I love to travel. For me, it represents an exquisite opportunity for new experiences, thereby enhancing my world. Whether it’s a culinary delight of salumi and cheese in Italy, the aromatic lavender in Provence, or the morning coos of doves on the Big Island of Hawaii, each place possesses its own “signature” which instantly transports me to these cherished locations.
If I could have things my way, I would weave together my own Utopia by braiding each location’s hallmark into the fabric of a new homeland. But such a Utopia, at least for me, doesn’t exist and that’s okay. I am extremely content in the Pacific Northwest where I’ve made my home but that doesn’t mean spicing up my environment isn’t needed now and then. For all of us, where we spend our time and the way it makes us feel has an incredible impact on our wellbeing. So adding or subtracting from our nest is an important aspect to be mindful of.
Here are five ways to enhance your environment, all keying in on our senses.
Vision is our most dominant sense — taking up 50% of our brain’s resources — and many estimate that 90% of the information we take in is visual. That said, what you see in your environment is pretty darn important. Here are some ideas for visually enhancing your environment:
- Hang artwork that depicts the landscape
- Paint a wall featuring your favorite color (like the red poppies of Tuscany!)
- Bring in furniture or kitchen items you used during your time there
Our sense of smell is tied to memory and emotions and, according to psychologists and researchers, it is our strongest, most primal link to long-term memory. Whenever I smell my kid’s Play-Doh I am instantly transported to my childhood. Here are some ideas on this front:
- Burn incense or candles
- Cook foods or brew the coffee you had while there
- Use essential oils either on your body or in a diffuser to surround yourself with the aromas you fell in love with. (hint: they now make essential oil diffusers for cars so you can take your experience with you!)
Hearing may be my favorite sense because I most associate it with laughter and pleasure. Put on a song from the ’80s and I am THERE!! Or play Pachelbel’s Canon in D and I am instantly misty-eyed with nostalgia and bursting heart. Here is how to bring sound into your environment:
- The most obvious but worth stating, play the music native to a location such as hula from Hawaii, didgeridoo from Australia, and flamenco from Spain.
- Watch movies from the region so you can hear the accents
- Set your ringtone or alarm using a stanza or two from your favorite local composition
Touch is the most intimate of senses as it requires a closeness and availability that others do not. Consider these ideas when enhancing your environment from the more sensual side:
- Purchase fabrics such as blankets, pillows, and sheets so you can cozy up with your “home away from home”
- Wear native garb like linen from France or silks from India to get in your second skin
- Enhance your morning ritual with lotions, aftershave, or oils and excite more than one sense in doing so
Taste is another exceptional sense that we shouldn’t forget about. Although it’s a bit tougher to incorporate taste into a physical environment, we can (and should!) find ways to enliven this sense. Here are some thoughts:
- The no-brainer: Eat foods and cuisine from the region!
- Get a cookbook and learn to make a meal or two yourself
- Host a supper club and theme the meals to your favorite regions
Our home and work environments, where we spend a majority of our time, truly has a large impact on us. Where we decide to “take root” has an incremental effect on us and is constantly working with us, for us, or against us. In an ideal world, perhaps we could uproot ourselves and plant ourselves in an ideal environment but often this is not the case. Instead, we can look to enhance our environment by playing to our senses. They each have a direct connection to our brain and, therefore, can slide the scale to a more favorable and enjoyable experience. Not to mention waking up our happy chemicals.
If you find yourself in a home or work environment which is lacking in some way, try these tips!
Which of the five senses is most impactful on your mood? How have you enhanced your environment?