- Lucia Blasco
- BBC World News
Humans build and design buildings based on our needs, but in a certain way, these buildings also “build” and shape us.
We spend most of our lives indoors. Specifically, about 90%, according to the National Human Activity Patterns Survey (NHAPS) in the United States.
This means that at the age of 40 you will spend about 36 years indoors (Multiply your age by 0.9 and you get “indoor years”.).
However, we hardly wonder how these spaces affect our physical and mental health.
How do they change our feelings and behaviors? What are its effects on our health? How does it affect our productivity and our relationships with others?
These are questions that neuroscientists and psychologists have been studying for decades – among other things, in so-called “Environmental Psychology” or “Space Psychology”– And this in times of quarantine and confinement is more important than ever.
Science writer and journalist Emily Anthes Research on the issue began before the pandemic.
His analysis arose in an article published in June 2020: Great Inner Places: The surprising science of how buildings shape our behavior, health, and happiness (“Great Interiors: The Amazing Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness”).
Anthes, who holds a BA in History of Science and Medicine from Yale University, USA, explores the “ecosystems” that shape our homes and places of learning and work, and how redesigning these spaces can help us Improving our quality of life.
The book is a window that invites us to rethink the places where we spend most of our time, to question how well they fulfill our needs and to seek solutions to feel better within the walls we inhabit every time – often irretrievably – repeatedly. ..
The following is a summary of a BBC Mondo telephone conversation with writer Emily Anthes.
Interior spaces Become more important with The epidemic But the topic was not new to you. ¿CUaWhere did you start the investigationWhat and why caught your attention?
Yes, that was before the pandemic arrived, about five years ago.
I’m a science journalist, so I usually spend a lot of time reading about science topics.
I began reading studies of environmentalists who entered buildings and wrote about the environment in interior design. I also read psychologists talking about the psychology of interior design.
I was amazed by everything the scientists were investigating about these spaces.
What are the main lessons we can learn from your analysis of interior spaces?
The big general idea is that the design and planning of interior spaces affect nearly every aspect of our lives, sometimes in surprising ways that we wouldn’t normally think of.
Much of it relates to environmental psychology, but there are many other disciplines and fields involved, such as microbiology or sociology.
The view you have from your window can affect your stress level or your ability to focus.
The way your office is organized can affect the people you interact with at work and social networks at work.
Indoor spaces affect our daily life in many ways and we often ignore them or don’t take them sufficiently into consideration.
Confinement and quarantine due to the Coronavirus forces us to spend more time at home. What do you recommend to improve that interior space, from a scientific point of view?
There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that including outdoor items indoors can bring many benefits.
We know that exposure to the elements can greatly help us reduce stress and improve focus and productivity.
Indoor spaces affect our daily life in many ways and we often ignore them. ”
My main recommendation is to “bring” nature into the home. If you don’t have a landscape from your window, you can include more plants. In fact, there are studies that say that even pictures of plants and landscapes have benefits for our health.
Light also has a lot to do with it. It is best to keep curtains and blinds open to get the most out of them, especially in the morning.
If there is a place in the house that receives more morning light, it is a good idea to start the day or spend a few hours in that part of the house because exposure to that natural light is very important.
Another tip is to open windows to let in fresh air, not only to clear the space but to reduce stress.
Are they actions you take for yourself while working from home during the pandemic? Did you notice the difference?
Well, in my case I was already working from home before the pandemic so this aspect of my life hasn’t changed much.
But yeah, it’s things that I put into practice myself and find that make me feel good.
One of the conclusions from your book is that the best way to create a healthy indoor environment is to include the elements of nature. Why is it important and how can it affect us?
Scientifically proven that being close to nature or just the fact of observing it can help us restore our mental capacity and attention. It allows us to relax in brain activity, so that we feel more relaxed and rejuvenated when we resume an activity.
The same applies to fresh air indoors; It can enhance our cognitive and educational capabilities and positively affect our performance.
However, many corporate buildings do not have windows that can be opened to allow fresh air in. It is imperative to think about how these spaces can be improved.
Do you think we are now more aware than before about how indoor spaces affect us?
The epidemic has highlighted the importance of creating healthy work spaces to limit the spread of the virus. Regardless of social distancing measures, including elements of nature is something that can benefit us.
We also think more about how to recreate spaces in the home – often converted into an office – where we feel better.
I think this period will provide a lot of interesting research and studies on this topic which will also allow us to answer questions that have no conclusive scientific answer yet.
For example, how does the fact that we are separated from our co-workers affect our productivity?
Are we more productive by reducing distractions, or on the contrary, is it costing us more to be productive by isolation from our colleagues? It will be interesting to see what science says about her.
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