How Your Environment Affects Your Well-Being
Can having a clean home lead to a healthier, happier life? The research suggests as much. The state of your home can have a direct impact on your mental and physical health. If a cluttered home has you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, then tidying up just might be the antidote.
Here’s what science has to say about the link between environment and well-being.
A Messy Home Contributes to Stress and Depression
We’ve all experienced that nagging feeling that looms when household tasks go unfinished. But if you find your home is in a constant state of disarray, it may lead to chronic stress.
Consider this study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Using linguistic analysis, the researchers discovered that people who describe their homes as messy or cluttered produce higher levels of cortisol — the body’s stress hormone. These people were more likely to be fatigued and depressed than those who describe their homes as restorative and restful. The study also revealed that women were more adversely affected by a messy home than men.
Clutter Makes You Distracted, Less Productive
Do everyday jobs like paying the bills or finishing homework feel like an insurmountable task? A disorganized space could be the culprit.
According to a study from Princeton University, the presence of clutter makes it more difficult to focus on a particular task. The study found that the visual cortex — the part of the brain that processes visual information — can become overwhelmed by objects that are unrelated to the task at hand, making it more difficult to complete tasks efficiently.
People who work from home can be especially impacted by this as the presence of clutter serves as a constant distraction throughout the work day.
People With Clean Homes Are More Active
Just as an unkempt home can have adverse health effects, keeping your place organized and tidy can improve your mental and physical well-being.
In another study, researchers from Indiana University found that participants who maintained a clean home were healthier and more active than those who did not have a clean home. Interestingly, they learned that the cleanliness of one’s home has a bigger influence on physical activity levels than their outside environment does, such as neighborhood walkability.
Perhaps that’s because doing basic household chores involves some level of physical activity. For instance, cleaning the bathroom for 35 minutes burns as many calories as walking on a treadmill for the same amount of time. And since a cleaner home helps reduce stress and fatigue, it might motivate people to move even more.
Cleaning Can Give You a Sense of Control
When you’re dealing with problems that are beyond your control, or that you can’t fix right away, cleaning can provide a sense of relief.
Findings from a University of Connecticut study revealed that when people are experiencing anxiety or stress, they tend to turn to repetitive behaviors like cleaning. Why? Because cleaning helps to restore a feeling of control over your life, especially in moments of uncertainty. So, both the act of cleaning as well as the finished result can have positive effects on your mental health.
A Clean Home Promotes Better Health Overall
A simple task such as making the bed can contribute to a better quality of life. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, people who make their beds every day are 19% more likely to get a good night’s rest, and over 70% of respondents said they sleep better when they have clean sheets.
Not only can cleaning help you sleep better, it can also help you breathe easier — literally. Pet dander, dust, mildew, and other pollutants tend to build up in the home, triggering allergies. Regular dusting and vacuuming can improve your indoor air quality, while cleaning surfaces frequently limits the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses.