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Neuroaesthetics: create spaces that support your wellbeing

Being passionate about all things wellbeing, enjoying interior design and making spaces beautiful, neuroaesthetics is an emerging field that has captured my interest.

What is neuroaesthetics?

The term was formally defined about 20 years ago by Margaret Livingstone, Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard University. Penn Centre for neuroasethetics  say “the aim of neuroaesthetics is to understand neural systems that underlie aesthetic experiences and choices. This includes investigating the nature and neural basis of beauty, art, design, and architecture.”  This means that design is not just a matter of personal preference but is connected to our biology and psychology and can affect us both positively and negatively.


The built environment and wellness

One theme of neuroasthetics is the built environment and wellness.  Penn Centre is investigating how our environments affect our sense of well-being and can either promote or interfere with human flourishing.  This is where spring cleaning comes in.  By following a few principles, you can create a home or work environment which helps you flourish.



Assess how your space makes you feel

How does your home or workspace currently make you feel?  Happy, safe, calm, relaxed, enthusiastic, creative or stressed, anxious, depressed?  If you are getting negative vibes you can move things around and add aesthetic items to create more positive feelings.



Decluttering is a good place to start as reduced visual stimuli creates more calm.  If you really want to go for it try following the Konmari Method.  For a less intense declutter, just start by either: putting things away in cupboards / drawers; or corralling them onto trays or into baskets which will help make things looks more organised, less chaotic and create a calmer feeling.


Remove items with negative associations

Certain items can stimulate negative emotions such as an item from an ex, a photo that was taken when you know you were going through a bad patch, a less aesthetic or quality item that you bought because it was all you could afford at the time but have kept anyway.   Go through each space and remove things that don’t make you feel good.  Recycle, donate or bin if broken or in poor condition.


Make items that generate positive feelings centre stage

If you have items that make you feel good, highlight them.  Add a beautiful cozy cushion or throw to your workspace.  Add more plants or flowers to your indoor environment.  Add accessories like vases, candles, napkins, tablecloths, tea/bath towels in your favourite colours.  Frame images that make you feel good. Views of nature (even a print, photo or painting) have been linked to lower stress levels, improved cognitive function, and enhanced mood.


Stimulate your senses

Ask yourselfwhat do I want to smell, see, touch, hear? Having items that stimulate your senses can help create positive energy in a space. 



Consider, fragrant candles, aromatherapy, flowers, plants, fruit bowls and baskets.


Bring nature indoors with snipped branches and collected items like pebbles and shells.  These have been shown to improve cognitive function, creativity, and overall happiness,

Assess your lighting – is it too bright and harsh in areas where you want to relax or is it too warm and low in areas where you need to work?  Address your needs accordingly and make the changes required.


Consider shapes of items and furniture arrangement.  Do curves and organic shapes or symmetry and angles make you feel better?

Consider colour - cool colours like blues, greens, purples promote relaxation. Green is also associated with improved focus and concentration therefore good for workspaces. Similarly, warm colours like red and yellow can enhance creativity and energy levels. Neutral earth tones help make you feel grounded and safe, hence why neutral palette interiors feel calming.


Consider background music, an indoor water feature, rugs and curtains to absorb sound.


Consider what type of tactile experience you want with where you sit, work, relax and sleep. Soft, textural materials induce feelings of comfort and security, whilst harder, reflective surfaces can create a sense of energy.

Can you control the temperature of your space? Cooler temperatures are better for work and sleep. Warmer temperatures can help your relax and feel good.


Practice gratitude

Know that your space will never be perfect but a work in progress.  Be thankful for you have and review regularly following the principles above.  Maybe you get sick of bright colours and want more calming pastels or neutrals.  The fragrance and textiles you like may change as per the seasons.   Keep rearranging and reorganising based on your feelings. Remember, your home is your sanctuary and your workspace should help you be productive, creative, enthusiastic and energised.


Further reading


Over to you

What is one small change you can make today in your home or workspace? 


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