Conscious living refers to adopting a lifestyle that is more aware; it’s choosing to be more cognizant of the things that are going on around us as they’re happening. People who choose a more conscious way of living typically find they spend more time enjoying moments as they occur, rather than reacting to the negative events occurring in the media or worrying about the future. Deciding to build and live green is a conscious life choice that can yield impressive dividends in financial savings, enhanced comfort, and improved physical and mental health.
Green architecture is an environmentally conscious approach to home design and construction that aims to reduce the strain put on our environment. The focus is on energy efficiency, minimizing the impact on the environment and creating a home that is more comfortable and functional. Choosing to live in an eco-friendly Net Zero home or Passive House not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also offers a range of psychological benefits that can positively impact your well-being.
High-performance homes exceed the minimum standards outlined in the building code. These eco-friendly homes can be either new construction or energy retrofits. The key principles usually include airtight construction, elimination of thermal bridging, and the installation of superior continuous insulation. Energy Star-certified triple-glazed windows, doors and skylights are installed throughout and a Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation (MVHR) system extracts stale air and excess moisture, recovering the heat from the exhaust air, while delivering fresh air to every room in the house.
Solar power is a renewable energy source that converts sunlight to direct current electricity while producing no greenhouse gas emissions. Inverters convert that direct current electricity into alternating current power that can be used in your home. It’s an infinite source of energy because as long as the sun continues to shine energy will be produced. A Net Zero home creates as much energy as it consumes and can be up to 80% more energy efficient than a home built to standard code.
In this article, we will explore ways that building green can enhance the emotional, social, financial and physical aspects of mental health.
What is green architecture?
Residential green home design and construction embody a philosophy of architecture that advocates sustainable energy sources, energy efficiency, the use of non-toxic and renewable building materials, choosing a building site with consideration for its impact on the environment, and earth-friendly construction practices.
At its core, a green high-performance home must be a high-quality home, to minimize its impact on the earth. This means being resource-efficient and environmentally responsible throughout the building’s life cycle. Whether it’s Passive House or Net Zero certified, or bears another label, the home should be airtight, super-insulated, with minimal thermal bridging, and energy-efficient windows and doors. It should have a high-efficiency HVAC system with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) installed.
Financial wellness is very important to mental health. Feeling in control of your finances, with the resilience to manage financial setbacks, and having the means to achieve your goals in life are important. The stress financial problems can bring can rob you of your joy, energy, sleep and self-esteem.
The sustainable features of green homes, such as outstanding energy efficiency and solar panels deliver long-term financial savings. We live in an era of escalating energy costs. Passive houses and net zero homes offer resilience by significantly reducing energy consumption and mitigating the impact of energy price fluctuations.
Embracing energy-efficient design today is also a way of future-proofing your home investment. Having economic stability contributes to a positive psychological state, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life.
Reduced environmental anxiety and stress
Green, high-performance homes that incorporate biophilic spaces and block or reduce environmental noise, with superior insulation and triple-glazed windows, can help alleviate psychological distress.
The American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica define eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” Symptoms can include obsessive thoughts about the climate, guilt related to your carbon footprint, existential dread or fatalistic thinking, frustration and anger.
Living in a green home allows you to actively address environmental concerns. By significantly reducing your energy consumption, producing your own sustainable power, installing a sustainable landscaping solution, recycling, and minimizing waste, your household can mitigate its carbon footprint.
Taking this proactive approach can alleviate eco-anxiety, and many environmentally conscious homeowners enjoy a sense of control and empowerment in the face of global challenges. They can resolve their feelings of dread, depression, anxiety and panic and become an example and encouragement to other homeowners in the community, friends and family.
Community and social connection
Social interactions and a supportive community are crucial elements for mental well-being. Our relationships bring companionship and support and enrich our lives.
Living in an eco-friendly home is very often associated with a like-minded community of homeowners committed to sustainable living. Whether it’s a new subdivision of net zero homes, or a few neighbours on a street that have decided to complete deep energy retrofits, residents who share similar values regarding sustainability tend to build close-knit neighbourhoods.
It may be neighbours watching out for each other, block parties, or spending a few minutes a day chatting with the people on your street, but a shared cause and sense of community encourages social connections, creating a support system that goes beyond shared environmental goals.
Improved physical health
A growing body of research shows that there is a strong link between mental health and physical health. On the one hand, mental illness has been shown to accelerate biological aging, with increased rates of cardiovascular and age-related diseases. But research also shows that metabolic problems like diabetes, hypertension, lack of exercise and poor nutrition can result in stress-related changes to our brains, manifesting as mood and neurodevelopmental disorders, lack of confidence and self-esteem, unhappiness and even depression.
Green buildings such as passive houses and some net zero homes prioritize indoor air quality through high-efficiency ventilation systems and the use of non-toxic or low-VOC building materials. Rooms bathed in natural light, with fresh filtered air, comfortable, draft-free living spaces, and a reduced risk of mould, damp and cold spots, create an environment that promotes a good night’s sleep and relaxation. They are also the perfect space for home gyms or yoga and pilates studios.
Sealed, super-insulated eco-friendly homes are quiet havens, making them perfect spaces for those who work, study or unwind at home.
Enhanced productivity and creativity
High-performance homes will often incorporate elements of passive solar design, using the sun’s energy for heating, with large skylights and windows to allow sunlight in, absorber surfaces on storage elements, thermal mass to retain heat and overhangs or shading to prevent overheating.
According to Psychology Today, natural light “has a powerful, nearly primordial effect on our well-being. Glare-free natural light boosts our mood, creativity, and also our cognitive performance“.
The presence of natural light, greenery, and well-designed spaces has been linked to increased productivity and creativity. Fresh, filtered air and a consistent, comfortable temperature in passive houses and net zero homes can also influence cognitive function and creativity. For students and adults who work from home a green home can provide a supportive and inspiring living space.
Inspiration to be more mindful of other areas of your life
Caring about the planet and making responsible environmental choices requires you to be more mindful of your actions, which can transcend into the way you reflect on personal life choices as well. Martha Beck said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
Conscious living encourages mindful consumption and a minimalist lifestyle. Choosing quality over quantity and being mindful of the environmental impact of purchases can lead to a more intentional and satisfying life. Shifting towards minimalism is not only good for our planet but can also reduce stress and your appreciation of what truly matters in life.
Doing good makes you feel good
Many people today are feeling anxiety, guilt, anger or sadness over the human impact on our earth. Connecting with the environment, living sustainably, and taking an active part in the solution can help us feel a sense of control and agency amid a situation that can feel unmanageable, and at times, downright scary.
Being a part of the positive shift towards living sustainably, and an inspiration to other homeowners, can give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of life and your goals for the future.
Living in a green, eco-friendly home goes beyond the physical and environmental benefits; it can provide profound psychological advantages. From enhancing your connection with nature through large windows and skylights to instilling a sense of purpose and contribution, the decision to be part of the solution positively influences mental well-being.