Emotional air space is the immediate environment we create for ourselves. For example, we may play relaxing music as we drive home from the office or use a favorite photo as the wallpaper on our iPad.
Emotional air space comprises many factors, the most obvious being visual. That’s what our eyes pick up as they look around our space. Obvious elements such as the color of the walls or the placement of an easy chair say yea or nay to our senses. But simple details speak volumes too. A vase of flowers by the kitchen sink makes us feel calmer. A tot’s picture on the bathroom mirror elicits a flood of warm fuzzies whenever we see it.
Sounds are equally crucial. According to a Cornell University study, people who work in noisy offices are less motivated and have higher levels of stress than employees in quieter settings. They’re also less likely to move around or adjust their position, contributing to musculoskeletal problems.
On the other hand, research by the University of Illinois Medical Center found that people with epilepsy who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major showed a decrease in their epileptic activity. Music has also been shown to reduce pain levels in hospitalized patients.
Even odors impact how we feel. While our noses aren’t as sensitive as Fido’s, they work closely with our brains. Researchers at Toronto University reported that memories triggered by smells tend to be clearer, more intense and more emotional than memories involving other senses. And clinical trials at Maryland University link the smell of lavender to decreased insomnia, stress and post-operative pain.
Sometimes ambience trumps the input from our five senses. For instance, clutter is inherently disturbing and makes us feel scattered and overwhelmed. On the other hand, clearing trash-covered countertops and organizing remaining items immediately boosts our spirits and puts us back in control of our lives.
We all benefit from managing our emotional environments. But for some it’s a matter of survival. People with mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, do better when their lives are devoid of unnecessary stress. Those who are easily agitated, have trouble controlling anger or battle substance abuse also experience a decrease in symptoms when they make wise life-enhancing decisions.
Of course, we can’t control every aspect of our emotional air space. Kids will still be noisy. Roommates leave their breakfast dishes in the sink. Our cubicles are too tiny at work. But we can do our best to make our surroundings as pleasant and nurturing as they can be.
WAYS TO ENHANCE YOUR EMOTIONAL AIR SPACE
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.