Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Your living space affects your headspace

Rose Park

College dorms are known to provide only the bare necessities for students: beds, desks, a couple of drawers and, maybe, a small window. Off-campus bedrooms — even those in apartments marketed as more luxurious — typically offer the same dreary amenities. Since depressing living spaces are the norm, students must make the most of what they have and implement changes to support their well-being at home.

Some students argue that arranging a place they might only live in for a couple of semesters is not worth the effort. However, research has shown that one’s environment strongly impacts mental health. Creating a space that provides sanctuary and sparks happiness is a proactive step to protect students’ mental health. 

For me, this strategy meant changing the hospital-hued light bulbs in my windowless bedroom to a soft yellow, laying a colorful rug over the cold faux wood floors and diffusing essential oils. Because everyone has different needs, students should consider what makes a space feel like home to them as they set up their rooms. Ultimately, the goal is to create an area that makes someone feel safe and at ease.  

Since college students are especially vulnerable to depression, taking these preventative measures to strengthen mental resilience is imperative. Fall and winter months place even more students at risk as days grow shorter, colder and darker. With the arrival of the “-ember” months, now is the perfect time to create an environment that will feel cozy during the difficult season ahead. 

“If (your space) is not a place of comfort, you’re going to lack a feeling of security and a sense of home,” public relations junior Zena Nazar said.  

Although cultivating comfort will look different for everyone, some first steps can include adjusting lighting, adding plants or greenery and prioritizing tidiness.

“I always want to have everything nicely set up so it’s aesthetically pleasing,” Nazar said. “I hate walking into my room when it’s a mess. If I’m having a bad day, going into a room that’s messy and disoriented makes it even worse.”

Clutter corresponds with difficulty focusing and heightened stress levels, so keeping your space clean and functional may reduce anxiety. 

Another important consideration when setting up your space is designing it around getting optimal rest. Studies show that rest is necessary to heal the mind and body, and low-quality sleep negatively impacts mood and stress levels.  

“Sleep is really at the core of mental and physical well-being,” said Brittany O’Malley, the associate director for prevention and wellness at the Longhorn Wellness Center (LWC). 

LWC offers multiple resources for students to optimize their space to support quality rest. Some suggestions include picking out bedding that supports your ideal temperature, using a white noise machine and installing curtains to adjust light. 

“We hope, through some of our sleep programming, we help students see the connection that sleep has to success and to understand that it can be counterintuitive to sacrifice rest,” O’Malley said.

Home is where we rest, live and heal. While it may seem insignificant, designing a space that supports our holistic needs is in the best interest of our wellness and academic success. 

As students, there’s a lot in life that we can’t control. Where we live is often a decision based on affordability and accessibility rather than preference. However, we can still effectively use what we have to support our goals and overall well-being. Mental health is a holistic journey, and you can shape your home-away-from-home into a refuge rather than another obstacle along the way.  

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Boerne, Texas.

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