How Environment Influences Our Wellbeing

By Charity

"My surrounding environment, in many ways, reflects the state of my heart and mind. And other times, the surrounding environment can assist in directing my soul to find quietness, peace and rest."

Have you ever thought about the ways in which our environments influence and shape you? For a moment, wherever you are, take a look around your surroundings. Are you in a room or outside? What sort of significance does this particular environment carry for you? How does being in this place make you feel? 

As a result of the pandemic, from work, to home, to community, we became hyper aware of how our environment could impact our physical and mental health. For me, I found myself spending more time at home in my apartment with my husband. With no kids or immediate family nearby, we had to get reacquainted with this space we called home.

We live in a four-unit Spanish style building. Each unit is laid out in a shotgun style, so there is little separation of space and functions inside. Outside, there is a beautiful patio area which extends the living room to take in the noises and activities of being at an intersection. We had not changed the furniture we had since moving out here three years ago, and the arrangement had been set for quite some time. Perhaps what we had worked when only half of us (i.e., only one of us) was in the apartment. However, it wasn’t until we thought we wanted to find a new place when I learned even more how much our environment plays a significant role in our wellbeing.

I think the challenge for us was that we had become used to living temporarily in a space we called home. Let’s not invest or move things around too much because we don’t know when we are going to leave or relocate. However, during this year of bunkering down at home, this mindset went through a restructuring of sorts.

We became aware of the flaws with this thinking and realized that temporarily or not, we must adorn our living space with the same level of care and intentionality as we do for our souls. My surrounding environment, in many ways, reflects the state of my heart and mind. And other times, the surrounding environment can assist in directing my soul to find quietness, peace and rest.

Given that both of us were in the space for more time than we ever planned, I found that there were certain furniture pieces and spatial arrangements that did not sit well with me. So when a sudden whim of inspiration and motivation hit me, we decided to upgrade and rearrange our little home in such a way that felt right for the time being.

And it began with finding the couch of my dreams. It was a couch that I had no idea we needed in our life (and has since become my favorite place in our living room). Once the new couch came in, other furniture pieces no longer made any sense. This began the adventure of switching out other items as the right one emerged.

We downsized our kitchen table and found a few smaller pieces that gave us additional storage. We swapped out our wild colored carpet rug for the light and bare floors, which created a sense of airiness I didn’t know our apartment could have. Not only did swapping out certain items fundamentally change the space, but addressing spatial design in a way that better complemented the structure of the unit also made a world of a difference. 

I believe that space also carries an essence. And if we can notice the essence and lean into this, we may experience more joy, peace and even contentment with the environments we construct. For a while, I was eager to find a new place, as I was dissatisfied with the space we have. It’s not perfect, but I did recognize that by nurturing a new spatial design, I was no longer obsessed with this pressure to find a new place to live. Contentment with what I have and where I’m at found me, through the ‘right placement’ of things. I can usually tell that a space has found its magic when I unconsciously break out into dance . . . and that’s what I did in this rebirthing of our apartment.

Is your space working for you? Have you found little pockets within or around your home that spark healing to your mind, body and spirit? Even if it is about crafting a little nook somewhere that you can go, ‘ah’ and relax, make this a priority. Notice what elements of a room consistently bring you joy and find ways to enjoy them.

For me, it is our front porch in the morning. I love to sit at our little bistro table in front of the hibiscus flowers and listen to the morning chatter of the birds and the wind, as the sun rises and greets me in the face. The quantity of space begins to matter less when you find the arrangement and treasures that enrich the quality of the space overall.