Wellness Architecture: The Health Discipline that You’ve Never Heard Of


In a survey of students from 500 public and private colleges, a whopping 73.1% of counselors reported an increase in mental health cases on their campuses. The cases also are increasing in severity– many students are coming in for increasingly severe cases of anxiety, depression, and relationship troubles. Some of the main triggers for student anxiety include a historically more massive course load, increased competition for a diminished number of jobs, and uncertainties about the future.

This stress, combined with the increased need and decreased funding for counseling services, are forcing colleges and universities to revamp the architecture and structure of their campuses and resources.

Clubs and Classes on Campus: The Viral New Yale Happiness Class

Many universities are beginning to offer new clubs, classes, and resources to help combat this alarming trend– like “Psychology and the Good Life,” a Yale course that aims to provide practical steps that students can take to find and fuel their happiness. And if enrollment numbers are any indication, this class is working– nearly a quarter of the entire undergraduate student population enrolled in the course, which is now offered online, for free.

The Bigger Picture: Wellness Architecture as a Whole

But classes and extracurricular clubs are just one small sliver of the bigger picture of wellness architecture, a brand-new discipline aimed to reduce stress and increase holistic wellness, something that everyone, from students to those that work traditional jobs can appreciate. Significant concepts of wellness architecture include deliberately tech-free spaces or zones, community-building activities, increased mental health services, and natural elements.

For some campuses, like Stanford, this can mean art museums with movable furniture, “nap pods,” or interfaith prayer rooms. William and Mary’s new McLeod Tyler Wellness Center takes up a sprawling new building in the center of campus, and Louisiana State University has designed the first symposium on the topic.

But what can outside mental health workers, students, and adults alike take away from this? Several of the guiding principles of wellness architecture, like the conscious removal or reduction in the use of technology, increased emphasis on community and nature, and more personalized mental health services, should come to the forefront of an increasingly stressed-out and “plugged-in” society.

Wellness Architecture in Your Own Life

The good news is that you don’t have to attend one of a select few colleges to get involved with wellness architecture at work. Unfortunately, though, it can be a bit harder to get off the ground on your own. If you want to take a few baby steps in the path of wellness architecture, you can try to remove technology from one room or one corner of your life, start a windowsill garden, join a new club or class, or take a look at the mental health resources that you are using in your own life. Removing technology is the best step to get started with– limiting your time on Twitter or not checking your email after 8 pm, for example, can leave you with more time to head outside, tend to a garden, or join that cake-decorating class that you’ve always wanted to take.

Do you have questions about wellness architecture, or want to get started on it in your own life? Leave us a comment detailing your thoughts or questions!

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