Home is where the heart is…and where we currently spend the vast majority of our time. In addition to navigating an ongoing global pandemic, the winter is also a time when hibernation is normal. However, endless hours spent underneath the same roof and the same four walls can make anyone grow weary and, at times, bored.
That’s why it’s essential to fill your space with life’s essential ingredient: happiness. Of course, joy looks and feels differently to every human. (After all, Marie Kondo taught us this years ago.) However, there are some universal ways to interject calm, color and bliss into your abode.
By chatting with a plethora of experts, from life coaches and home organizers to nutritionists, doctors and therapists, we’ve gathered the ultimate ways to make your home a place you want to be — and, hopefully, a spot that stimulates your mood and optimism.
Display your fruits and vegetables
For Kati Carrapa, a professional organizer, life coach and pastor, happiness comes through aliveness. The most straightforward (and easy!) way to invite color and life into your kitchen is through displaying your fruits and vegetables. Stay simple with standard red apples or lemons, or go bolder with pineapple, dragon fruit or persimmon.
“The colors are all up to you. If you long for exotic fruits and tastes, then go for it,” she suggests. “[If] you think you need more grounding energy, then go for kale, purple cabbage and carrots.” She recommends trying various color combinations to see which ones make you the happiest, and taste the best too.
Try these: Simple Houseware 2-Tier Countertop Fruit Basket ($21.87, originally $27.99; amazon.com)
Threshold 2-Tier Gold-Plated Wire Basket ($25; target.com)
Light candles in scents you enjoy
Of all of our senses, scent is the one that brings us back to a rose-colored memory the fastest. Maybe it’s the smell of the ocean that reminds you of a childhood by the shore or a flower from your wedding bouquet. Whatever it is, create a morning, midday or evening ritual with candles that make you smile, suggests Tia Graham, the founder and chief happiness officer at Arrive at Happy.
“Candles can bring back positive memories and emotions. And certain candles have aromatherapy and can alleviate stress and anxiety,” she continues. Explore various notes to discover the best mix for you.
Try these: Fimiss Scented Candles Gift Set ($19.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
Homesick Beach Cottage Candle ($34; homesick.com)
Make storage options easy and accessible
Cluttered spaces can make us instantly feel anxious or overwhelmed. But even when we see the mess, we can sometimes feel paralyzed to pick it up. How come? According to Pia Thompson, home organizer and owner of Sweet Digs, we consider the easiest place from which to retrieve something instead of the easiest place to return something to. That’s why having accessible, comfortable and beautiful storage options will improve the happy factor of any room.
“Choose a spot where you usually use the item that is near to similar items and that isn’t buried under something else,” Thompson continues. “Consider this shift in perspective when you are choosing a home for your items, and you will soon see your clutter disappear.”
Try this: TheWarmHome Decorative Basket ($16.99; amazon.com)
Always have fresh flowers
As backed by research, flowers are proven to create joy, improve empathy and make people happier, says Kristina Libby, an artist with the Floral Heart Project. “This can be cut stems that you put in your home, flowering plants that you put in multiple rooms or a small garden that you grow outside or on your windowsill,” she suggests.
However, if you’re a fan of gardens, go bigger and add floral wallpaper or hang floral-related art. “I am particularly fond of florals in unexpected places: teacups, the riser to a staircase, in a bathroom or a small vase by your bed,” she adds.
Try these: Opalhouse Canary Floral Peel & Stick Wallpaper ($34; target.com)
1-800-Flowers Sunflower Bouquet (starting at $44.99; 1800flowers.com)
Bromeliad Aechmea Pink ($65; bloomscape.com)
Invest in a quality mirror in low-sun areas
You may not realize it, but a mirror is an excellent way to direct the natural flow of sunshine in your space. As shamanic practitioner and coach John Moore explains, sunlight impacts our mind, body and spirit. If you do not have a ton of natural vitamin D from outside, he suggests adding mirrors where there aren’t windows to open the space.
Try this: CoolXuan Round Hanging Mirror ($30.99; amazon.com)
Create a sleep sanctuary
While not everyone thinks about their bedroom’s health, it can play a crucial role in creating a happy home, according to Elizabeth O’Connor Cole, a well-being educator and founder of Salveo Lifestyle. The place where you lay your head each night should feel like a calm, inviting sanctuary that instantly provides relaxation and Zen. She recommends decluttering, allowing in the fresh air, creating amber lights and investing in high-quality mattresses and bedding.
“Ditch synthetic pajamas, sheets and pillowcases and upgrade to organic cotton or natural silk,” she adds.
Try these: Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillows, 2-Pack ($39.99, originally $79.99; amazon.com)
Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachutehome.com)
Washable Silk Tee Set ($198; lunya.co)
Reserve time to bond with loved ones
One of the most significant contributions to your mental state inside your home is who you share it with. And while you may find the very sound of your partner chewing or your child’s singing to be annoying on month 10,000 of lockdown, it’s still essential to set aside time for intentional bonding, says author and neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf.
“As humans, we are made for deep, meaningful connection. When we feel connected and part of a community, we boost our mental resilience and toughness, as well as our mood,” she explains. “Meaningful socialization helps us feel happy and at peace within ourselves, balancing the energy in the brain and helping us build up our cognitive resilience.”
Whether you whip up a meal together, play board games or host a movie viewing evening, reserve the time on your calendar so you make it a priority.
Try these: Czech Games Codenames ($14.88, originally $19.95; amazon.com)
Dr. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector ($89.99, originally $99.99; amazon.com)
Place crystals strategically around your home
You may or may not subscribe to New Age ways of thinking, but if there’s a chance a small purchase could make you feel more grounded and positive, wouldn’t it be worth the shot? According to licensed psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz, there is much value in having a token or a totem representing a state of mind you would like to achieve. “Whether this totem has actual spiritual properties or not, it’s more about the mindset it evokes in you,” she says.
For example, amethyst and rainbow fluorite are both beautiful stones that add a nice decorative flair to your home and are known to create a sense of calm. Alternatively, Schewitz says that adding a crystal to your home office or bedroom nightstand is a nice decorative touch and serves as a reminder of the state of mind you’re trying to create when in that area of your home.
Try this: Zatny Premium Healing Crystals Kit ($39.74; amazon.com)
Carve out space for fitness
We know, we know… You miss the gym and your in-person fitness classes. While there will be a day — hopefully soon! — when we can all gather together to work up a sweat, it’s still vital to keep exercise as part of your daily routine now. As certified life coach Adam Jablin puts it, the natural endorphins and serotonin from working out produce feelings of happiness, well-being and confidence. That feel-good energy can be poured into your job, relationships, friendships and self-care practice. If there’s a piece of equipment, such as dumbbells, an exercise bar or a bike, that you’ve been delaying buying, here’s your nudge to go for it.
Try these: Tribe Resistance Bands Set Bundled With Loop Bands ($35.99; amazon.com)
Amazon Basics Rubber-Encased Hex Dumbbell (starting at $22.99; amazon.com)
Add pops of color
Kathryn Goetzke, the chief mood officer of The Mood Factory, says that splashes of yellow in a room can pick up your spirit since we innately associate this color with happiness. If a sunshine-gold color isn’t your cup of tea, find an eccentric removable wallpaper to add to an accent wall, suggests Allison Chawla, a licensed psychotherapist, certified life coach and healer.
“Pick a bathroom and turn the stripe nook into a rainforest with some bright green leaves. Throw a splash of color or some smiling sloths up to remind you that it is a good time to slow down,” she continues. “Decor, similarly to fashion these days, has quite an ‘anything goes’ vibe going. And, hey, if it makes you happy, then go for it.”
Try these: Opalhouse Tropical Peel & Stick Wallpaper Green ($34; target.com)
Opalhouse Monkey Play Peel & Stick Wallpaper ($34; target.com)
Align your home with your goals
Believe it or not, your home could help you stick to those New Year’s resolutions or overall goals you have for your life. But you have to set up your space for success. To begin, make a list of your current aspirations and then assess how your home helps — or hinders — you from achieving these dreams, suggests Rebecca West, the author of “Happy Starts at Home.” If you want to write a novel, you should have a designed writing corner. If you’re trying to improve your health, remove tempting snacks and make it simple to meal plan.
“This kind of exercise can help you understand the why behind your projects and make sure that you are spending your energy and money wisely as you make changes to your home,” she adds.
Try this: Rifle Paper Co. Weekly Meal Planner ($15; riflepaperco.com)
Create and stick to a bath ritual
While baths are relatively common in most homes these days, it was a luxury to bathe in ancient Roman and Greek times. In fact, Cole says these were often seen as a gift from the gods. “There is a good reason for this, as baths are not only cleansing, but they also provide a wonderful combination of comfort, calm and happiness,” she explains.
Your bathroom itself can be upgraded with cozy goodies, like a towel warmer, an oil diffuser or a plush bathmat. You can modernize your bubble bath from childhood by investing in salts, oils, dried flowers or even a sage-burning ritual to clear away the negative energy. “Light the end of the stick and fan the flame until it’s smoking. Wave the sage stick over the bath and around you,” Cole suggests. “Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths before you soak.”
Try these: Zadro Ultra-Large Luxury Bucket-Style Towel Warmer ($139.99;bamazon.com)
InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser ($13.59, originally $15.99;bamazon.com)
Make sure you like the stuff you use every day
This may sound obvious, but Schewitz says many people compromise and buy furniture or decorations they aren’t very excited about because it saves them a little bit of money. “Furniture and home decor items are something you will use and look at daily. Looking at and using items you love sparks joy and gives you a happier experience in your home,” she says.
The same goes with your kitchen goods: Make them fun and colorful so you’ll be excited to use them.
Try this: The Pioneer Woman Vintage Floral 12-Piece Dinnerware Set ($49.97, originally $58.10; walmart.com)
Keep the music flowing
Though some people enjoy a quiet home, others need a soundtrack to carry them throughout their day. According to Chawla, the right type of music can boost your mood and makes you feel nostalgic, focused or relaxed, helping keep your spirit high. “Music soothes the soul, encourages focus, increases libido, warms our hearts — you name it,” she explains. Test out a few playlists, from lo-fi and jazz to feel-good beats, and determine which jams are, well, your jam.
Try this: Apple HomePod Mini ($99.99; target.com)
Check and replace your lightbulbs
When was the last time you gave a second thought to the lightbulbs in your home? Probably when one flickered out and it needed to be replaced, right? Lighting impacts our mood, and those fluorescent bulbs can be overpowering and intense. That’s why Dr. Steven McGough, the director of research and development at Women and Couples Wellness, LLC, suggests omitting “daylight” bulbs from your house. As he explains, they can confuse your circadian rhythm if you use them after 4 p.m. and into the evening.
Instead, he recommends “soft white” bulbs (2,700 to 3,000 kelvin) in your bedroom. If possible, have it so you can switch to “soft white” in your home in the afternoon, he suggests, since this will help mimic how the light changes outside later in the day. Or you can try a light strip that gives you control with a click.
Try this: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus ($66.47, originally $79.99; amazon.com)
Separate your work and life
While it’s easier said than done, as much as you can, designate a place for your work and reserve the rest of your home for personal needs.
“Having a dedicated work area that you can use every day and then break down at the end of your workday is highly therapeutic and promotes work-life balance, which is more important than ever,” explains licensed clinical social worker Hillary Schoninger. “Whether you have your own home office or are working from your dining room table, it’s essential to end your day just like you would at the office. Clean off your desk, shut down the computer, possibly relocate it and then walk away.”
Try this: Giantex 4-Panel Wood Room Divider ($149.99, originally $159.99; amazon.com)
Hang landscape photos
According to Amy Morin, the editor in chief of Verywell Mind, looking at serene landscapes like mountains or waterfalls is good for your emotional well-being. In fact, it might be just as beneficial as actually being in nature.
“Researchers discovered that hospital patients who had a window view healed faster than other patients. So they gave all patients who didn’t have a window view pictures of landscapes, and they found that after looking at scenic pictures, patients reported less pain and lower rates of anxiety,” she explains. “Looking at scenic pictures in your home might also reduce your emotional and physical pain.”
Try this: Groppo Mountain Lake Art Print (starting at $21.59; society6.com)
Get some plants
As we are spending so much time indoors, disconnection from Mother Earth is taking a toll on our mental and emotional health, according to Melody Li, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of Inclusive Therapists directory and community. “Invite nature into your space by researching local plants that are children- and animal-friendly,” she explains. “Plants not only help keep our air fresh, but their lively presence can also boost our mood.”
Plus, caring for plants also reminds us to be more mindful of our bodies: to stay hydrated and nourished, stretch and get some sunlight.
Try this: Money Tree ($150; bloomscape.com)