Can Your Environment Change Your Brain?

10.30.2018 Uncategorized
Tresa Palmer
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Look around you. Acknowledge the shape of the room you are sitting in. How tall is the ceiling? What are the color of the walls? Are you receiving natural light? Take a look at the texture of the walls, the arrangement of the furniture, how hard or soft the floor is? What can you see through the windows and doors leading out of the space? Whether you recognize it or not, all of these details are affecting you. From your health and wellbeing, to how you identify with yourself and others, to the next actions you will make.  

While the study of the Human Environment, often referred to as Human Ecology, can be traced back to our most ancient foundations, the research that has taken place over the last two decades and the explosion of cognitive studies has drastically enhanced our knowledge. Today we are abundant in our understanding of how human cognitions are directly and indirectly affected by our experience of the built environment.

Two of the most important facts we have come to know are:

1 | No space is neutral. Any environment you are standing in is either benefiting you or having a negative impact on you.

2 | Spaces will affect every human being in the same way, no matter your cultural background.

Why though, are these facts significant?

This means there are clear choices to be made in the creation process of any environment that will benefit people. By commission or default, our built environments are composed and can be formulated differently, even re-composed in the future. Therefore, we must bridge the knowledge gap between study and application.

The ways that we can alter and manipulate our environments on the micro and macro level are seemingly endless. We do this in our homes and community spaces. Every sensory object has a sensory reaction that may or may not be right for the space.

We come from the natural world, so engaging with nature is essential to the human experience. Take hospital patients for example. One study placed patients with similar conditions in various hospital rooms: one patient with a window to the outdoors, another without. On average, the patient with the view of nature recovered ⅓rd of the time quicker than the patient without the view.

The more access a city dweller has to greenery, light, and open spaces, the more capable the individual is to salvage their problems, understand new information, and be more resourceful. Additionally, residents surrounded by vegetation statistically maintained stronger social ties and a greater sense of community than residents inhabiting similar structures without natural surroundings.   

A ceiling painted light blue in a classroom, mimicking the sky, is said to increase student performance while test taking, while a high ceiling boosts creativity. Furniture that is rounded and more organic in form, helps to put people at ease and invite individuals into the space more so than sharp angled forms. Our brains are made to see patterns, and creating a space that has different forms of repetition is both calming and engaging to the mind.

So, whether you are building a home, creating an office, or just rearranging your living room, reach sky-high for new opportunities to enhance your environment and utilize its unlimited benefits.

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