HOME is where depression starts and ends. It doesn't matter whether the place you hang your hat is a mansion or a motor home, a dorm room or a bedroom in your parent's house, a penthouse suite or a berth on a submarine, if it doesn't feel like home to you - sanctuary, inviting, an extension of you - you are waking up and going to bed a stranger in a strange land.
Let's start with the proposition that people with mood disorders are extremely sensitive to their environments. You may be stuck where you are, but your entire well-being is riding on making the best of what you've got. Let's get crackin' ...
Essential adjectives are vital: Cheery, bright, relaxing, calm. Your home is a key player in setting the right mood. If what comes to mind, instead, is, say, depressing, you are on the wrong adjective.
It all starts with light. Just ask the author of Genesis. It all starts with the breath. Just ask the same author. Let's consider the two together:
There is a direct connection between light and mood. If vast quantities of natural sunlight aren't streaming into your place, then you need to buy stock in a lamp company and make yourself rich by purchasing their entire inventory. You may also want to consider a light box, normally used to treat seasonal affective disorder. These can be pressed into service when you feel a craving for a good blast of light and it's snowing outside (but beware of mania risk or risk of over-stimulation at night).
Another thing to consider is artificial morning light, where you set your interior lighting to gradually switch on in the morning, simulating dawn, and slowly increasing to full strength.
Pick your favorite decorating colors, so long as they are light. Keep your darks limited to strategic contrasts.
Keep in mind, there are also times for keeping the lights low, such as for evening winding down or when you're feeling too hyper for your own good.
Meanwhile, fresh air (charged with negative ions) is linked to good health, both physical and mental. Cracking open a window is the obvious solution, but if you are living in a sealed enclosure and inhaling central heating or air conditioning (charged with positive ions), you may need to consider investing in an ionizer.
You also need to be extremely mindful of breathing in anything toxic, from mold proliferating behind the wallboard to chemicals in the carpet to germs the central air-conditioning spits out. If you feel a sudden change of mood or in your well-being after moving into a new residence or in making changes to your old one, the obvious first things to sniff out are the different chemicals traveling into your nose.
Ionizers also work as air purifiers (which is actually their prime purpose), as do ozone generators.
Connected to breath is smell. There are various therapies based on this, which we won't go into here, but it's fairly obvious that fresh flowers in the house will do more for your mood than rotting fish. Hint: you can imitate the aroma of an apple pie baking in the oven by heating cinnamon in a pan.
Sleep and mood are joined at the hip. Having your sleep under control may be the single most important factor in managing your mood disorder. Thus, if your bedroom is not set up to optimize sleeping and waking up, you are pushing a very weighty rock uphill. The basics: A comfortable bed that supports your back, good lighting (for bedtime winding down and for waking up), and as close as possible to absolute quiet.
The quiet aspect deserves special consideration. Many of us have hair-trigger stress responses that can be set off by loud noises. A lot of us also have great difficulty tuning out background noise (such as air-conditioning). These should not be regarded as inconveniences we have to get used to.
Related to noise is creating ambient sounds that aid in sleep, such as recorded nature sounds. Whatever works for you.
Many of us have no choice but to turn our bedrooms into multi-purpose areas, for work, recreation, even preparing and eating food. This nearly always requires major adjustments, but none of these should involve any concession to the room's primary purpose. If the choice is between a smaller desk and a smaller bed, for instance, always go with the smaller desk.
Sharing a bedroom with a partner is always a challenge, which places a priority on arranging the room to minimize conflict, such as his closet on his side of the bed, hers on her side.
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Family members: You will be doing both yourself and your entire family a favor by bending over backwards to accommodate the needs of your affected son or daughter (or other family member). If he or she sleeps peacefully, you all sleep peacefully. And daytime will be much easier on all of you, as well. Whatever it takes.
Your Own Special Room
Having your own hideaway is essential, whether in catching your breath or catching up. It may be the living room. It may be your home office. It may be your private den. It may be your bedroom. This is your special piece of the world. It needs to reflect you in all your quirky glory, from the First Folio Shakespeare in the bookcase to the neon Budweiser sign in the window.
However you choose to set up the room, it is giving You permission to be You, whether smoking cigars or meditating, building model airplanes or running a business.
It is important to note that when it comes to your special room, the main difference between you and the richest person on the planet is he or she can afford hired help to clean it. You may be watching The Tonight Show on a far crappier TV, but it's the same Jimmy Fallon on either set.
A special note on TV: It is a source of great enjoyment, but over-use sets us up for depression. Try to make the focus of your room something else, such as a challenging hobby.
As for keeping a TV or radio going, I, for one, am no fan of background chatter. To me, this represents an unwarranted intrusion into my private space by the outside world in all its unbridled frenzy. I find it infinitely better for my mental health to savor the silence. But the right music at the right time has a powerful effect on my moods, whether it's weeping to a tragic aria or doing the dishes to Louis Armstrong. To each his own. But do experiment with a week of chatter-free living.
You are what you eat, but living with a mood disorder means you are often going to be too depressed to want to cook. Therefore, it's vital to be well-stocked on healthy pre-prepared slap-together stuff. Bags of mixed greens, stir-fry, you get the picture.
If junk food is too much of a temptation, then keep it out of the house. Otherwise, the occasional indulgence can work wonders. Spend way too much on the premium brand, small portion, don't gulp, savor. Ahh - heaven.
For the right individual, cooking offers a tremendous boost to mental health, from easing stress (chopping vegetables forces you to forget your daily crap) to playing with your toys (such as the pasta-maker) to being in the flow (with four burners going) to giving you a sense of accomplishment (I made that!) to savoring your creation (delicious!).
Think of all the stuff that goes on in this room besides the usual - uh - stuff. From looking in the mirror to all the rest of it, you are on display. The other you is evaluating, assessing, taking stock. Don't like what you see? It's going to be a rough day.
Likewise, there you are, in your inner sanctum, alone with your thoughts. Is the atmosphere conducive to a meditative experience, a breather, a pleasant time-out? Or is your decompression chamber a depression chamber?
A good friend informed me that she literally has different shampoos and soaps etc for her different moods. Some scents simply don't cut it with her when she is depressed.
Of all the rooms in the house, the bathroom is the one room where you need to walk out of it feeling much better than you went in. If this isn't happening, you need to closely evaluate the situation - and treat it as a high priority.
You may not entertain all that much, but you still need to be asking yourself: If someone were to pop in, would he or she have a pleasant experience? If the answer is yes, your home is truly your home.
Everything on display in my place tells a story. This was not a conscious act on my part. My didgeridoos, after all, had to go somewhere, as did my books and a zillion other odds and ends. But every item is a potential conversation-starter.
Plants, flowers, things hanging from walls, lots of colorful pillows for the sofa, a cat, a dog, other pets, throw rugs, cool stuff to lean against the wall, shelves with interesting stuff on it, candles, functional stuff that is decorative, curtains, drapes, on and on ...
Fortunately, you can pick this stuff up for a song - Craig's List, yard sales, flea markets, family hand-me-downs ...
Empty also works.
Things can easily run away from us, even when we are not depressed. I know for a fact that if I go to bed with two dirty plates in the sink, I will wake up to a family of dirty little saucers. As for clothes on the floor, it's like tumbleweed piling up against a fence. My theory on rubber bands is they morph into power cables for electronic devices that don't exist. All my cables, incidentally, defy the law of entropy by self-organizing into gordian knots.
It's a never-ending battle. It's also a major part of "the battle." Set your own standards. But be mindful of the fact that you need to be in the battle to win the battle.
Someone close to me just reminded me that clutter is the enemy. We become over-attached to things we haven't used in ages, haven't worn, don't know what to do with, dead things, broken things, useless things, things of no known origin.
It's natural to hold onto things, but the downside - as my close someone pointed out loud and clear - is an immense drain on our psychic energy. The dead weight of our past literally sucks us into a black hole.
Simple mantra: The dumpster is your friend.
Make a habit of donating to thrift shops.
Home is Where the Heart Is
By now, you recognize that the front line in the battle against depression is played out literally on the home front, in our own homes. Yet, of all things, when I Googled various combinations of "depression-free home," I came up empty. Isn't anyone paying attention? Alas, I have no choice but to plead guilty. I started this website in Dec, 2000 and here I am, writing this in April, 2011.
Say no more. Make yourself at home and live well ...
Reviwed July 10, 2016
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