The physical space around us has a huge impact on our emotions and well-being. As one architectural design expert put it, the layout of a room influences “perceptions of psychological safety, intimacy, willingness to self-disclose, to build therapeutic rapport, and to feel a sense of agency in the space.”

The ability to tailor a space then, moulds how a person feels in it. For example, the color green close to entryways calms people because it softens the transition from outdoor to indoor. Likewise, a mirror on a wall can create the illusion of greater depth in a confined space and thus promote free-thinking and creativity.

We are always interacting with the aesthetics of our environment – whether we consciously realize it or not. And in the modern age of technology, apps have been quick to harness the therapeutic qualities of interior design. In fact, these apps are now expanding beyond home renovations and are helping users’ make positive changes in their lives. Here’s how:

Practice virtual Feng Shui

On average, humans spend 90% of their time indoors – a figure that stresses the importance of interior design.

Feng Shui is an ancient practice, originating in China nearly 6,000 years ago. ‘Feng’ means ‘wind’, while ‘shui’ means water – two essential components in human life. At its core, Feng Shui connects where objects are placed with the flow of energy in an area. Positive design changes consequently promote positive wellbeing.

In interior design, Feng Shui plays a significant role. The five elements (wood, earth, metal, water, and fire) are represented in furniture and sculptures. Meanwhile, the Bagua Map serves as a type of floor plan to analyze energy.

By building on the tradition of Feng Shui, design apps encourage users to organize their lives via organizing their house – all at the touch of a screen. By providing a platform for users to virtually apply Feng Shui, they may even reap the health benefits such as improved happiness and increased energy levels. Similarly, decluttering – a key concept in Feng Shui – is often said to be good for mental health.

Gamification for meaningful connections

As an industry, gamification is expected to be worth $40 billion by 2024, making it an essential feature for any modern app.

Put simply, gamification uses game mechanisms, strategies, and visual elements to establish a ‘play-and-reward’ structure. These game elements then motivate users to continue interacting with app features to obtain a better score, unlock levels or gain a sense of accomplishment.

Gamification can trigger real, powerful emotions in users across a variety of industries,  and in apps, has been proven to increase user engagement.

By introducing gamification into UX, design apps have found a way to meaningfully connect with users. Gamification transforms interior design into a creative outlet, where users can visualize ideas and experiment redecorating spaces. Unlike in real life, gamification gives users praise as they progress, allowing them to build confidence in their artistic skills, as well as place a value (no matter how arbitrary) to their project.

Mindfulness & art therapy

Art therapy is a therapeutic technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can help healing processes. Interior design is a prime example of art therapy, as people can explore self-expression by renovating a confined space. In doing so, people discover new coping skills and personal insights.

This kind of art therapy is made even more accessible in app form. From the comfort of anywhere, at any time, app users can relax with art therapy right at their fingertips. They don’t have to worry about costs, potential mistakes or the pressure of delivering a finished product within a short timeframe. Instead, the experience can be purely recreational.

Likewise, mindfulness has strong ties with interior design. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that concentrates on ‘being in the moment’. It has been scientifically linked to improving mental health, stress levels, and even alleviating pain. Not to mention, mindfulness has recently been shown to induce self-compassion, and thoughts of  a meaning in life, and reduce the avoidance of distracting thoughts.

Unlike other apps, where gamification utilizes pressure tactics to force users to continue playing, design apps apply gamification to motivate users. Mindfulness – as with other aspects of health – needs nurturing and commitment. By providing a reward system, users are more likely to continue developing their space in the app, and thereby learn a state of mindfulness best suited to them.

Build a sense of community

Beyond personal gain, gamification empowers users to earn certain statuses and be recognized within the app community. In design apps, gamification improves social interaction through a culture of feedback and praise. The cycle of building, sharing, and reviewing, can build a sense of purpose for users, as well as an especially healthy community.

The shared interest in interior design – at whatever level – provides users with a support network during their app projects. In turn, users may feel more confident in their artistic abilities, and can apply this assurance to other areas of their life.

Transferable life skills

Interior design apps teach and nurture skills in users that are easily transferable to everyday life. Whether establishing a positive energy in their home, connecting with other users, or devoting time to be in the moment, design apps can have a profound effect on the people using them.

By serving as an artistic outlet, users may discover new ways to express themselves, and in turn, enjoy using the app for personal reasons, not only for a planned interior design project. It is this shift toward the technology as a form of self care that means a design app could make both your home and life better.

So the next time you’re feeling stressed, stunted or secluded, a design app may just be the solution.