Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to present a paper for the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO) at their 34th Annual Meeting at the University of Copenhagen. While an academic paper is a bit out of the norm for me, this paper focused on the role architecture plays in our emotional experience—and the science and theories behind how spaces actually affect our psyche.
What I found most rewarding about this experience (besides the beautiful sites and culture of bikes over cars) was the chance to show that everything I believe in, and speak about, has scientific backing. From Feng Shui to Intention Painting, our minds truly are affected by the spaces we occupy.
While it’s well known that design can affect our moods at home, below are examples of how design can also affect our professional lives (and if done correctly, can make us better at our jobs). Understanding our own needs and preferences, as well as those of our peers, and creating spaces that honor those needs goes a long way. It increases productivity, improves company culture, and ultimately increases the success of a business
- Ceiling height: Taller ceilings bode well for creative and expansive thinking while lower ceilings are great for more technical, accurate professions like law and accounting.
- Color: Color in the workplace influences behavior. Choosing red hues invokes action and energy, blue opens up our communication styles and yellows turn on our “let’s get organized” thought patterns. While there’s not a one-size-fits all for organizations, understanding the effects colors have on employees is essential in creating an environment for them to thrive in.
- Recharge Rooms: It’s important to provide employees with spaces that enable them to take a private phone call, take care of a personal matter (like breast feeding), or even to meditate for a few minutes. Studies show that regular short breaks actually help workers come back refocused, recharged and more productive.
After the conference, my husband Mark and I went sight-seeing, and it was amazing to see that the concepts I covered in my paper were actually all over the city. From their use of color in furniture and lighting stores to the expansive architecture in both commercial and residential construction, the city was a well-balanced representation of both form and function. For me it was a true representation of how even an entire city can affect our psyche and invoke a sense of energy, peace and community all at the same time. Copenhagen opened my eyes to many new things, but most importantly, it refreshed my sense of self, and my ability to be present.
At home, especially during the middle of a hectic week, I find it difficult to truly be in the moment, enjoying the happenings of everyday life. Whether it was because shops and restaurants were open for only certain hours a day (showcasing the Danish values of sharing time with others), or that commuters spoke to one another as they cycled to work, after only 5 days in Copenhagen, I felt renewed, and was able to be fully present.
Interestingly enough, there is actually a danish concept called, hygge that reflected my new found state. Hygge, defined as “quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” really connected with me. Not only did I start to understand this on a personal level (by letting myself feel content), but I started to notice how this concept applied to space, and how the Danish integrated this concept in all parts of life.
Unlike other European castles that can seem empty and uninviting in nature, the Rosenborg Castle was quite the opposite. What jumped out to me first, was the use of full-on paintings as wallpaper…There wasn’t a bare wall in any room, pictures after pictures were stacked on top of one another and were mounted across the whole wall. This type of decorating made the large rooms seem much more intimate and inviting. I love how even seven centuries ago, the Dutch surround themselves with beauty and a sense of opulence.
Another instance of hygge that I experienced was in restaurants. Instead of the large, open spaces we’re used to in the states, Danes like to use curtains or small partitions to create a cozy atmosphere for their diners. I loved seeing the various materials and creative ways they achieved this and it gave me ideas of how to create that same sense of warm atmospheres in homes and offices back in the states.
While I went to Copenhagen to present my paper, and teach others about the science behind our space, little did I know that I’d end up so influenced by the Danish culture, and hygge. I’m excited to really start living in a hygge state—both personally and professionally.
Have you ever had a culture shift your way of thinking? Interested in learning more about how to incorporate hygge into your life? Please share below!