Home is where you sleep, eat, bathe yourself and, potentially, where you work — all things that can impact your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. So while home is definitely where the heart is, it’s also a fundamental contributor to your overall health.
Your living space, adds Emily Capuria, LISW-S, CHHC, a licensed independent social worker and the founder of coaching practice Balance & Thrive, often serves as an external expression of who you are, and in turn, influences how you feel. For example, if your coffee table is piled with unsorted mail, or you come home from work every day to see a sink full of dirty dishes, “you’re constantly in this state of being surrounded by all that you have to do, so it’s really hard to relax,” Capuria says.
Thankfully, you can leverage your living space and what you do in it to feel healthier and happier on the daily, no expensive renos required. Of course, “healthy” means something different to every person, and it can also mean many things to each person. We aimed to find ideas that cover a wide variety of situations, from keeping germs out to avoiding physical injuries to doing things that make you smile. You know your body and what it needs best, so pick your favorites (even one, if that’s all you can manage!) and stick with the practices that really resonate.
In Your Entryway
1. Take off your shoes at the door.
This is something that Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic, does every time he enters his home, “to keep the outside out.” The bottoms of your shoes track in dirt and germs, so instead, keep a pair of inside-only shoes or slippers by the door to change into when you get home.
2. Tidy up your entrance.
Looking for a “low lift, high reward” decluttering project? Interior designer Anita Yokota (who used to be a practicing therapist) says to tackle your entryway. When it’s unorganized, it can be a stressful distraction every time you pass through it; when it’s clutter-free, she says it can instantly reset your entire home’s mood, and your own.
3. Take the stairs, again and again.
Got stairs in your house or building? Take time every day to do some reps going up and down if you’re physically able to. Your heart rate will be going in no time.
4. Check your smoke detector.
5. And your carbon monoxide detector, too.
An estimated 50,000 Americans visit the emergency room every year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You should change the batteries of your CO detector at least every six months, according to the CDC, to help avoid accidents. (And if you don’t have one, get one right now.)
6. Test your flashlight batteries.
In Your Kitchen and Dining Area
7. Make something from scratch.
Not a fan of deep breathing or meditating? The act of cooking or baking can provide similar benefits, says Capuria. “Mindfulness is a single point of focus,” she says. “It’s doing anything that you can get out of that space of overthinking, and just focus and do a repetitive action.” Following a recipe can fit the bill, so consider this a reason to whip up your favorite dessert. Bonus points if rolling, kneading, mixing, etc. is involved.
8. Organize your spices.
Spices and seasonings are easy ways to add flavor and health benefits to your food, but Maya Feller, R.D., says few people keep their collections organized — making them less likely to use what they have. “Creating a spice home with clear labeling is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re taking your dish to the next level,” she says.
9. Refill your water bottle.
10. Wipe down your kitchen counters.
11. Prepare your favorite meal.
12. Sip on a soothing tea.
13. Keep produce at eye level.
14. Cook with loved ones.
“Inviting family members and friends over to take part in the cooking process is a great way to connect,” says Feller. Dub your roommate your sous chef, or have your partner pick out a recipe and make it together.
15. Ditch your sponge for good.
16. Stock up on aromatics.
“I always have a basket of onion, garlic, and ginger on my countertop for adding flavor to all of my dishes,” says Feller. These three aromatic ingredients add lots of flavor as well as health benefits, she says, such as potentially fighting inflammation and reducing the risk of heart disease. All three are fundamentals to many different cuisines, making them true kitchen MVPs.
17. Make flavored ice cubes.
Adding flavor (sans sugar) to your water is another easy way to incentivize yourself to drink enough water every day. Plus, it makes your millionth glass of water look extra pretty. Here’s how to do it.
18. Sharpen your knives.
Feller says a sharp set of knives is “non-negotiable” for her in the kitchen. “Being able to cut foods quickly and easily makes the experience of cooking so much more enjoyable,” she says. Additionally, sharp knives cut more precisely, reducing your risk of injury. Slash your prep time (and chance of avocado hand) by sharpening your knives. Just once or twice a year will suffice.
19. Organize your reusable bags.
It’ll make running errands less stressful and more sustainable.
20. Clean your reusable bottles and straws.
You’re doing your bod and the environment a solid if you take advantage of sustainable sipping habits, but don’t forget to clean your reusable water bottles and straws. Moisture left behind in these items can trap bacteria and become a breeding ground for mold and mildew, so you should be washing both every single day.
21. Eat with your family.
22. Bust out your nicer dishes.
Capuria wants you to start treating daily life like a special occasion in order to help you feel happier. One place to start? Your dishware. “Bring out those dishes that are for special occasions that you never use,” she says. “Start using them now.”
23. Have a family meeting.
Yokota says she urges all of her clients to treat the dining room table as a “neutral communication hub” for families. Gather your household there to discuss pressing issues or just to catch up — and show your relationships some love in the process.
In Your Bedroom
24. Make your bed.
The simple habit not only makes your room look instantly cleaner but, according to The Sleep Foundation, could help you sleep better at night. Guess mom was really onto something…
25. Stretch for 10 minutes.
26. Tidy one shelf.
Keeping a space neat and clutter-free can support your mood and stress levels, but you don’t need to deep-clean to enjoy those benefits. Capuria suggests finding the simplest possible task that will make you feel good — like cleaning off a shelf or drawer. You’ll feel better in minutes.
27. Set your phone’s nighttime settings to earlier.
Dr. Roizen says that he uses his phone’s built-in settings to ensure that it stops emitting blue light (which can affect your sleep cycle in the evening) and switches to warmer light after 7 p.m. Sound early? He says that you should have yours turned on at least three hours before your bedtime — which might be earlier than many phones’ automatic sunset-to-sunrise settings.
28. Keep a notepad by your bed.
29. Set up a pleasure station.
Sex and masturbation are important parts of many people’s overall well-being — so why do you still keep your lube in a shoebox shoved under the bed? Start making your sexual wellness a priority by moving your sexytime accoutrements to a nice box or basket.
30. Donate your old clothes.
David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Anxiety and an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says keeping old clothes that you don’t like or no longer fit can affect your mental health. “Sometimes people are clinging onto a body image that they don’t have, which can affect self-esteem,” he says. Having only older, poorly fitting clothing can also make people less inclined to leave the house, he adds, which can impact their social life (and by extension, their mental health). Start with your closet and spend 15 minutes sorting through your clothes. If it doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn it in at least a year, it needs to go. (And here’s your guide on how to rehome your garments.)
31. Play nature sounds.
Yokota is a big fan of bringing elements of nature indoors to create a relaxing space. One way to achieve this is playing nature sounds (you can find lots of playlists on Spotify) as you drift off to sleep, as sounds of nature can help calm the nervous system and support relaxation.
32. Or try a white noise machine.
33. Place lavender on your nightstand.
Lavender is an aromatherapy powerhouse that smells so good and, in small studies, has been linked with improved sleep quality — which is why Capuria recommends keeping some in a vase by your bed. It’s a small way to turn your bedroom into a spa-like oasis.
34. Splurge on a silk eye mask.
35. Vacuum under the bed.
In Your Bathroom
36. State your intention for the day.
Yokota turns her bathroom into a therapeutic space by reciting affirming mantras while she’s washing her face. Pick a phrase that has meaning to you (like a quote from your favorite book or a saying that motivates you), and use it as a way to set the tone for the day.
37. Hang eucalyptus in your shower.
38. Style your vanity countertop.
Make your bathroom a relaxing oasis by thinking through the design of your countertop like you would for any other room, suggests Brown. Some thought starters: Add a vase with dried flowers or a tray to hold your skin-care products, and put your soap or lotion into pretty reusable containers.
39. Take a night soak.
Yes, it may seem like a self-care cliché, but baths come with a variety of mind-body benefits. Hot baths can relax muscles and joints, contribute to mental relaxation, and can help you sleep better, especially when paired with de-stressing bath salts and scents.
40. Give yourself a massage.
While you’re in the shower or bath, work on any tight neck and shoulder knots with a DIY rubdown. Take that, WFH neck (see also: number 73).
41. Wash your hands. Seriously.
42. Swap out your towels.
Fresh, clean towels are one of the easiest ways to help your bathroom feel clean and relaxing, says Yokota. Switch them out every three to four uses for hygienic and aesthetic purposes.
43. Empty out your medicine cabinet.
Why are you hanging onto that expired bottle of sunscreen from 2015? For the record, it’s definitely not just you — but you’ll feel so much better if you bag it.
44. Try a cold shower.
45. Replace your toothbrush.
Are you tossing yours every three to four months? You should do so, as old toothbrushes are less effective, increasing your risk of spending more time in the dentist’s chair.
46. Refresh your first-aid kit.
Because expired ointment and fossilized bandages are of no use to anyone in an emergency.
In Your Living Room
47. Vacuum for 20 minutes.
48. Paint a wall.
If you own your place or have an amenable landlord, cover one wall of a room with your favorite hue, Capuria suggests. It’ll brighten your spirits every time you enter.
49. Add pops of color.
Can’t paint? Introduce color in other ways, suggests Yokota, such as through accent pillows, blankets, or other easily swappable items.
50. Listen to music you don’t normally listen to.
You might be tempted to put on the same playlist you always play, but Dr. Rosmarin says you can get an instant refresh by switching on a different beat. “If you’re feeling stressed at home, change your environmental context,” he says. Changing your music is one example of that — it can help shake things up and put your problems or worries in a different context, he says.
51. And dance while you do it.
Because: Who doesn’t love a dance party? And also: another great way to get in some movement.
52. Swap out your pictures.
This is a simple way to update your place and make yourself happier, says Capuria, because “a lot of times people keep family photos that elicit feelings of sadness or pain or [unhappy] past memories.” She recommends surveying your space to make sure that the photos you display truly put a smile on your face.
53. Set up a small craft station.
Hobbies are an important part of supporting emotional and mental health. Whether you started painting watercolors during the pandemic or have always been into crochet, dedicate space for those activities so you’re further incentivized to spend time on them. No big overhaul necessary: This could be as simple as rearranging your shelves to make your supplies more accessible.
54. Get the plant.
You knew we’d put this on this list, right? Adding houseplants to any room is a great method for bringing in vibrancy and life and tending to your mental health.
55. Activate your lungs with yoga breathing.
“When we are indoors, we sit more, get more screen time, exercise less, and use our lungs less efficiently,” explains Ingrid Yang, M.D., an internal medicine doctor and registered yoga teacher. The issue, she says, is that “without use, the muscles that support your breathing become weaker and lung tissue loses elasticity.” So take a few breathing breaks throughout the day to recharge. Dr. Yang is a particular fan of “breath of fire,” a breathing exercise common in Kundalini yoga that involves taking rapid, rhythmic breaths for better mental clarity and reduced stress. Here’s a tutorial on how to do it.
56. Swap screen time for some reading.
When was the last time you did something for yourself that didn’t involve a screen? Take a break and read a new book or a magazine in your favorite chair.
57. Get cozy in your favorite blanket.
Combine this with number 56, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfectly relaxing evening.
58. Walk and talk with your best friend.
Talking to your BFF is the perfect antidote to a bad day. Dr. Roizen suggests walking around the house while you do it to sneak in some extra physical movement.
59. Display fresh flowers.
Treat yourself to that $10 bouquet from the farmer’s market!
60. Create a self-care kit.
Store together some of your most comforting objects — maybe that favorite blanket from number 57, a feelings journal, or a specific aromatherapy blend — for easy access on bad days. Think of it as a hug in a box.
61. Open your windows.
Capuria considers this an easy, instant mood boost (so long as it’s safe, not too hot or cold, and not too pollen-y out to do so).
62. Clean your air filters.
Your AC and furnace filters are on the front lines of keeping the air in your home healthy and safe. So clean and change your filters regularly (here are more specifics on the when and how) to ensure that they’re doing their best work.
63. Learn something new.
Arming yourself with new skills and information can help keep your mind sharp, especially as you age. So download a language learning app, or watch a YouTube tutorial so you can finally start handling your own oil changes.
64. Make your exercise do double-duty.
65. Do something fun for yourself.
Play, even as an adult, is crucial to mental well-being. Try something to spark a little joy in your day-to-day, whether it’s making a pillow fort with your kids or playing a game on Zoom with your long-distance besties.
66. Clean your electronic devices.
Crying can provide much-needed emotional and stress relief, but with some caveats. “Crying should be done on a loveseat, not on an armchair,” Dr. Rosmarin says. What he means: “You really want to be able to share that [moment] with someone else,” says Dr. Rosmarin, in order to have a more supportive emotional experience.
In Your Work-from-Home Area
68. Set up a WFH crash bag.
If you’re one of many, many people continuing to work from home at least some days each week, Yokota suggests keeping extra chargers, a notebook, pens, and other work essentials in an easily accessible bag. It’ll save you stress and time if you need to relocate from your desk to accommodate your partner’s work call or your roommate’s barre class.
69. Clean off your desk.
70. Spring for some lumbar support.
Raise your hand if you’ve been working from a kitchen stool or dining chair for the past year-plus. Dr. Rosmarin says getting a lumbar support for his desk chair was the best $10 he spent during the pandemic.
71. Amp up your natural light.
Natural light exposure, especially in the morning, can help support productivity, healthy sleep patterns, and a better mood. Make the most of what you have by confirming that your furniture doesn’t block your windows and that your shades or curtains are thrown open as much as possible. In a pinch, Brown says placing a mirror opposite a window can also help increase natural light.
72. Team up with a work buddy.
To reduce the social isolation that can come with WFH, Dr. Rosmarin suggests working in tandem with someone, whether it’s a housemate or even via Zoom with your favorite colleague. It helps mimic the feeling of an office or communal work setting where you’re working alongside people and can say hi or chat when desired. “These kinds of behavioral strategies are really critical so we remain socially less isolated,” he says.
73. Do some neck rolls.
Find yourself staring at your laptop for hours at a time? “I find that no matter where I am at — watching TV in the living room, or on the hospital floor — neck rolls are a great way to loosen tight neck muscles and avoid ‘tech neck,’” explains Dr. Yang. “Roll the head gently in small circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise, just a minute or two throughout the day, to ease tight muscles and prevent strain.”
74. Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath, and just sit for a minute to ground yourself and reset.
75. Work in a different location.
Feeling stuck? Take your laptop or project to a new room or spot in the house. A change in scenery, no matter how small, can sometimes be enough to get the juices flowing.
In Your Laundry Room
76. Clean your washing machine.
77. Wash your bath mat.
This should happen every week in order to combat mildew and bacteria buildup. And like fresh towels (number 42), a clean bath mat can help change the mood of the entire room.
78. And wash your pillows.
In Your Yard
79. Plant your favorite herbs.
Growing basil, cilantro, chives, or other herbs is a great way to get into all of the physical and mental benefits of gardening even if you have a super-small space. Bonus: You get to cook with the fruit (er, herbs) of your labor.
80. Set up a bird feeder.
This is another simple way to engage with nature, even if you’re only working with a fire escape. You’ll support your local bird population, and you’ll get a kick out of watching them.
81. Rearrange your patio chairs.
Specifically, to promote the kinds of things you like doing outside, says Capuria. Put them in better view of your bird feeder if you’re really into number 80, or group them closer together if you want to spend more QT outside with loved ones.
82. Eat outside.
Brown loves to do this on days when she needs a lift. Even if it’s just sitting on your front steps with a sandwich, you’ll nab the perks of fresh air.
83. Set out citronella candles.
Because nothing kills the vibe of a backyard hang quite like legs covered in itchy mosquito bites.
84. Do some laps.
Even if it’s just around the house or yard.
85. Invite friends over.
After months of huge societal changes due to the pandemic, “we’re seeing so much social isolation,” says Dr. Rosmarin, and loneliness can take a toll on mental health. So invite a few friends over to hang out in your outside space, if you have one, to reap the benefits of both the outdoors and in-person social connection.
86. Install a hammock.
If you have the room, a hammock’s relaxing and lounging properties can’t be beat. (It’s also a great place for number 56 on a nice day.)
87. Jump, jump around.
This might seem silly, but Dr. Roizen swears by it to help strengthen his hips and spine. “I do 20 jumps in the morning when I go out to the car and 20 jumps at night when I get out of my car,” he says.