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How to unlock the health potential of your home

Explore our top five expert strategies for enhancing your home’s health benefits and avoiding common pitfalls that could be putting you at risk
Jamie Gold
Jamie Gold

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC, is a wellness design consultant and the author of “Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness, and Happiness”. Follow Jamie on Instagram. Visit jamiegold.net.

5 signs of a healthy home

1 A work-home-life balance
Even though you’re working from home, you’re still able to ‘leave the office’ at the end of the day. If you’ve got a dedicated office or study at home, that’s achievable – though sometimes still a temptation to log on in quieter moments.

“But in an open-plan space or apartment where you don’t have enough space to create a home office, you may need to reconfigure things a little,” says Gold. Look at using furniture like a sofa, free-standing shelving unit, or bookcase to break up your work and relaxation areas. Using different lighting levels can also help create ‘rooms’ within an open-plan space.

2 Lots of natural light
Health-boosting natural light not only gives you a regular shot of Vitamin D and helps stave off seasonal affective disorders. A 2019 study from Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis confirmed other benefits of natural light in the home/workplace, including reduced eye strain, fewer reports of headaches, improved mood, less drowsiness, and fewer mistakes.

Move your desk into a space that gets a lot of light – or even investigate installing a new window or Velux in the roof for greater light and ventilation.

3 Good air flow
Speaking of ventilation, poor air quality is a major health hazard according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “If you’re buying a home, you can have it tested for allergens, toxins, and other issues that can impact your health,” says Gold.

You can install carbon monoxide, radon, and air quality monitors – though a properly sized air purifier can handle many indoor pollutants. “Look for a model with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter,” advises Gold.

4 Plenty of plant life
Some plants can remove harmful airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air – including those released by paints, new carpets, and MDF furniture. But did you know that they can also absorb noise, reduce dust, lower blood pressure, and ease stress? (1) The biophilia plants create can add to the emotional wellness of your home.

Houseplants commonly recommended for boosting well-being include Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Nephrolepis (Boston Fern), Phlebodium Fern, Gerbera Daisy, Saintpaulia (African Violets), Ficus Benjamina (Weeping Fig), Sansevieria (Snake Plant), Chlorophytum (Spider Plant), and English Ivy.

5 Time your temperature
Investigate smart home heating systems to adjust temperatures perfectly – even if you share your home with others – using different temperature settings for individual rooms of the home. “This is especially crucial in the bedrooms where the wrong temperature or humidity levels can disturb sleep – leading to a host of health-based repercussions,” says Gold. “Most health experts consider 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19°C) an ideal temperature for adult sleep.”

5 signs of a health hazard home

1 No work-life balance
“People working from home have been shown to spend more hours at the desk(1), which is why our home workspaces need to be ergonomic – with furniture and equipment that work with your body,” says Gold. “If you’ve ever experienced neck pain or lower back pain at the end of your working day, there’s a good chance it’s not ergonomic.”

“Look into using adjustable risers to change the height of your work surface during the day – especially if you share your workspace with another user or your children use the same desk for their homework.”

2 Unsuitable floors
Wood floorings are good for allergy sufferers and those with respiratory issues, and it’s not uncommon for homeowners to address those issues by tearing out the carpets and replacing them with wood. Laminate and vinyl – or laminate vinyl tiles (LVT) – are cheaper wood-replica options but can include high levels of chemical toxins (formaldehyde and phthalates). “Look for eco-certified alternatives to reduce your risk of indoor air pollution,” Gold advises.

3 TV in the bedroom
Having a big screen TV in the bedroom or scrolling through your smartphone or tablet is well-established to be sleep saboteurs (2), thanks to the blue light influencing hormone production, alertness, and sleep cycles. Detaching yourself from the screens at least an hour or two before bedtime will improve sleep quality (3).

“Changing bedroom and bathroom lights – the other rooms you may spend more time in at night – to a warmer hue can bring about a better night’s sleep too,” says Gold. If you enjoy reading in bed, try a lamp that emits an orange light rather than blue.

4 Chemical cleaning agents
Ammonia, hydrochloric acid, and sodium bisulphate are common skin irritants found in everyday cleaning products – not just the super-powerful cleaners either. Eco and vegan-friendly Ecozone cleaning sprays – including a Multi-Surface Cleaner, Limescale Remover, and Daily Shower Cleaner – are among the range of products you can use to remove dirt and grime, but only use natural plant extracts to reduce your risk of skin problems like contact dermatitis.

5 Poor kitchen airflow
A prime zone for potential air pollutants is the kitchen, thanks to the mass of electrical white goods and appliances such as gas ranges that can produce contaminants including carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Even if you’ve got an extractor fitted to the range or kitchen, if you’re noticing the kitchen gets smoky or hot too easily, it’s a sign that you’ve got a ventilation problem and a need to have the extractor cleaned or replaced.

Photography Roberto Nickson

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