6 Ways Good Design Can Make You Feel Happier

August 12, 2014

organized art supplies on a desk

All our lives we hear that inner beauty is paramount; what’s inside matters much more than what houses it. Our mothers weren’t all wrong, of course: It’s certainly worth getting to know someone or flipping through a book before passing judgment.

Sometimes, though, we put too much emphasis on what’s “inside” — inside our bank accounts, inside our cupboards, inside our filing cabinet — and while it’s great to prioritize the essentials, there’s no reason to do so at the cost of beauty or tranquility.

In fact, adopting a more design-minded attitude can even help you stay calm, focused and happy. Here are six reasons to keep an eye on outer beauty in your daily life.

1. Sight Is Our Most Potent Sense

Imagine the last time you experienced something that filled you with awe, amazement, joy or wonder. Now think about which sense brought you those feelings. It’s possible that the responsible party was a well-placed scent or lilting strain of music, but more often than not the stimulation is visual. We are a seeing animal, and are affected by our surroundings even if we don’t realize it. That’s why hospitals paint their rooms in soothing colors and Google performed endless tests to choose just the right shade of blue for its links. Don’t discount the power of sight in your everyday life.

2. Well-Designed Spaces Bring Us Peace

It’s an irony of modern life that the rooms in which we spend the most time and from which we expect the most tranquility are often the messiest, most harried spaces. Our offices, our kitchens, our bedrooms … these are the household go-tos, and as such tend to accumulate Zen-shattering clutter. Fortunately, you can learn to meld design and functionality in order to increase productivity. Leslie Garrett, for example, learned to streamline her office by clearing surfaces, installing plants and art, and making use of some “light” feng shui.

3. Humans Appreciate Beauty, Even in Small Doses

Helen’s face didn’t launch a thousand ships because it was ho-hum. We humans love beauty, and we always have. We go out of our way to visit lovely places, to give ourselves opportunities to ooh and aah over the gorgeous and the inspirational. The good news? You don’t need to visit a museum or a tea garden to get a quick hit of beauty. Hang a new painting, arrange a grouping of color-coordinated candles or cover a plain floor with a decorative rug. Experiment with smaller, more frequent bouts of redecorating to keep your environment fresh and eye-pleasing.

4. Pretty Tools Are a Pleasure to Use

The word “tool” calls to mind functionality, sure, but tools can also be beautiful. Gorgeous, well-designed knives make chopping healthy snacks a joy, while artful journals simply beg to be filled with your inmost thoughts. If you’re looking for ways to up your chances of sticking to a healthy habit — exercising or cleaning, cooking or writing — motivate yourself with a tool that will bring you joy as you use it.

Beauty Secrets: DIY Brow Shaping - Peaceful Dumpling

Who knew tweezers could be so adorable? There’s no object so small that it can’t be a pleasure to hold.

5. Color Can Affect Your Mood

Alright, so color psychology might not be the hardest science out there, but it has enough adherents that you might want to take a second look. According to Freshome, for instance, red stimulates conversation and helps to forge relationships, while green lends a calming pulse of health to a room. Lavender encourages gentle de-stressing, while blue helps you put your nose to the grindstone. Yellow, a classic kitchen color, evokes feelings of vitality and happiness in small spaces, but anger in large ones. Do some research to find the perfect colors for your home, and give your eyes a warm welcome when you come home.

6. Good Design Gives You Ownership Over Your Space and Your Life

Piles of dirty laundry, disorganized and bursting file folders, cluttered kitchen draws and dust-collecting bookshelves are not a recipe for happiness. Rather, they lend to overwhelm and make you feel as though you lack control of your surroundings. Well-designed spaces, on the other hand, are easy to use and help you to move through life without frustration or anxiety. Choose organizational structures you can easily stick to, and then do so. Put your keys in the same place every time, arrange drawers and cupboards so you always know where everything is, and institute small rituals, like keeping a jar of fresh flowers in the bathroom.

6 Ways to Feel Happier with Good Design

A well-appointed desk makes you feel in control of your work.

No one can blame you for feeling like you don’t have time for good design. When you’ve got to get dinner on the table and put the kids to bed, finish answering work emails and hopefully find time to read a novel for 20 minutes before sacking out, it can all feel like too much. Perhaps counterintuitively, though, spending time streamlining and adding small touches of beauty to your space can make a huge difference in the amount of anxiety, helplessness and unhappiness you feel. Start small, then work your way up, but never discount the importance of design.

 Related: 6 Ways to Add Whimsy to Your Day

Feng Shui for Happiness and Health 

10 Ways to Apply Yoga in Your Daily Life

Also by Sarah Beth: 9 Tips for a Workout At Your Desk


Photo credit: Sarah Moore at Positively Dreaming; Mary Hood

Sarah Beth Moore is a freelance writer and web designer living in the Pacific Northwest. She has a master's degree in education as well as journalism. In her free time she enjoys chasing her dogs and kids around, burning things in the kitchen and reading old-school science fiction and fantasy.


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