You and Your Physical Environment

Freshly Cut Grass

Did you know that certain colours can have a positive affect on your nervous system, endocrine system (hormones), cardiovascular system and your emotional state? Did you know that plants can do the same? And puppies? And the sound of waves crashing on a beach? Rain on the roof? Certain smells? Like freshly cut grass. Or beautiful flowers. Did you know that listening to music can affect your physiology on a cellular level in a matter of seconds? And that it can boost your immune system? Which means you’ll heal faster and get sick less often.

Cool huh?

At the other end of the sensory spectrum, there’s smelly dog poo on your shoe. And on your new carpet. There’s fingernails on a blackboard. Angry people screaming at each other. A toxic work environment where the colour of choice is grey. And there’s the soul-less, heart-less concrete jungle devoid of any hint of nature or colour.

Minding Your Mind

Did you know that your physical environment can have a significant influence (one way or the other) on, not only your physical and emotional states, but your cognitive processes also?  That is, the way you think, react to various stimuli, process information, interpret events and situations, communicate and make decisions. This phenomenon is what I call the interplay (or relationship) between our physical environment and our non-physical environment; how one affects the other.

Did you know that just being around certain people can elevate or lower your heart rate? Create a nervous system response? Cause your body to produce happy hormones or stress hormones? Did you know that being in a healthy relationship increases your chances of being physically healthy? Conversely, did you know that being in an unhealthy and destructive relationship actually weakens your immune systems and makes you more susceptible to physical illness?

For some people, sitting on a train (for example) is stressful, yet doing the same thing (sitting) in a different environment (a forest, perhaps) is therapeutic and comforting.

Sometimes, it’s not what we do but where we do it that matters.

Think about that.

Sensory Overload

We are indeed multi-sensory creatures. On a physical level, we smell, see, hear, taste and touch. And every smell, picture, sound, taste and touch affects us on some level, in some way. Consciously or not, intentionally or not, we are constantly stimulating our collective senses and constantly interacting with the physical world around us.

For good or bad.

Sometimes, it’s in our interest to hit the pause button and pay attention. To stop the rushing and the busy-ness. And to put our ‘to-do’ list down for a moment and pay attention to the way our physical (external) environment is interacting with our non-physical (internal) environment.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina Johnston May 26, 2014 at 11:42 am

Hey Craig, whenever I smell freshly mown grass, I’m three years old, sitting on the wide windowsill of the first home I remember (in England, just been demolished to make way for high density housing) watching the tractor mowing the playing field across the road (also recently lost to high density housing). It’s one of several scents that literally lightens my heart no matter what else the day has brought. Thanks for reminding me!
{{HUG}} Tina

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Sandra May 27, 2014 at 4:28 am

Thanks for emphasizing this Craig! In my field of Interior Design, one of the greatest obstacles in getting people interested in a Design Project is that they don’t see why it really matters. I am a firm believer that our environment has a huge effect on our well-being, which was a major factor in attracting me to this field. Creating an environment that nourishes the soul can have a profound effect on every aspect of our lives.

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caz May 27, 2014 at 6:30 am

Hi Craig

Will think about this post thru the day. My partner believes I am suffering from winter depression, so this makes me think that if you change a few other things to be on the list of good influences you can find a way to bring the happiness back. Thanks for the post

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Natalie May 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

Meditation in the outdoors is the best pause button. Pity I don’t hit that button often enough but nobody is perfect :)

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Alexis May 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

I’ve just been reading about how our resident microflora is greatly affected by our senses, and not just simply by what we choose to eat. We are beginning to understand that an onslaught of aggressive stimuli – whether it’s the nightly news, unhealthy relationships, work you hate – can cause imbalance in gut flora. And we already know that imbalance in gut flora has an immediate and long-term effect on how we feel and therefore how we process stimuli. Very cool indeed.

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Joanne May 27, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I like to read books now. Is pull your finger out available in this format please?

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Craig May 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi Joanne, yes you can buy it as an E-book via the Penguin Publishing website… :)

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Jen.m. May 27, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Oh Craig, purleez……..don’t beat about the bush.
If you think I need to clean up my desk just say so! :>)

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Anonymous May 27, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Sooo needed this one today…I’m with Sandra on this also “Creating an environment that nourishes the soul can have a profound effect ..”
…and cut grass does for me too….left with a lovely relaxing feel when the ole Victa goes quiet. Hmmm lovely post.. thanks Craig.

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Mel May 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

The smell of rain in summer when it hits the earth, mmmmm love it.

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Ronald May 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

So true, Craig, thanks for the timely reminder!
I tend to remember the goodness of a good environment when I am in one, and forget about it when I’m stuck in a bad one. Got to figure out a way to remind myself from time to time…

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Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I live in a block of flats and today my upstairs neighbour invited me in to his flat for the first time. He lives in a clutter-free space, with beautiful rugs on the floor and spotlessly clean surfaces. I felt calm as soon as I walked in the door. Now I’ve seen what can be done (all the flats are the same layout) I want to create something similar in my own flat. Some serious decluttering is needed. They say that clutter is a sign of an untidy mind, maybe if I can sort out my physical environment, it will have benefits for my mental health?

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Kim May 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Hey Anon, yeah I agree, keeping things uncluttered makes you feel so much calmer. Years ago, I helped my sister in law move into a really crummy little flat and felt sorry for her until I saw her flair for decorating. She threw some lovely rugs around and displayed things so beautifully she completely transformed the place. How great that you’ve been given that glimpse into the possibilities by your neighbour.

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