How to Give Meaning to Your Environment and Improve Mental Health

Have you ever considered how your physical location can impact your mental health?

For me, I love being around mountains.

It’s funny, considering I didn’t grow up around any mountains.

But ever since I discovered the mountains of Montana, I knew I had to live near mountains.

I find them grounding in a way that is hard to describe.

For you, maybe it’s the ocean or the wide expanses of the open plains.

Whatever it is, it’s time to consider the impact that sense of place has on your mental health — and your life as a whole.

How You Feel About Where You Are

When I’m home, I have my routines. I have a sense of place established by a sense of calm that I have created through daily processes.

The artifice of daily living is made up of mental structures and physical responses that you create for yourself. Your home is your base; it’s the location around which you establish everything. It’s familiar territory, solid ground on which to stand.

It’s certainly possible to carry your routines and balance-creating activities to other places, but it takes some time to adjust.

But let’s talk about mountains again for a bit.

With mountains, I see solidity. I see structural soundness. Where I live, the mountains surround me, but in a non-threatening way. They’re always there. Ever-present. And I think I take on some of their power, their ability to withstand storms, to disappear behind clouds and then emerge again as strong as ever.

Mountains lend their poise to me.

How Your Environment Impacts Your Mental Health

How does your environment impact you?

Have you thought about that much?

Are you affected by the outdoors, or do you prefer to stay inside?

There’s no wrong way to be. The trick is to notice what you’re feeling from the world outside of you, to pull whatever meaning you can from your physical environment.

Think about how much of your life you spend in your home and in your community.

Do you draw strength from your surroundings, or are you limited by them? Your environment can impact you emotionally, mentally, and physically.

And, often, your environment can be a reflection of what’s going on inside of you.

Maybe your home is cluttered. Could it be that you’re sifting through troubling thoughts and can’t quite find clarity yet? Or maybe your home is spartan and unfeeling. Could you be searching for the beauty that you need to surround yourself with?

It all depends. Just know that humans respond to their environment in ways that separate them from other creatures in the world. We are meaning-making creatures, unlike animals that simply respond instinctively to whatever is around them.

What does your own environment symbolize for you?

Give Meaning to Your Environment

Not everyone can choose where they want to live. Even the ones that can still have to give meaning to the spaces that surround them.

Here are some ideas for you to try to give meaning to your environment and create a sense of place.

Start small.

Choose one small part of your home environment. Look at it with new eyes. Is it a place where you want to spend your time, or is it neglected, an afterthought, an abandoned corner?

How can you make that space better? How can you make it meaningful?

If it’s perfect, let it be and move on to another space.

Go outside and just wander.

To which areas do you gravitate? Where do your eyes go when you look off in the distance? Your natural tendencies are probably signaling something. Pay attention to what comes naturally to you.

First, just take it all in. Then, try to put words to what you are experiencing. Words are symbolic, which means they are imperfect, but they are what we have to create meaning for ourselves.

Open yourself up to your environment.

It’s probably having a larger impact on you than you realize. Rather than being a passive observer, see if there are ways you can take in the good from your environment and ward off the bad.

You have the power to do that.

In 2020, maybe it’s time to see the world around you with new eyes.