One of the most frustrating feelings is being stuck at a roadblock — a mental one, that is. Why do we get stumped? Lack of creativity? Irritation?

Have you ever considered it might be the room you’re working in?

New research suggests that your work or living environment can impact your cognition in two major ways: color and structure. Let us explain:

1. Blue versus Green Space

Having a gorgeous green space to view from your office or home is a key selling point to any buyer – who doesn’t love looking outside to a grassy field, forest or even a luscious garden rooftop? Whether the green space is natural or man-made, it has been shown to have mental benefits. But what new research has found is a stronger link between blue space (specifically, water) and increased mental health. Views of the water have been associated with significantly lower levels of psychological distress and better mental health. No wonder owning a house on a lake or beachfront is appealing to many homeowners!

Since not everyone can get a perfect view of an ocean or forest from work, just having the walls painted a nice blue or green has been found to benefit employees in their workplace. Blue is a powerful way to keep your employees feeling centered and calm by lowering their heart-rates, while green reduces anxiety and is associated with money, keeping workers motivated!

  • Action Step: Get more blue in your workspace!

2. Structure

Scientists have recently started researching how our built environments affect cognition — as it turns out, they affect our well-being and decisions more than we thought! The way an environment is structured, whether it be in the home, at work or the community around us, can either restrict or promote our spatial cognition. It affects the way we think of our environment and the way we think about ourselves. 

It is suggested that having more unrestricted spaces and open concepts would be more beneficial to our mental health because it would allow our minds to create multiple paths and perspective about the world around us, potentially strengthening cognitive abilities.  

As a better way to understand how the structures around us affect our mental health, researchers are beginning to look into the benefits and deficits of raising children in more open versus enclosed spaces. As of now, architects and urban planners may start teaming up with experts in neuroscience, philosophy and psychology to build the best possible environments for people to live and work in. 

  • Action Step: Feeling blocked? Get into some open space to free your mind.
  • Action Step: Make brainstorming or creative space in a nice open space.

Bonus: Even More Color Psychology

Research has found that all colors can affect your mood, behavior and stress levels. Choosing the color of your office, your clothes or your desktop should not be taken lightly — colors do affect our moods and productivity. However, colors are not the only thing that affects us — one can still be efficient in a grey suit or workout well in a black outfit. But, when given the choice, picking a color that will work with you, and not against you can only help.

Download our What to Wear Color Guide

When you start deciding on or designing a place to live or work, keep in mind the blue and green spaces surrounding the area and how the space is structured so you can get the most out of your environment! 

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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