- Sam Tetzlaff, MS, LPC-IT
Tuning into Your Senses: How to Boost Your Mood in Any Environment
This year for Halloween, I decided to dress up as Joanna Gaines. For those of you that don’t know who that is (sorry), she’s an entrepreneur and interior designer, best known from the home renovation show Fixer Upper. I've long said that if I couldn't be a counselor, I'd be an interior designer. I've easily been sure when an arrangement of furniture "looked right" or when specific colors "felt better," and I've enjoyed shifting things to see the effect.
And apparently a lot of others like to see these environmental transformations, too—I mean, have you turned on HGTV lately? There are so many home renovation shows, not to mention shows strictly on cleaning up—my personal favorite: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
But why do we get so much joy out of these transformations? Why does watching Marie fold washcloths into a perfectly sized drawer provide so much peace and satisfaction? Put simply: because aesthetics affect our well-being.
The link between interior design and our emotions has gained a lot of attention in the last decade. Some findings in this area of psychology are that certain colors affect our mood, clutter actually creates stress, and even the textures and shapes of the furniture in a space can produce certain emotional responses. Some of this knowledge is nothing new and has been around for centuries, such as with Feng Shui, teaching us that the furniture should be arranged in a way that does not create “dead space,” as it creates negative energy.
Now, home renovation is awesome, but what about when you can’t slap on a fresh coat of paint and call it good? What are some ways you can shift your mood in whatever environment you’re working with?
Well, I'm no Joanna Gaines or Marie Kondo, but I do know this:
Get some warm lighting or natural light.
Open those curtains, gurl. Since day one, closed blinds on a sunny day have majorly killed my mood. Even if you can't get outside, sit by a window. Ask if those sterile, cold, blue lights in your office could be changed to a softer color/can you bring in a warm lamp yourself? Especially with the upcoming shorter days, consider investing in a lamp specifically for light therapy. More light = more warmth = more optimism & productivity! (Read this if you don't believe me.)
Pay attention to smell.
First of all… cleanliness. If things aren’t clean, they probably won’t smell great. But what else could boost your mood, even if you’re in a coffee shop where you can’t necessarily Clorox everything in sight? Try an essential oil roller, some hand lotion you love, or some mints/gum. If it’s your space, burn a candle or incense, or open the windows and let that fresh air in. Keep in mind that which scent you choose, will also influence how you'll end up feeling. For example, minty things typically cause us to feel more alert and can improve digestion.
Manage the sound.
Your environment being too noisy or super quiet can be unsettling. Try a white noise machine if it's too loud, earbuds if it's too quiet. Lately when I feel scattered or overwhelmed, I’ve been on a Tibetan singing bowls kick—listen for free on YouTube! Again, what you pick to listen to matters (i.e. Metal music probably won't calm you down, just like an acoustic guitar might not energize you).
When possible, personalize at least one item in your environment.
We are comforted by objects that are familiar and pleasing to us—they help to orient and ground us. They also serve as a form of self-expression. I recently moved in with my partner, which meant moving into his house. I can’t tell you how much more I relaxed once I had a few of my personal items situated where I wanted them. What do you find comforting that you can bring with you?
I’ve found that these seemingly minor alterations to my environment can significantly improve my mood & help to ground me. And when all else fails, I can always watch Marie fold clothes.
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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]
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