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How Rearranging Your Home Affects Your Brain & Mood

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If you're anything like me, you're obsessed with all things home renovation. Between HGTV, The DIY Network, and any number of blogs, Pinterest boards, and YouTube channels, there's plenty of drool-worthy material available. When it comes to my own space, I'm always looking at ways to move things around to better suit my needs and match my aesthetic. Redecorating my home has become a bit of a hobby for me, and it's satisfying in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It wasn't until I found out what rearranging your home does to your brain that I understood why it is that I find it so soothing.

Human brains have evolved to quickly evaluate an environment and choose the safest or least distracting arena for specific situations, according to research published in the journal Neuron. That means that we are keenly able to seek out a space that will work the best for any task — soothing bedrooms for sleep, organized spaces for work, and lively, energetic places to entertain. According to this research, when we're shifting and remaking our environment, it might not be merely because of some whim of our personality, but it may also be because we subconsciously understand that the room is not benefitting us the way it could be.

I am constantly redecorating my home. My most recent renovation was in my bedroom. For years, I'd been staring at builder's beige walls against honeyed oak flooring and dark walnut furniture. I was over it. It simply did not align with my aesthetic. There was nothing glam, nothing '70s, and nothing cool about it. So I got on Pinterest, pinned a few thousand ideas, and made my way to the land of my happy place, Home Depot. A few hundred dollars and a few gallons of paint and supplies later, and my room was renewed. While it's not 100 percent done — I need the perfect mirrored or light wooden end tables, a new office chair, and better pillows — it feels better, and I feel better when I'm in it.

Courtesy of Cat Bowen

I spoke to personality and social psychologist Dr. Sam D. Gosling from the University of Texas at Austin, co-author of a study on the effect of environments on our minds, and he tells Romper that there are many reasons why we feel compelled to change our spaces the way we do, and how that impacts our mental health or perception of ourselves. "We change our environments for the same reason we change our music, or what we're wearing," he says. It's because they have an effect on our mood, our feelings. He gives the example that while we may listen to restful music while we relax or work, we often choose upbeat, exciting music for running or working out.

Dr. Gosling says that it also makes a difference which room is being redecorated. He says that redecorating a personal space is different from redecorating a public space in your home, because what you wish to project is going to be different. For instance, my living room has a framed picture of "The Dude," and a framed protest poster from the first Women's March above my eight-foot long black velvet sofa. I am choosing to believe that it's projecting me as a free spirit, and not just someone who likes to yell and drink White Russians in a bathrobe. But I suspect the latter is closer to the truth.

Gosling notes that in a private space, you're seeking to make yourself more comfortable, using "regulators for your thoughts and feelings" that align with how you want to exist and feel in that space. If I'm considering my bedroom, it's moody and filled with pillows, which represents me perfectly. Changing it from the dull beige and sad linens did impact how I view myself in the space and how I interact with it, just as Gosling said it would.

Courtesy of Cat Bowen, who needs new curtains

He notes that most of what we place in public spaces is deliberate, so when we change it, we're doing so with the conscious knowledge that how we change it might alter others' impressions of us. Maybe we want to be perceived differently, and so we're keen on manipulating the space to assist us on that journey. Each person will eventually achieve varying levels of success depending upon commitment and personality. Because what redecorating your house does to your brain is not an immediate change. It isn't necessarily going to manifest how you want it to. You might Kondo your whole space one month, only to have it a disorganized mess again the next. Everything might be pitch perfect when people come over, but there is inevitable "behavioral residue" that exists. The way you live seeps into your things, no matter how many times you change its surroundings.