When you’re feeling down, the world often seems like a formidable place. Low mood can also isolate you from others, making everyday life a very lonely place and as the winter months continue, more of us begin to feel the side effects of the lack of sunlight and ever dropping temperatures. It’s incredibly important, especially during the cold season, to make sure that your physical environment is comfortable and safe in order to protect your mental health.


While many recognise the steps you can take to improve your mental health through healthcare systems, far fewer recognise the steps that can be taken at home to assist these interventions and make yourself more comfortable.


For the past 3 years, Ikea have run a project to help people achieve their goals while also doing their bit for the community they live in. The Live Lagom project (Lagom meaning “just the right amount” in Swedish), uses their many sustainable products to help participants to make life easier, happier and more sustainable, through free workshops and by kindly gifting all participants with £100 worth of Ikea vouchers. I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in this project and used this opportunity to see for myself how small changes to your living environment can change your mental health status.


Some background about me: I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life but was only recently diagnosed with GAD. I’ve also struggled with depression and low mood and have particularly struggled with mental ill health while at university. I found that my university accommodation was not a happy place. It was cold, dark and most of all I experienced some of my darkest times in that house so all in all I hated being in that house.


Josh Roughley, our project leader, helped me to come up with some ways to use my vouchers to help improve my house to help ease some of the stress associated with my house. I decided to get some rugs, candles a lighting system and a pressure cooker.


I was sceptical at first, of how effective these items would be in improving my mood, however, I could not have been more wrong. One of the main problems with my house is the cold. Heating is expensive and especially in old houses, heating often is very inefficient. The rugs and candles have helped make my bedroom feel cosier, safer and generally more inviting. Waking up in the morning and getting out of bed straight onto a warm, fluffy rug instead of a thin carpet has made it so much easier. The candles also help the room to smell great as well as giving the feeling of warmth.


The lighting system has made a huge difference to my productivity and hence has made me feel better in myself. The remote has a feature that allows you to dim your lights and also change the hue of the bulbs. Now I can use a cool toned, bright light when I’m studying and a warmer, dimmer light when I’m relaxing or just before going to sleep. It’s common for people to find it hard to be productive when they’re feeling down, but a little change of lighting can make a huge difference.


Finally, the pressure cooker has removed so much stress when it comes to food as well as saving food too. In some of the workshops, Ikea have shown us how to use leftovers in the pressure cooker to make delicious meals. As a student, money is always tight so making the most of the food available is a huge win! Many people find that their diet changes based on their mood. And when we’re feeling down, we’re a lot more prone to over/undereating. This can then lead to a negative cycle as poor eating can also make us feel rubbish. The pressure cooker takes a lot of effort out of cooking and means I get lots of nutrients compared to my cooking before.


Starting out on the project, I didn’t have any idea how great an impact it would have on my overall mood. I now want to share what I’ve learnt with others and encourage you to see if your local Ikea is running the Live Lagom project and sign up! And if not, consider making small changes to your home to help your mental health. If like me, you’re on a budget, sites like Gumtree and eBay often have items in great condition but are much cheaper than buying from the shop. Treat yourself this year to a mental health positive environment!


Phoebe, Dr Julian Intern



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