The industrialized society that we live and work in can provide many benefits, conveniences, and enhancements to our daily life activities. However, it also presents many challenges to our health and overall well-being.
In many cases it can be difficult to control exposure to or interaction with factors in our various environments that can adversely affect us. Our home spaces provide unique opportunities to control our environment, and this is important given the time spent there and the significant activities that we perform in these home spaces.
The goal then is to create a healthy home in order to better create at least one environment that can provide benefits that will enhance our existence, life, and activities. It is certainly true that this can take more work for some than others. A healthy home can mean many things, and likewise, be influenced by many factors. For this article, we will focus on physical health and physical factors in a home that can also affect mental or emotional health.
When thinking about creating a health home, many may associate that with the concept of a green home. This refers to the incorporation of building and product use alternatives in order to reduce or avoid exposure to materials and substances known to affect the health of people and animals.
Keep in mind that a healthy home is not just limited to avoiding certain chemicals in building materials or household products, but also speaks to the ability to protect inhabitants from outside influences or elements such as excess moisture, pests, or noise. While avoidance of health-reducing influences is a major aspect in the creation of a healthy home, allowing exposure to those things that are health-enhancing, such as adequate sunlight and clean air, is also crucial.
We are all regularly exposed to multiple and coinciding influences and substances without being aware of their effects on us over time. There are a number of common illnesses that can be traced to toxic exposures or other types of unhealthy conditions in the home.
Knowing the benefits of a healthy home can address many of these health issues that can creep up due to hidden or subtle conditions affecting one’s state of health. Understanding ten benefits to a healthy home is a good place to start for increasing awareness of the factors that can enhance our health and reduce the risk of a number of common conditions.
1. Healthy home helps alleviate allergies:
Carpeting and other soft types of flooring can be a source of allergens (allergy-causing pollutants) for many people. They also can attract and trap allergens from the environment. One could choose to use alternative flooring options such as concrete, wood, or ceramic tile flooring.
Using wall paints that don’t contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs, gases emitted from certain building materials that can harm health) is another important option to avoid allergic and other reactions to VOCs. Another way to reduce VOC exposure is to use cabinetry made of natural wood instead of particle board or VOC-releasing plastics.
2. Prevention of pest infestation:
Reducing the presence of dust, mold, and other accumulated dirt not only helps reduce allergen exposure, but it also helps to prevent the attraction of insects to these substances. Insects such as cockroaches have been implicated as culprits in the cause of asthma particularly in children, and spreading diseases caused by bacteria and viruses.
3. Healthy home promotes a clean environment:
A clean environment means less exposure to disease-causing microbes. This even has merit in help to reduce the spread of viruses that cause colds and flu. It’s important to note that using environmentally friendly and non-toxic household cleaning products would further enhance healthy home creation. An air purifier is a good addition to a home to help make the household and room air cleaner, which can help prevent or alleviate respiratory problems.
4. Healthy home can help keep headaches at bay:
Although the outside world can provide ample opportunities for getting headaches (and pains in the neck), we can unknowingly set up situations where we may increase the risk of more headaches in the one place where there should be less of that. Decreasing exposure to allergens is important for avoiding headaches associated with allergies. However, taking care to balance household lighting is also important. Intense light has been shown to lead to headaches, and some people are more sensitive than others. Installing light dimmers can help in this regard.
5. Healthy home reduces the risk of injury:
Trip and falls from cluttered floors are not uncommon. Also, if it is necessary to leave the home quickly due to an emergency such as a fire or earthquake, clutter can slow you down and increase your risk of harm. Ensuring a clear area for entry and exit for each room can be a life saver.
6. Healthy home favors healthful ventilation:
Good air circulation is a must and can help prevent the previously discussed respiratory problems and avoid dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning. Fireplaces that are not well kept can be expose inhabitants to carbon monoxide. It’s important to avoid the buildup of soot, but having overall good ventilation can reduce the risk of poisoning if this gas does get produced unintentionally by fireplace soot or other sources (running cars in a closed garage, etc.).
7. Healthy home promotes healthy sleep:
Sometimes sound generated from the outside environment (traffic, neighbor’s music, barking dogs) can penetrate our living areas. When this is an issue during sleeping hours, the sleep quality can be quite negatively affected. Having good sleep quality (not just the number of hours sleep) definitely enhances health.
Using earplugs is an option, sure, but these are uncomfortable for some people. Turning off the television or computer, or not having them in the bedroom, is a good place to start. This can address both sound and sleep-disturbing light issues. Windows can be sound proofed using triple-pane or interior windows. Also, fabric or paper wall coverings can help absorb noise in a room.
8. Healthy home reduces stress:
Yes, a healthy home can be a major stress reliever. Stress is a powerful inducer of numerous illnesses and conditions. No one can avoid all stress, and even some types of stress is good (happily exited, responding to dangers). However, with the multiple stressors encountered in a day, the home is a good opportunity to reduce that for the best health status possible.
This is where a clutter-free environment can also help. Reducing unnecessary clutter can relieve the mind of the anxious feeling often caused by seeing clutter. If your home is not comfortable, this too will promote stress. Organizing living spaces can remove unnecessary stress due to being unable to find things when you need them.
9. Healthy home separates work from leisure:
Have a space in your home that does not have work-related items, files, or other reminders of work responsibilities. If you have a home office, it’s best not to use that same office for relaxation, entertaining, and family activity time. When not working, store work devices in a way or area that would not remind you of pending work that can lead to a subtle, but impactful sense of urgency that can elevate stress and anxiety.
10. Healthy home promotes mood elevation:
Depression and mood disorders affect millions of people worldwide. Some of this can be addressed by minor, yet effective, changes to the home environment. In addition to providing indispensable oxygen, plants can add a sense of connection to nature, and thus, a feeling of joy and well-being. An added bonus is the air-filtering properties of some plants such as certain types of ferns and spider plants. NASA has provided great information regarding air-filtering plant types and the toxic substances they can remove from the air.
Outdoor activities such as caring for a garden can elevate the mood and provide sun exposure that is essential for physical and mental health. However, doing this in a spot within the home even in flower pots have also shown to be very beneficial to health and mood.
You will also get some healthy organic food out of the deal when planting vegetables. Making sure there is ample natural lighting during the day does more than cut down on energy use, but it also provides biological enhancement of mood, thus reducing symptoms of depression.
Making some changes to your existing home or planning well when building one can provide an environment that is in line with lower exposure to toxicants, reduced risk to injury, less chance of developing or worsening health conditions, and enhancement of healthy physiology. A heathy home can be achieved step by step if necessary by addressing the different subtle or not-so-subtle factors that eat away at our well-being and good health. Education is a key, and the factors presented will put you well on your path to creating a healthy home environment.