For many years, the discussion around emotion was pushed aside. As the world and society industrialised, we began to glamorise the “tough hustler” whilst scoffing at the “new age hippies” who spoke openly about their emotions, spirituality, and the mind. But the reality is that, as humans, we are hardwired to be reliant on emotions. Fear, for example, is a primal emotion that can trigger the physiological flight-or-fight response first identified by psychologist Walter Cannon in the 1920s who described this as a rapid, emotionally triggered chain reaction. This response allows the body to deal with threatening circumstances. In ancient times, this would have resulted in a hunter sensing a wild predator. Today, that could be a voice that tells you to walk faster in dark alleys. In that context, emotions don’t seem as silly now, do they?
Why Should You Care About Emotional Well-Being Anyway?
During much of human history and in parts of the world today, conditions have been, and are truly awful to the extent that survival is almost the only issue. But for more people alive today – partly due to the sacrifices of our ancestors – conditions are, happily, far better. This raises a different class of issue in our co-existence with others and gives the fortunate choice of what kind of life you want to live. Actually, having that choice can create much stress too.
Hitherto, emotional wellbeing has been put on a lower rung than physical or mental. We would now see this as quite ironic, considering that emotions are deeply intertwined with both. For instance, a positive example of this happening would be when you “dress for success”. This physical act subliminally uplifts your confidence, affecting how you think, and may also have an impact on how others perceive you. On the flipside, a negative example is a cluttered home. Studies have shown that in the UK, 82% said that their moods have been affected by clutter, with some even reporting depression. Another study noted that cluttered spaces caused cortisol levels to rise (and not naturally decline) throughout the day.
Not only do emotions affect you more than you think they do, underlying this, your emotional state is affected by the environment you are in far more than you may realise.
How Your Surroundings May Be Hijacking Your Emotions
Society Can Be Sabotage
When you think of environment, it’s important to also include the people and societal issues around us. In communities where crime is rampant, for instance, it is common to hear people say they are stuck in a “cycle of violence”. Some of crime’s effects include feeling anger, confusion, and even getting physically ill. This causes many to feel like as if the only way they can survive is to emulate this same violence. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, if you will. It is, however, shocking that simply tidying the environment reduces criminal behaviour, as in the criminological theory called “Fixing Broken Windows” approach.
At work, one in five Brits has credited a toxic workplace culture as their reason for resigning in a Culture Economy 2020 report. They cited feelings of isolation and alienation due to bullying or harassment amidst a competitive industry. Such negativity is believed to cost the UK economy a staggering £15 billion a year. Perhaps more concerning than that are the very real long-term PTSD that you, as an employee, may experience. Over the past two decades, more evidence is coming to light that unhealthy workplaces cause trauma. As a place where you spend at least 40 hours a week, it’s not surprising that your personal life begins to be affected by your professional one.
In today’s digital age, you must also consider the social media environment that you interact with. Over 53 million people in the UK are currently on a social media platform, spending almost five hours a week online. While this can be a chance to detach from reality’s stressors, a growing number of people find themselves distressed online. Researchers from institutions around the world have shown that consistent social media use can result in depressive symptoms, heightened anxiety, and mood swings.
Workplaces Can Be Woeful
Although many aspects of our contemporary world have been designed to underscore convenience, that doesn’t mean it satisfies our basal needs. This can result in feeling detached, lacking, or akin to being on autopilot. Take for instance, office workers. Though humans are not bred to stay hunched over a screen all day, that is what we do. That is modern day survival. But then, if this act serves an important purpose (allowing us to provide for ourselves and our loved ones), then why do three-quarters of UK workers feel burned out and unproductive? Could it be that their surroundings dilute the importance of what they do? Absolutely! Even with your best chums, a dull workplace will dim your performance. That’s why more employees are asking for wellbeing initiatives that include ergonomically outfitted work setups to be made available.
Even the fact that we spend most of our time on gadgets and indoors can affect our emotions, and in turn our bodies. For instance, natural sunlight has been proven to recalibrate our circadian rhythms and improve moods. On the other hand, prolonged exposure to blue light from gadgets inhibits sleep, and that can cause anxiety and chronic illness.
Building Back Your Emotional Well-Being
Our emotional well-being is a complex state that requires a delicate and deliberate effort. Though it’s impossible to change the entire world, you can control your personal surroundings, and that in turn can lead to creating optimal conditions for clearer thinking.
Practise What You Preach
As the saying goes, “Be the change you want to see”. It may be difficult to break old habits or peel away from the comfort of chaos, but it will benefit you and those around you. As humans, we imbibe positive traits that we see are working well for others. In a Forbes article, business leaders said that by modelling the behaviour they want to see, they can send positive non-verbal cues. This is often a lot better received than outright telling a person off. If you wish to be surrounded by positivity, start by being positive yourself rather than just demanding it. Like begets like, after all.
Prioritise a Positive Ambience In The Workplace
The retail and hospitality industry have long utilised the power of ambience. If you’re greeted with a good sensorial atmosphere, your body and mind will take this cue and react accordingly. Even if all you can afford to adjust is your immediate vicinity, the gains will be tremendous. As mentioned earlier, utilise as much natural sunlight as you can. Along with this, try playing with colour. You’ll find that colours have an effect on your psychology and can influence your decision making. For example, orange can give you a boost of energy. Some people find aromatherapy and music to be equally stimulating, too. The best part here is that an environment with an ambience that is good for the mind doesn’t have to cost much. You can start small with a few adjustments (a small desk plant, perhaps?) and go from there.
To sum it up, having an awareness on how the environment affects our emotions is crucial to being holistically sound. Our emotional well-being deserves the same attention as our physical and mental wellness. Rather than perceiving it as a weakness, we must begin to view it as a powerful tool that enables us to feel, think, and do more.
Submitted by Queenie Hanson for fellowshipofmind.com
Image credits: Pexels