Everyday Family Wellness: Living Rooms

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The past twenty years has yielded enormous progress in the area of clinical psychiatric research.  The result is that therapists (and self-help gurus) have dozens of sophisticated treatment modalities to choose from for treating virtually any emotional or behavioral issue.

This series of blogs, however, is designed to serve as a reminder of some basic building blocks for emotional and behavioral health.   These are not treatment modalities with fancy names or reams of clinical research.  These are simple lifestyle choices that can help you and your family feel and function better.

Today’s Everyday Wellness Tip: Liveable Living Room

Families that spend quality time together tend to have at least one thing in common—a good place to hang out. If you’ve ever tried to have a relaxed conversation in an uncomfortable physical setting, you know that it’s almost impossible.  Setting up an inviting common space in your home that encourages a combination of quiet activity and conversation can help foster communication and connection.

Sleep
The first step for making the living room a place your family wants to hang out is to make your bedrooms harder to hide in.  Removing computers and televisions from bedrooms not only improves sleep patterns, it also encourages your teenagers to come out of hiding.  Keeping computers and televisions in common areas is one way to monitor use and encourage community time.

Flow
In a National Geographic study called the “Blue Zones” project, researchers attempted to identify the key features of thriving cultures (those with the highest measured quality of life and longevity). Home designs that optimize what researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls “flow” was identified as a key factor in fostering family wellness. Flow is experienced in activities that we find engaging and that we’re good at.  Consider designing your living room such that it will accommodate activities that every family member enjoys and is good at.  This approach

Danish Style
Danes are famous for designing comfortable, wide-open living rooms in which several activities can take place at once.  Their living rooms are designed to encourage a combination of social interaction and quiet individual activity. Typically, these rooms include comfortable seating areas oriented toward conversation; a table with chairs for playing cards, snacking, or working on a puzzle; space and acoustical features for playing an instrument; reading chairs and lighting, etcetera.  The idea is to create a place where people want to be by fostering a natural flow of interaction and quiet fellowship.

Pillow Rooms
In Tajik homes, the home is designed in a circular pattern around a giant open air pillow room.  This room is used for dining, entertaining, and hanging out.  These homes are design such that all rooms flow into the center community space so that everyone has to regularly pass through it.  But the real genius is that it’s filled with pillows!  We can learn from the Tajik culture the importance of physical comfort for creating social comfort.