I was mercilessly decluttering the other day and was literally sighing with delight at all the clear surfaces and space all around me. I always feel calmer and more peaceful whenever I’m in bare but beautiful places, and the simple pleasure of creating that at home got me thinking about other simple pleasures – smells, sounds, lighting – that I associate with some of my happiest “happy places”.
And it got me thinking that we’ve all had glimpses (hopefully more) of what it feels like to be in our happy place mentally, physically, and/or emotionally, but for some reason we don’t usually stop to think about how and why those places are happy for us. I mean, when was the last time you tried to deconstruct your happy place experience? And more important, when was the last time you tried to re-create your happy place experience in even a small way?
We are all affected by our physical environments. Without realizing it, the stresses around us, the energy around us, the people, and sounds, and smells around us all combine into one big experiential ball that affects our mood, our performance, our productivity, and our happiness.
I’ve always known this about myself. I can feel myself tighten up when I walk into a soulless conference room, I can feel myself come alive when I’m in beautiful surroundings, I know I am more creative when I am somewhere with high ceilings and natural light, and I know which social circles make me feel invincible and which leave me flattened. I know these things because I pay attention to how I feel and how I perform. And that’s why I think it’s so important to curate our environments.
This can be as simple as listening to relaxing music while you work at your desk, having a nice-smelling reed diffuser in your office, or using soft lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs. I do all of these things because I find spas really relaxing so why not make my working environment as spa-like as possible?
It can also be as practical as turning off email alerts from your phone so you’re not always feeling harried and “pinged”, not watching the news if all it does is make you angry, or avoiding social events (yes, even online!) where you’ll be around people who irritate or deflate you. Our social and mental environments can be curated too.
The little changes can make a huge difference in how you feel AND how you perform. You know whether you are at your best in high-energy environments or more chilled ones. You know whether you nail presentations when wearing a power suit or wearing something a little less traditional but still professional. You know whether you exercise more effectively surrounded by the high-octane energy of a gym or running on a nature trail.
Our minds are incredibly powerful and we pick up hundreds of subtle and subconscious cues from our surroundings. So by curating our environments, we give ourselves more chances to feel and do more of our best more of the time.
It doesn’t have to be a total overhaul, but we can all start with a small, simple change. And then another. And another. And over time and repetition, pretty soon we will have transformed our environments in ways that can transform our lives and our businesses as well.
Sometimes it’s the small things that can have the biggest impact.