Is Your Environment Dragging You Down?
Surroundings Affect Attitude
You might not realize it, but our surroundings have a profound effect on our attitude in hundreds of subtle ways. From colors, lighting and smells to images and sounds, our senses are constantly assaulted by both positive and negative influences. My aim is to help you take a look at your environment from a variety of angles to see if there are ways you can reduce the impact of negativity on your life. This is by far not a new concept; the Chinese have been doing it for hundreds of years, only they call it feng shui, or optimizing positive energy in your personal environment. This article isn't about feng shui per se, but just seeing how the things you encounter on a daily basis can have an effect on your attitude.
What has a more positive influence on your mood?
If eyes are the windows to the soul, then it stands to reason that what we see influences how we feel.
- Color- What is the color of the room you're in right now? Is it bright and happy, dull and boring, or dark and depressing? If you have to spend a lot of time in this room, how does it's color make you feel? Right now I'm in my office, which is in dull shades of beige and gray. I find it to be pretty uninspiring, but not entirely oppressive. I can't change the color scheme, but I can add pops of bright colors to make things more cheerful.
- Light- How is the lighting in your space? Do you get adequate sunshine or do you have to rely on artificial light? If you don't have any natural light, how does it make you feel? My office doesn't have a window and is only lit by dull fluorescent lights. Obviously I can't stick a window in the wall, but I can soften and brighten the harsh overhead glare with a low-wattage desk lamp and make the space feel cozier.
- Cleanliness- Is your space neat and clean or is it dirty and cluttered? How does each status affect how you feel? I know for me personally, when my personal space is dirty or has piles of clutter, it seems like all I can focus on is how much time I need to spend cleaning and organizing and it takes away from my productivity. But on the flip side, when things are tidy and in their proper place, I can give my full attention to the task at hand.
"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence" - The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
What we hear has a huge impact on how we feel. If someone is blaring music we don't like, it's irritating; if they're blaring a song you really like, you might get up and sing along. What are the prevalent sounds in your space right now? Is it peaceful or distracting? My office tends to be pretty noisy because I work next to other people who are often speaking foreign languages and it's sometimes hard to concentrate. Sometimes the sounds of keyboards clicking away or the loud hum of the air conditioner is distracting, so I pop in some ear buds and turn on some soft relaxing music. Sometimes a fan might help cover up background noise and provide a neutral sound that is less irritating.
Background noise isn't the only thing that affects mood; what we listen to can have the same impact. If you're constantly listening to something negatively charged, like political talk shows for example, then chances are your mood and even physiology might be affected negatively. Conversely, listening to something pleasing and positive can put you in a more positive mood.
It has often been said, "the nose knows" and scent can be a powerful link to emotion and memory. In a study recently published in Science magazine, scientists have discovered that humans can distinguish between about 1 trillion different scents. Pleasant smelling odors, like the scent of roses or cookies baking are every bit as potent as bad smelling odors, such as skunks and garbage. All of those scents have an effect on our moods. What does your environment smell like? Is it pleasant, neutral or stinky? How does the scent make you feel? My office doesn't normally have any particular scent, unless someone is brewing coffee or heating up some lunch. But even scent neutrality can affect mood one way or the other as well. I can't do a whole lot to change the smell of my office without affecting the people around me, but I can put out some small sachets of lavender or cedar chips to make a neutral scent lean more towards a positive scent, and in turn, bolster a positive mood.
Time to Clean House
Now that you know what to look for, it might be helpful to walk through every room and make a list of small changes you can make to increase that room's positivity. It could be something big, like changing the paint color, or as small as adding in a few houseplants.
Most of the time we don't think too much about how our mood is affected by the ambience around us because we're so used to seeing something look a certain way. I know that in the house I lived in before my present house, I could never stand to be in the living room. The only source of natural light was from the patio door on the shady side of the house, the paint color was a dull off-white, the wood trim and flooring were a dark stain and the furniture was deep earth tones. Even after repainting the room a sunnier buttercream and adding in a few brighter colors, it still just felt oppressive. I didn't realize how much of a negative effect that room had on me until I moved into my present house. Now I have south-facing windows and lighter colored furniture with pops of cheery bright colors and I feel more peaceful and relaxed.
Of course I'm not advising anyone to move or completely redecorate, but there are plenty of things you can do to improve a room's positive vibe. Even just rearranging the furniture can help! If Eastern philosophy interests you, you can even check out some feng shui guides for some easy ways to increase your home's flow of energy.