The “Space” Effect…

IMG_0571I have recently been reading the book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being by Esther M. Sternberg and learning about various studies on how our physical space can affect our ability to heal… both psychologically and physically.  Ms. Sternberg writes of a study done years ago in which post surgical patients were placed in either a room with a window overlooking trees or a room with a window facing a brick wall.  The results of the study showed that the hospital patients with the views of nature healed better than the ones staring at a brick wall.

Jonas Salk,  the person who developed the Polio vaccine,  worked in concert with an architect to design the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.  The Institute was carefully designed to allow the researchers to occupy beautiful spaces that enhanced their ability to have an atmosphere that could assist in tapping into “intuition” and creating “breakthroughs” which is what Salk experienced when he visited the town of Assisi in Italy.  No boring sterile environment for those researchers…

As I was reading Ms. Sternberg’s book, I started to think about the various spaces that I occupy in my life… our home, my office at my corporate job,  my home office where I hold my coaching practice calls and our second home in Central Minnesota which over looks a beautiful river.  I thought about how I feel in each of these environments and which environments create a sense of calm and healing for me.  My husband and I always say that walking through the door of our river home brings an immediate sense of calm and peace for us.  The high vaulted ceilings,  the pine woodwork and the stone fireplace along with the huge open windows to the river with a backdrop of the pine woods cannot be more beautiful or serene…

One of my favorite spaces is where I go to practice yoga. My yoga instructor has an indoor home studio that we occupy during non-summer months and the beautiful property surrounding her home in the country is where we do outdoor yoga in the summer months.  She has taken great pains to create a sense of calm in her studio from the warm wood on the walls and flooring,  to the fireplace and the outdoor views of the surrounding fields and woods.  The windows face to the west so evening yoga sessions oftentimes end with brilliant sunsets.  If I go into the yoga studio feeling stressed,  I instantly feel calm.  If I go into the yoga studio feeling under the weather physically,  I instantly feel health flowing back  into me.

I was talking about how our physical environment can promote physical healing and a co-worker told me how the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis has employed various ways to help in the healing of children.  Her teen-aged daughter had to have pretty significant spinal surgery and the hospital room had ambient lighting with various colors of light the patient could choose through a remote control.  Her daughter quickly determined which colors caused a bit more agitation and which ones had a calming effect.  They also placed scratch and sniff stickers on her daughter’s clothing which allowed her to have the benefit of aromatherapy right at her fingertips.

Another example of space and how it affects us has to do with my friend Teresa.  She has recently undergone a year of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to eradicate colon cancer from her body.  She has decided that now she has been deemed cancer-free and is ready to have her last surgical procedure done… she wants to re-decorate her bedroom.  She knows that to be fully healed,  she needs to change-up her surroundings and create a positive energy within her space… removing the reminders of the difficult and painful journey that she has just moved through.

It may have taken awhile but it seems Western medicine has now embraced what Eastern medicine and Native American healers have known for hundreds of years…

Do you have a particular place that helps you heal?

2 thoughts on “The “Space” Effect…

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