The clock in the hallway ticks loudly. It keeps you alert to how much time you have left until the next thing needs doing. The discarded Chinese was left out all night and the lingering smell hits you as you near the kitchen. The corner of the sitting room you said you’d declutter has gathered more unnecessary junk. Inhale, exhale, but the stress builds. And your phone pings.
You end up picking up your phone and happily allow yourself to be distracted. The stale garlic from the Chinese dinner hooks itself into every corner of the house, the pile in need of decluttering falls over and the clock keeps ticking, but nothing gets done.
Our environment can influence our behaviour in a great many ways and when things are not quite in a good place, it tends to throw the balance on being productive or happy. We lose our zen.
How Does Environment Affect Our Mood?
Our minds are quite intricately linked to what is around us. We soak up our atmosphere like a sponge and it seeps out of us as we take on our day. If what we are soaking up is not beneficial, how we manage our day reflects that. When we talk about what is around us, we’re talking about the things we absorb with our five senses: the things we hear, smell, see, feel and yes even taste.
A bad odour, intense clutter, disturbing white noise in our environment, can all negatively impact on our minds, altering our mood and potentially causing stress, anxiety, depression, listlessness, or poor productivity.
How to Nurture Our Environment
Nurturing our environment is a positive way to nurture our minds and boost our wellbeing. There are plenty of simple things we can do to ensure our environment reflects well on our behaviour, our moods, and our lives.
Declutter That Clutter
Clutter in our homes is as bad as clutter in our minds. We all know how difficult it can be to focus on anything when our minds are cluttered with so many different things at once. Our home is often our sanctuary. The place we take comfort, care, and solace in. Having an excessive amount of “visual noise” in our homes can negatively affect how we look after our home, ourselves and how we interact with those we live with. And kids come with plenty of clutter!
Finding a way to clear out unnecessary clutter which bothers us will positively affect our mood. Some corners with clutter don’t bother us, like the second drawer in the kitchen full of junk which everyone has! And that’s fine. It’s the corners which we scorn at and detest which we really need to work on because they are the ones which are cluttering not only our homes, but also our minds. Start small and work your way through the areas in your home which do not spark joy.
Bring The Outdoors Indoors
Bringing the outdoors indoors has been proven to have a positive affect on our minds, mood, memory, and focus. Plants have a wonderfully calming affect and act as a natural air filter and reoxygenate the air which keeps clean air flowing to your brain and can help improve the quality of your sleep. Adding to these natural benefits is the idea that looking after plants helps us to be more mindful which in turn can prevent anxiety, depression, help with insomnia, and boost productivity.
If you are lucky to have a beautiful garden, align your furniture in a way that you can see it from the window. Studies show that even this short contact with nature can also relieve worry, fear, and anger. And if plants are not your thing, why not try an aquarium!
Smell has an interesting way of invoking strong memories, and the vivid emotional response which comes with those memories. As such smell is an important factor to consider when creating a positive environment. The part of the brain involved in processing the sense of smell plays a significant role in controlling mood, memory, behaviour, and emotion.
Because scent has a way of pulling our moods in various directions, either positively or negatively, we are very much dependent on using smell in a certain manner to sway the affect to the positive side. For instance, the garlic permeating down the hall from the leftover Chinese is not a pleasant smell and negatively affects us. Get rid of it! But diffusing wild orange oil in our diffuser can lift our mood with its burst of citrus freshness. Using essential oils have a way of reconditioning our minds and boosting our moods with their natural beautiful smells.
Certain scents can help elevate our mood or calm us. I use peppermint in the diffuser in my office as it’s incredibly stimulating and helps improve focus. I’ll use lavender to help soothe me in the evenings before sleep or if I am feeling anxious.
Finally, the white noise around us has a way of consistently keeping us on edge. From the tv, the buzz of the refrigerator and next door’s lawnmower, to the clock ticking, the dog scratching and the phone vibrating. All of these noises cancel out any calm we hope to have in those precious moments when we have an empty quiet house.
To alleviate these semi-permanent white noises and sounds which we have little to no control over, we can choose what music we listen to. Research has shown that music can notably reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, diminish negative symptoms, reduce social isolation, cohesion and even motivate. Choosing your music is important if it is to boost your mood and wellbeing. For me its soothing acoustic music playing in the background as the kids play. For you, it could be Metallica or bird sounds. Regardless of what you listen to, the music you play has an important affect on your mood in any given situation. Choose what suits you and the moment in time.