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Six ways to make your home healthier

We’re all spending more time at home these days, so why not make your space a healthier, happier place that promotes physical and mental well-being?

“In general, but especially so in the times we’re living in now, our homes are where we relax and allow the stresses of the external environment to dissipate,” says Caroline B. Bekele, M.D., a Piedmont family medicine physician. “So, maintaining a healthy home environment is one key component in promoting overall health.”

Here are six ways to make your home a healthier place for you and your household.

1. Disinfect high-touch spaces

Dr. Bekele recommends routinely disinfecting doorknobs, light switches, sink water taps and other areas that are commonly touched when entering the home.

“I also recommend disinfecting objects such as phones, purses and bags, as these items are constantly touched throughout the day when out and about,” she adds.

You should also wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water as soon as you get home to prevent the spread of germs.

2. Improve air quality

Air quality can affect your overall health and especially impact those with allergies, asthma and other lung conditions.

“You can improve your home air quality by dusting and vacuuming regularly, updating your air filter routinely, allowing fresh air into the home if there are no concerns of environmental allergies and if weather permits, and, of course, avoiding smoking or the use of other damaging substances inside the home,” says Dr. Bekele.

Some research indicates that houseplants may also improve air quality – not to mention they add a touch of the outdoors to your space.

3. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

“Maintaining good sleep hygiene for the best possible night’s sleep is important to your overall health,” says Dr. Bekele.

To make your bedroom a place that promotes good sleep:

  • Keep your room set to a cool temperature at night.

  • Use blinds or blackout curtains to block outside light.

  • Avoid using electronic devices (smartphone, television, laptop, tablet, etc.) within an hour of bedtime.

  • Avoid strong room fragrances.

  • Invest in a good mattress and supportive pillows if you’re able to do so.

4. Create a healthier kitchen

“It is fair to say that we are not a perfect species and cannot maintain a perfectly healthy diet at all times,” says Dr. Bekele. “However, as we indulge from time to time, it is just as important to eat healthy meals as often as possible to obtain the vital nutrients needed for our bodies to thrive.”

You’ll eat what you can see and have in the house, so stock up on:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Healthy pantry items, like brown rice, quinoa, low-sodium chicken broth, canned beans, canned tuna, almond butter and dried spices.

  • Healthy freezer foods, like frozen lean proteins (fish, chicken, veggie burgers, shrimp), frozen fruits for smoothies or oatmeal, and frozen vegetables to roast or steam.

  • Nutritious refrigerated foods like plain Greek yogurt, eggs and hummus.

Dr. Bekele recommends not keeping junk food or processed food in the house and focusing on healthier options instead. Place cut-up fruits and vegetables, hardboiled eggs, hummus, and other healthy snacks at eye-level in the fridge, so you’ll reach for them first.

5. Declutter to reduce stress

“Stress often occurs when you are overwhelmed, whether emotionally or physically,” she says. “The same concept can be applied to a cluttered home – there is unease, chaos and lack of clarity in the home, which can make you feel more overwhelmed, and thus increase stress levels to some degree.”

You don’t have to declutter your whole house at once; start small to feel an instant sense of relief. Begin by tidying a space that bothers you every time you see it, such as your kitchen counter, junk drawer or drop zone by the front door. Fold and put away laundry, hang up your clothes, and sort and file your mail. Each small step to decluttering can help reduce your stress levels. Then, you can tackle a bigger area when you have more time, like your closet or kitchen cabinets.

6. Improve your work-from-home situation

“Everyone has different habits when it comes to working from home,” says Dr. Bekele. “There are those who are engulfed by their work and others that get very comfortable being at home and may not get much work done.”

Either situation – working too much or falling behind on projects – can create stress. For both scenarios, she recommends the following strategies to have healthier habits and be more productive in both your work and personal life.

During the workday:

  • Establish a regular work schedule – a time where you’ll work without distractions.

  • Create a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a home office or your kitchen table. Ideally, this space should be set up ergonomically to prevent neck, back and shoulder pain.

  • Take a two-minute break every 20 to 30 minutes to stretch, walk around, get a glass of water or use the bathroom.

  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer for 20 seconds at an object that’s 20 feet away.

Outside of working hours:

  • Get regular physical activity to boost your mood and energy level. 

  • Connect with family and friends through phone calls or virtual hangouts.

  • Complete house chores or errands during non-work hours so you can be present with your work.

  • Spend time on your personal growth through reading, meditation or journaling.

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever, but in the meantime, you can take steps to make your home environment a place that supports your mental and physical wellness.

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