Did you know that indoor spaces can enhance our wellbeing just as much as the natural outdoor environment?1-2 I learned this first-hand when I embarked on a long overdue spring cleaning of my cubicle recently.
I was experiencing higher-than-typical levels of stress this fall and my naturopath suggested that the physical clutter at my cubicle might be creating mental clutter, making it difficult to concentrate and exacerbating my stress. Now, I’m no Marie Kondo, but I decided to try changing my physical space. Here’s the process that I used, and I hope it inspires you to look for ways to enhance your space (work or otherwise).
Start from Scratch
Instead of picking and choosing what I wanted to keep, I started by taking stock of everything at my desk. It created more mess at the start, but it was easier to rebuild my space from scratch.
Be Ruthless (or at least paperless)
By physically removing everything from its place, I had an opportunity to purge. Get rid of those pens that don’t work any longer. Scan paper files to reduce the amount of space needed for storage (in or on your workstation).
Build It Back Up
This step might take some extra time and require a field trip to Staples or an organization supply store. Pick items that are visually pleasing for you without taking up too much surface area. I chose a container for pens, a decorative photo frame and a bamboo tray. Alternatively, save your dollars by reusing or upcycling items your colleagues don’t want anymore.
Make Your Photos Count
Rather than refill my cubicle with endless photos again, I carefully selected a few: some nice travel pictures and family photos. By limiting the number, I was more selective and ended up choosing pictures that are meaningful and that I don’t mind looking at again and again.
Add Something Green
Proximity and visual access to plants are great for boosting mood and reducing stress (check out this Netdoctor article on “5 Ways Office Plants Can Improve Your Health”) 3. Because I don’t have the greenest of thumbs or direct access to natural light, I went with two small, potted succulents. I also changed my computer background to an image of a forest. Photographs of nature can provide the same health benefits as the real thing.4
Give Yourself a Treat
My final touch was adding a bit of preemptive self-care to my new space. I knew there would be times of stress and I wanted to be prepared, so I bought some fancy tea, a new tea mug and a lavender aromatherapy roller. Ideas you can consider include a funny picture, a stress ball, yummy snacks, noise-cancelling headphones or playful magnets. Have fun personalizing this!
I recognize that not everyone’s work environment looks the same (and some of us may have more autonomy over this than others), but even small changes can have a big impact. This month, I invite you to think about small changes that you can make to your workspace (or a space at home) that might help you clear some of that mental clutter.
All my best,
1 Rationale to Address Well-being through Physical Spaces in Post-Secondary Settings (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
2 Environmentally Smart Design: Designing for Social Wellbeing Across the City and in the Workplace (UBC Library, UBC CWL login required)
3 Creating Wellbeing Through Physical Spaces (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
4 Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Int. J. of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343
Photo Credit: UBC Communications & Marketing