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Can the spaces we create really have an impact on us?

Image source Anima Lunar Collective AI rendering Midjourney

This is something I have been fascinated by, intuitively I feel it is true. Sure, you know it the minute you enter a space and feel the impact of the settings on your senses. Is this ‘felt sense’ our minds making association to past experiences and stories of what we think we feel? How much are our spaces affecting us on a more sublet level and can this impact our physical and mental wellbeing?

It is the case that we associate, when we are in a space, we related it to what we have seen or felt before and I believe that is why people are blown away by such flashy spaces that they associate with celebrities in TV shows, this is classed as cognitive appraisals when societal impact contributes to how we perceive a space. Our perception of a space is not solely based on its physical attributes, but also on our cognitive and emotional experiences associated with that space. Here are some examples:

· Emotional Memory: Our brains have a remarkable ability to associate emotions with specific experiences, and these emotional memories can influence our perception of a space. For example, if we have positive memories associated with a certain type of interior space, such as a cosy living room in our childhood home, we may feel a sense of comfort and nostalgia when we encounter similar spaces in the future.

· Environmental Cues: Interior spaces can contain cues that trigger associations with past experiences or stories. For example, the smell of freshly baked cookies in a kitchen might remind us of our grandmother's house, evoking feelings of warmth and familiarity. Similarly, seeing a specific colour or pattern may remind us of a place or experience that we have associated with certain emotions.

· Cognitive Appraisals: Our minds constantly make appraisals of our environment, assessing whether it meets our needs and expectations. If an interior space aligns with our personal preferences, values, or cultural norms, it can elicit positive emotions and a sense of comfort. On the other hand, if a space is incongruent with our expectations or preferences, it can evoke negative emotions or discomfort.

· Personal Stories and Meanings: Our individual experiences and memories shape our perception of interior spaces. For example, a room that holds personal significance, such as a home office where we accomplished a major project or a bedroom where we experienced a life-changing event, can evoke strong emotions, and influence our "felt sense" in that space.

I would like to share the work of a fascinating lady called Doctor Esther Sternberg. Dr Esther has done a huge amount of research into understanding the effect our surrounding can have on our health and healing, so much so that she has written a book on it called Healing Spaces. Dr Esther has investigated healing spaces from a medical perspective and strongly believes we should continue to exploring the external elements that can contribute to healing in addition to medicine. I believe taking this holistic approach is fundament for any of us in our sense making.

You can find TEDx talks by Dr Esther and hear her explaining the science behind how nature and beautiful views have a physical impact on our brains releasing endorphins when we witness these scenes. Dr Esther references the Roger Ulrich 1984 study on patients who had views from their hospital bed of trees were reported to have shorter hospitalisation times, take less medication, and have fewer negative nurse notes. Dr Esther also highlights how these connections goes beyond our visual sense to our other senses such as smell and touch. These senses tend to have memories associated with them that can influence a person. She highlights how we can feel very comfortable in a space, and we can also feel very uncomfortable in a space and the main contributors are generally overcrowded spaces, lighting and noise as well as unpleasant smells and poor layout.

There is a growing body of research in the field of environmental psychology that suggests that the design of built interiors can have a significant impact on our psychological well-being. Here are a few examples of the evidence that has been found:

· Lighting: Studies have shown that exposure to natural light can have a positive impact on our mood and productivity, while poor lighting can cause eye strain, headaches, and other health issues. Additionally, the colour temperature of artificial lighting can affect our circadian rhythms, which can impact our sleep patterns and overall health.

· Colour: Colour psychology is a field of study that examines the psychological effects of colour on human behaviour. Certain colours have been shown to elicit specific emotions or behaviours. For example, warm colours like red and orange are associated with energy and excitement, while cool colours like blue and green are associated with calmness and relaxation.

· Layout: The way a space is laid out can affect our sense of privacy, comfort, and control. Studies have found that people feel more comfortable and relaxed in spaces that offer some degree of control over the environment, such as adjustable lighting or temperature controls.

· Acoustics: Noise levels can have a significant impact on our well-being, as excessive noise can lead to stress, anxiety, and reduced productivity. The design of a space can impact the level of noise, through the use of sound-absorbing materials, spatial layout, and other design features.

· Materials: The use of certain materials in a space can impact our mood and health. For example, natural materials like wood and stone have been shown to have a calming effect on people, while synthetic materials like plastics and vinyl can be associated with negative health effects.

The evidence suggests that the design of built interiors can have a significant impact on our psychological well-being, and that careful attention to design choices can help create spaces that promote health and happiness.

Most of these are simple qualities we can adjust in our own homes, ensure we get as much natural light into our spaces during the day, opening out and drawing back curtains or blind to let a view or any visible nature. If the lighting in your house is very bright and cold, this can generally be remedied by purchasing a light bulb with warmer kelvins, Willie Duggan lighting specialist have a really easy to follow set up in their show room that clearly illustrates the different lighting temperatures.

You can bring nature into your home thought planting, little or large indoor plants can really lift a space and help the energy flow in the space. A fundamental part of Fung Shui is having planting in the home to help with energy flow.

Image source Anima Lunar Collective AI rendering Midjourney

Finally, if you have cold or dull looking space in your home, get creative and when I say get creative, I mean it in the broad sense; We are all creative beings maybe you feel you can’t paint but that doesn’t define creativity. Hang some pictures, photos, or fabric. Put some plants, books, or a lamp in the space, even shuffle the furniture around and see if you can lift the space by the creativity you intentionally bring into the space. There is a fantastic book by Julia Cameron Called The Artist way, it is a workbook for inspiring creativity. This is a beautiful gift and a really great way to mental uplift yourself. Being creative is a fantastic way for us to release our built-up energy.

Embrace your creativity. Focus on the elements that maybe impacting your wellbeing in your home and make any adjustments to eliminate unnecessary stress that you are feeling from your home or work place. Take action to realign and tune into what you want out of the space and don’t allow yourself to be subtly impacted in a negative way.



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