all up in
how your physical
space can affect your
Who's Shaping Who
“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” declared Winston Churchill in 1943.
Since Churchill made this claim more than 70 years ago, the world population has increased by more than 4.6 billion. In response to this rapid population growth, architects have scrambled to fit the most people into the smallest areas possible. This brings us to the micro-apartment, a squatter that is self-explanatory: practically microscopic at less than 300 square feet small.
With people packed like sardines, one wonders what the implications are. Architects and scientific researchers alike have asked the question: how much does your physical space impact your headspace? Studies have shown that our environment does indeed shape us, probably way more than Churchill himself could have ever predicted.
To begin with, studies have shown that simply growing up in a city, compared to a rural environment DOUBLES the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. While this is an extreme example of the impact surroundings can have on mental health, it illustrates how important our physical space is to our headspace.
"Sooo, I live in a city..."
Okay so I live in the city, too. Thankfully, studies have shown that there are already buffers existing all around us that soften the blow of sirens at night. Who are these unlikely superheroes? Trees.
In a study conducted in England in 2008, scientists found that the simple presence of nature improves health: although inequality tends to increase the risk of circulatory disease among those less well off, that effect was lower in greener areas.
This kind of research isn't new, though. Multiple studies have shown the impressive impacts nature has on one's physical and mental health. Way back in 1984, Roger Ulrich famously demonstrated that having a window-view of trees versus a brick wall led to faster recovery and a decreased need for pain medication for patients recovering from surgery.
Architecture: A Tool for Mental Health?
As science has become more sophisticated, it's applications have expanded. 'Neuro-architecture' is an emerging area which employs neuroscience to inform the way we design buildings.
Architecture pioneer of the emerging field, Harald Brekke posited the question in a recent essay: what if all new architecture had the ambition to be tools for wellbeing and mindfulness?
Brekke collaboratively designed the Viken Centre for Psychiatry and Counselling, a treatment center in Norway. Brekke and lead architect Stein Halvorsen employed the use of 'honest materials', like wood and glass, that would reflect and embrace the surrounding nature (it was situated in the Arctic landscape.) The one-liner describing the project was: ‘Architecture as a tool for treatment of mental disorders.’
Sooo, what's that mean for me?
Make your physical space reflect what you want your inner headspace to be. One of the most powerful quotes that made me re-examine the meaning of life (and my messy apartment) was 'your life is a physical manifestation of your thoughts.'
Not only did that concept make me attempt to change the ratio of positive to negative thoughts, it also made me look at my immediate surroundings differently. If my apartment is messy nowadays, odds are my physical space is actually just a reflection of what's going on in my head.
1. Make your space green.
2. Keep your space clean.
3. Stay organized.
4. Be the boss that you are.