour has on our mood,” says Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, psychologist and sleep expert.
A study by Minnesota State University found the colour red increases the body’s stress response, while green and white calm it.
“Soft green is a restful, restorative colour,” says Nerina. Meanwhile, another study found that soft pink was also a restful colour.
Use only a couple of colours per room and choose accessories in shades you find calming, such as green and white.
6. Clear out clutter
Not only is clutter unsightly, it can make us anxious, interrupt sleep and even increase the risk of colds and flu.
“Decluttering can feel overwhelming, so try to create one clutter-free sanctuary, such as the bedroom,” says Nicola Lewis, author of Mind Over Clutter.
“Put on some music or light your favourite candle. Make a list of things you want to tackle – such as bedside drawers, the linen cupboard or your underwear drawer.
“Tackle one area at a time. Make piles of what you want to keep, donate, and recycle.”
The end of September is the perfect time to store summer clothes in moth-proof bags for winter.
7. Soothing scents
Our sense of smell is linked to our limbic system, where the brain stores memories and processes emotions, which is why certain scents make us feel calmer or trigger a sense of nostalgia.
But while they can be great for creating a calming atmosphere, some home fragrances have a detrimental effect on air quality.
“Switch your favourite candles to beeswax versions,” says Annie McWilliam, of natural cleaning company Colt & Willow.
“Beeswax particles are better for the air and they clean it while floating around, so no more indoor pollution.
“Meanwhile, essential oil diffusers are great for a natural fragrance.
“Eucalyptus and rosemary both reduce dust mites and tea tree oil has antibacterial properties.”