As parents, we’d do almost anything to perk up our oh-so-moody teenagers. The battle against adolescent hormones feels freaking impossible, but science shows us there are ways to boost mental health. From warm colors to purifying plants, you can create inspiring home spaces for your teen.

We reviewed scientific studies and talked with environmental psychologist Sally Augustin to bring you design ideas to improve your teen’s mental health. And, as a bonus, these strategies will help the rest of your family feel great, too.

Lighten Up!

Give your teen an emotional lift right away by making simple adjustments to your home’s lighting. “We’re more comfortable, relaxed, creative, and we get along better with other people when the light in a room is warm,” says Augustin.

Cooler light is better for concentration, but warm light is better for mood, so Augustin suggests fine-tuning the lightbulbs in your house as needed. Create warm light in bedrooms and lounge areas by looking for traditional bulbs labeled “soft white.” For your teen’s desk lamp, you could choose a cooler lightbulb to be used only when they are doing homework.

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Of course, the very best lighting doesn’t require a trip to Home Depot. Countless studies have shown that exposure to natural sunlight improves mental health. To fill your house with bright sunshine, ditch heavy drapes and use sheer curtains or translucent blinds instead. Even better, if you have no neighbors, lose the curtains altogether as long as the sun doesn’t create irritating glares.

Tune Into Nature

Connecting with nature lowers stress and improves mood. The only problem is that this requires your teen to put down their smartphone and go outside.

If that’s not happening, try integrating natural elements into your home. Fill the house with plants, real or fake (no green thumb required!). Tell Alexa to play forest sounds or burbling brooks. Spritz relaxing lavender scents throughout the house.

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If you really want to invest in a new look, take on big reno projects using wood and stone. Yes, this is your excuse to install hardwood floors or splurge on stone bathroom tile. Just be sure to keep the authentic look of your earthy materials by showing the wood grain or the stone texture. You need this realistic style to get the feel-good benefits of natural design.

Declutter, Destress

Unless you missed out on the Marie Kondo movement, you know that tidying up sparks joy. Getting rid of unnecessary clothing, books, toys, and papers is the fastest and easiest way to clear up clutter. Beyond that, Augustin suggests investing in storage bins, closet shelves, or other organizers.

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Whatever you choose for a storage system, make sure that it has a solid door or lid. “It doesn’t do you much good to pack up stuff and put it in a cabinet with a transparent glass door,” Augustin jokes. “The stuff is still with you in that case; it’s just bothering you in a different way.”

Soft, Smooth, and Soothing

Aim for smooth curves and soft textures, choosing storage, furniture, and other decor. Curved shapes and soft fabrics make us feel more relaxed, whereas sharp edges and hard surfaces are more likely to activate feelings of fear or danger in our brains.

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You can integrate curves into your home or your teen’s bedroom by choosing chairs with curved armrests, round tables instead of square, and circular mirrors or picture frames. To get soft textures into your house, look for fuzzy blankets, plush pillows, and thick shag rugs.

Color Codes

If you watch HGTV, you know charcoal and onyx are super-trendy paint colors. But before you start tarring the walls, you might want to consider a lighter color. Heavily saturated colors like black, red, and orange may overstimulate and even unsettle your teen. Instead, aim for less intense colors like sage green or smokey blue to encourage relaxation.

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If calm blues and greens don’t appeal to your teen, Augustin suggests drawing inspiration from your teen’s favorite places. For example, if your teen loves visiting her cousin’s house where she sleeps in a blue room, paint her bedroom the same color.

“If your teen truly has a great association, don’t ignore it,” Augustin says. “Part of this is letting the kids do what seems best to them. Let them flex their ownership muscles.”

Star of the Show

Keeping your original goals in mind can be challenging once you start feeling like the queen of Pottery Barn. But let’s remember the real star of the show: your teen! Involve them in the process and work with their choices.

Be prepared. Your teen might throw curveballs like choosing black for their wall color. Work with it. Grab some black tapestries from Amazon and pin them to the wall as a compromise. This way, you can easily pull down the black cloth if it’s not working.

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Find ways to incorporate their hobbies and interests. You can add a reading nook, set up a music corner, or make a mini art studio. If your goal is to boost their mood, the design elements will help, but weaving in their passions will really make the space their own.

Augustin says it’s important to think beyond the visuals. “We’ve got to think about what it smells like, sounds like, feels like, and include the elements they find most calming and comforting. It’s tough to be a teenager. When they finally get to their own refuge, they need to destress and refresh.”

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