With all of the recent news regarding the impact of screen time on our health, it may be counterintuitive to think about using technology to help you relax and improve your overall well-being. But, much like other tools at our disposal, the right use of technology may be able to help you sleep better, concentrate more and even lower stress levels.
Smart home technology refers to devices that are connected to the internet, typically via your home Wi-Fi, and provide remote access via an app or web portal. This allows you to communicate with the devices and even automate their behavior based on your preferences – further personalizing your home. Here are some of the best options for those who are looking to enhance their well-being and bring more relaxation into their lives-the smart way.
Climate control is one of the easiest ways to impact the overall comfort level in your home. No one likes being too hot or too cold, but it's also not exactly relaxing to constantly adjust your thermostat to meet your needs. Smart thermostats are one notch up from the programmable thermostats that have long been recognized to increase efficiency in home heating and cooling. These connected versions allow you to control the temperature remotely – from your office or from the warmth of your bed – and monitor your environment as well.
What's more useful, however, is that a connected thermostat can learn your personal habits after you have shared your schedule with it. For instance, if you work late on Mondays and have a fitness class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, your thermostat will adjust the temperature based on your schedules, rather than relying on a static Monday-Friday routine. You can even use proximity alerts from your phone to tell your thermostat that you're on your way home so it will be the perfect temperature when you arrive.
For even more personalization, your smart thermostat can be paired with other devices that can trigger some action and make your home work for you. Consider pairing a number of connected devices onto one platform (in many cases, your internet service provider can assist with this), so minutes before your garage door opens, your home security system disarms, the door unlocks, your living room lights up in your favorite hue and the thermostat adjusts to your preferred temperature.
Air Quality Sensors
Much like a too-warm room, too much humidity, dust, and other airborne toxins are detrimental to our general feeling of well-being. For those with allergies, asthma, and other chronic conditions, these are not only a distraction, they're also an immediate health hazard. Smart air quality sensors and purifiers help track your home's environment and either send an alert or take action to solve the problem. They might trigger a dehumidifier or air purifier to adjust the air quality. There are even smart room vents that can open and close on their own for heating, cooling, or general ventilation.
Waking up to a panoramic view is a lovely way to start the day, but not if it happens well before you're ready. Smart window shades open and close based on your criteria. Perhaps you want them to open at sunrise and close at sunset. Or maybe you want them to slowly open in the morning to wake you up naturally on your own schedule. The use of natural light in your home can affect mood and even productivity.
Automated window treatments have an added benefit of helping with climate control. They can close when the sun is at its strongest to minimize your cooling needs, or when it's cold outside to help with insulation.
We're all familiar with the phrase "mood lighting," but there is more to it than just dimming a light bulb. Research has shown that the right lighting not only impacts your mood, but it can enhance your concentration and your ability to tackle complex and stressful situations. Programmable light bulbs give users fine-grained control over the temperature and brightness of the light at any given moment. Some are white only, while others can display a whole spectrum of color. Once you find your optimal settings for your various activities and moods, you can set up a series of triggers to immediately adjust the light to the perfect tone for the task at hand.
As a bonus, when you're not home, you can easily program your lights to turn on and off just as if you were there for added security. You'll no longer have to rely on a timer that sticks to a predictable schedule.
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Music and Entertainment
Whether you're indulging in some light reading, catching up on work, or stretching your way through an evening yoga routine, ambient sound can also help you relax and focus. Much like lighting, you can program various musical collections for different activities or times of day. Use your smart audio device to pair these collections with your lighting triggers for the ideal environment no matter what you're doing.
Other Smart Devices
The term "smart homes" have sharply risen in popularity, and it's actually quite easy to turn an ordinary home into a smart home. The key is being able to easily control and manage these devices on one platform. It's true that some connected home devices will provide no value for you, but finding the right ones for your personal needs and lifestyle can free up your time and mental energy for other things. You might add a smart oil diffuser and trigger it to turn on when you leave work or before you head to bed. A smart coffee pot or tea kettle (or one with a connected outlet) can brew your favorite beverage as you are waking up. Smart water bottles can remind you to drink fluids and also keep track of your water intake throughout the day.
Bringing it All Together
Once you have your perfect suite of smart devices, tie it all together with a smart hub, integrated via one mobile app such as Stringify.com or through a service like IFTTT.com. There are even home security systems, such as those provided by your local cable company, that provide a home automation platform that can be bundled into your current services of Internet, TV and/or phone.
Smart hubs allow you to use voice communication or one central mobile app for controls while allowing some of your devices to communicate with each other. Trigger services help you chain together actions to automate smart home features. For example, at 7 a.m., you might want your window shades to slowly open, for soft music to play, for the heat to come on, and for the coffee pot to start brewing. Likewise, you may want to ask your system to "trigger yoga routine," where the lights dim, the music switches to a calming playlist, the thermostat turns down, and your diffuser kicks on with a favorite essential oil.
Adding smart devices and having a smart home are a hot trend in consumer electronics. Learning how and why to use them for your own needs is just one way to lower stress levels, create a personalized environment, and free up some of your time for the things you most enjoy.