Depression and anxiety currently affects one in every five South Africans. It’s a debilitating state of mind which can seriously affect an individual’s quality of life. One way to support a healthier mental state is by being in an organised and welcoming office and home environment.

Wilmi Hudsonberg, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics – a leading generics firm specialising in treatments for depression and anxiety, among others – says clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about ourselves. Messy homes and office desks leave us feeling anxious, helpless and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognised as a significant source of stress in our lives.

“There is a significant body of evidence, which proves the link between depression and a cluttered environment. One such study was conducted by researchers at the Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute which found that when your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. In short, clutter distracts you and impairs your brain’s ability to process information.

“However, if you are suffering from chronic depression even the most mundane tasks can seem insurmountable, let alone the mammoth task of uncluttering your home or office. But, making an effort to get organised could help you progress quicker to some sort of normality.

“By creating a soothing home and organised work environment your body automatically releases dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin – all the feel-good hormones that heals depression,” says Hudsonberg.

Here are her interior suggestions to help create a more balanced and relaxing environment at home:
· Firstly, get rid of all the clutter. It’s often not about how clean your house is, but rather about what you face when you walk in the door every day. Think of the unpaid bills lying around, dishes in the sink, toys strewn all over the house and piles of washing – all are constant reminders of everything that still needs to be done. If you can organise your belongings and take unnecessary clutter out of the equation, you are likely to experience less stress, and therefore feel less depressed. Pinterest has some great creative de-cluttering ideas that will make the job seem like less of chore.

· Involve your children by getting them to unclutter their rooms too. Make it a rule in the house that every time they walk into their room, they have to put five things away. You will be surprised at the result by the end of the day.

· Open blinds and curtains to let in more natural light. Light stimulates a flow of hormones and chemicals in your body that will improve your mood and energy levels. If your home tends to be dark, try brighten it up with lights or change the colour palette of your living space. If this is too bold a move, liven things up by introducing colourful and vibrant scatter cushions, rugs, throws and other accessories such as lamps, vases or decorative photo frames and paintings. Mirrors also expand the feeling of light and space, especially if the mirrors face each other.
· Surround yourself with whatever it is that makes you feel good. If you love the beach – bring elements such as shells, art or photos of beach scenes or memorabilia into your home.

· The way your home smells can also induce positive feelings and a sense of relaxation. Try find an air freshener or scented candle that’s right for you and your home.

· If you spend most of your time in the kitchen, away from the family and it’s making you miserable, consider breaking down a wall or renovating the area so you don’t feel left out of the rest of the family’s activities when you’re cooking.

· Whether it’s painting a wall or refurbishing a chair, once you’ve accomplished a home project you will derive so much satisfaction from it, which in turn will boost your mood.

· Bring plants inside your home. This has been proven to be therapeutic for many individuals.
Her tips for organising your work station are:

· Determine what the underlying cause is of your cluttered work desk. Your office didn’t just magically turn into a wreck. The piles of paperwork and tangled cables are just the after effects. Once you’ve identified the cause, work out a system that’s going to best work for you.

· The next step is to wheel in three containers – one for stuff that is going straight into the bin, the other is for stuff that you want to keep, but doesn’t really belong in the office and the third container is for stuff you are going to donate. Look at every object in terms of its usefulness. If it isn’t useful, get rid of it and don’t give it a second thought. The general rule for uncluttering and reclaiming your space is, “when in doubt, throw it out”.

· We live in a modern world where so many things can be stored digitally, so try filing documents in the cloud rather than in a physical file. Recognise too, that holding onto something “just in case” is a mild form of hoarding.

· To manage paperwork after the big clean up, create a two-tray system – one for new documents and another for documents you’ve looked at but still need to deal with. Set yourself a goal to deal with your paperwork within 48 hours. This system works wonders for eliminating paper clutter from your desk.
Hudsonberg cautions that although your office or home can cause a certain level of depression and despite the fact that there are things you can do inside your home or at work to help the blues go away, that it doesn’t mean there could be other contributing factors. Lighting and furniture placement can only take you so far, so make sure to see a doctor if your depressed mood persists.

Those suffering from depression, anxiety or compounded stress can contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, to help you regain your mental strength.

(BrigitteTaim: Meropa Communications 021 683 6464)

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