Refresh your super surroundings
(Create a healthy home)
A healthy home helps support our kids' health and well-being and lowers lifelong health risks. This can include increasing natural lighting, improving indoor air quality, and using safer products.
The places we live, play, learn, heal, and work are intimately tied to our health and well-being. Think about it. Do you feel better in a dark, damp basement or a room with big windows and plenty of sunshine? Have you ever choked up a bit from a strong odor? A growing body of research has been finding links between the built environment (and the products we use in them) and our health and well-being. While there’s little you can do in public spaces, there are many easy steps you can take to create a healthy home.
Simply put, healthy homes = healthier people. People who have taken steps to create healthier homes report sleeping better, feeling happier, getting sick less, and healing faster (among other things) (McGraw Hill Construction 2014). And little changes can go a long way. For example, in a comprehensive study of health outcomes in different types of hospital settings, increased exposure to natural lighting improved patients’ moods, improved their quality of sleep, and even helped ease pain (Joseph 2006). You, too, can create an optimal healing environment that will improve your whole family’s health and well-being!
Your home is like an ecosystem with many interdependent pieces that all contribute to the overall healthiness of the space. Most organizations and experts in the healthy building field take into consideration the design of the building, the materials used to build and furnish it, air and water quality, cleaning and housekeeping, ventilation, lighting, energy efficiency, and more. Clearly, you’re not going to completely renovate your house overnight, so your journey to a healthier home is exactly that: a journey. Take one step at a time. Do what works for you and celebrate every achievement. Here are three areas that are easiest to adapt
Lighting – Morning sunshine is a fabulous mood (and health) booster. Enjoy it outside if you can. If not, sitting by a window works well, too. You can even consult with your healthcare provider about whether or not you might benefit from the use of a bright light (SAD) box.
Indoor Air Quality – According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air and is one of the top 5 environmental risks to public health. In their “Care for Your Air Guide,” they recommend the following:
Testing for radon – an odorless, invisible gas that’s the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Installing carbon monoxide detectors – another odorless, invisible gas that causes headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue, and high levels can be fatal.
Reducing exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and they’re found in a wide variety of household products: paints, paint strippers, varnishes, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings.
A super easy way to improve indoor air quality is by opening your windows. Let the bad
air out and fresh air in!
Safer Products – Many everyday products contain chemicals that can negatively impact health. (Yes, it’s true and yes, it’s terrible.) Here are a couple of simple ways to address the issue:
Try DIY. Consider the aforementioned cleaning supplies that release VOCs – how about ditching those toxic nasties and making your own? It’s far easier than it sounds. For example: baking soda makes a great soft scrub and lemon juice can clean stains off cutting boards and help kill germs! Some body care products are also easy to DIY – like using coconut oil instead of lotion. The internet is packed with recipes and ideas, so just Google what you need!
Simplify. Really stop and think about all the cleaners, cosmetics, care products, and whatnot you buy. Can you streamline your routines? Fewer products means fewer chemical exposures.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Homes portal: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyhomes/
The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative: http://www.greenandhealthyhomes.org/
The Healthy House Institute: http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com/
Healthy Child Healthy World: http://www.healthychild.org
Pick one thing that sounds easy to tackle and go from there!
Joseph, Anjali. The impact of light on outcomes in healthcare settings. Center for Health Design, 2006.
The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings: The Market Drivers and Impact of Building Design on Occupant Health, Well-Being and Productivity, published by McGraw Hill Construction (2014) in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects, 2014. http://www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab104164.pdf