Mental Health as an Amenity
Creative ideas that help improve your residents’ state of mind—and quality of life—in stressful times.
It’s been a hard two years. Even though the pandemic has shrunk to an endemic, its scars will linger for years to come. People have struggled, and forced changes brought on by the health crisis have transformed every aspect of our lives. Homes have seen the most dramatic transformation, having turned from a place to live to a school, gym, yoga studio, office and place to get together.
Many reacted by shifting their focus to wellness. Consequently, apartment owners and operators came to realize that the path to inner peace might lie in the right amenities.
Spaces with a purpose for emotions
A healthy mind in a healthy body; this adage dates all the way back to the Romans. These days, it’s no longer just about physical health, but about our emotional state, too. Because physical health and mental health are intertwined, the amenity package has transformed to include community features that aim to nurture the mind.
Specifically, property operators and developers are giving more attention to features that incorporate nature, which is known to reduce stress and promote mental clarity. Places that allow residents to recharge, such as meditation courtyards with reflecting pools or rooms equipped with ergonomic cushions, open-air yoga studios and massage rooms, or medicinal gardens and parks with walking and biking trails are in high demand.
Being able to relax or work at home without hearing what your neighbors are up to is also a godsend. Noise mitigation is important because it not only improves the privacy of each unit/amenity room in the community, but it can boost productivity. To offer such sound quality, or better yet silence quality, the design of the rooms in the apartment could include sound-absorbing materials, separation of spaces and inclusion of a white noise machine.
Energy-efficient buildings have a positive impact on our mental health, in addition to environmental benefits. Energy-efficient buildings means lower energy bills, which help reduce financial anxiety. Let’s not forget that energy-efficient buildings offer optimal thermal comfort and consistent airflow, which are essential in creating a calm environment. In addition, buildings built with attention to sustainability and resilience can help reduce the risk of displacement caused by significant weather events. This by itself is another major source of mental distress, thus a health strategy as well.
The calming effect of interior design
In addition to the common area amenities and the overall green building practices, property operators should keep in mind that the residents spend most of their time (while at the community) in their own units. Therefore, interior design can play a major role in improving mental health.
A calming environment begins with the floor plan and a good design means proper circulation and a continuous flow of movement, without having to strain or overthink in navigation. “Obstacles create stress, wayfinding is important,” Cortland Design Senior Interior Designer Brittany Cavallotti said.
Our senses impact our mental health; what we see, hear and feel affects not just our bodies but our minds, too. That is why the impact colors have on our overall state has been extensively researched and is high up on interior designers’ priority list. Cavallotti recommends calming neutral with cool tones and muted warm shades, as these have an immediate comforting or calming effect. “Avoid bold, overly saturated colors such as bright reds, yellows and oranges. These can easily be overstimulating,” she added.
Lighting goes hand in hand with the color palette. Natural light relaxes, while harsh light has the opposite effect. Moreover, Cavallotti said, “light adjustments that follow our bodies’ natural circadian rhythm have positive effects on our mood and energy levels.”
Smell is frequently overlooked, but strong scents can have a negative impact on the comfort of the user, as can lack of proper air filtration. Curated aromas are often used in spaces to promote calming effects. Biophilic design can be done directly or indirectly and connects us to nature, which improves our thought clarity, reduces stress and promotes healing properties.
Most of these strategies can be easily implemented in any space, including renovations or improvements and new developments. A great point Cavallotti makes is that these improvement strategies should not be limited to just upscale properties. “If anything, they should be even more of a focus in working-class units where users often experience higher levels of stress and uncertainty,” she said.