This is one of those things I would have learned a long time ago. Despite how many times people have told me this, it really didn’t sink in until I managed to do it on a regular basis when I finally moved into my own apartment.
My environment has a huge impact on me. Thus, changing my environment is an incredibly effective tool to weather all sorts of mood swings and changes. In fact, it’s probably one of the most underrated and easiest things to do to improve ones own mood.
Case in point: writing at Chelsea Market. The other day I actually spent hours there sitting at one of the tables blissfully typing away on my laptop. It’s striking because earlier that day I was unsure of what to do and how to spend my time. A simple change of atmosphere, in this case getting out of the house and into a relaxing public market, was both energizing and inspiring.
To be fair to myself, however, it’s not always that easy to actually get up and move. A change in environment can take quite a bit of effort if I’m feeling down or otherwise stuck. I’ve yet to decide whether in those moments I forget the benefits of moving or whether it is simply too hard to actually make the change. Getting up and moving does require some planning. Bring my bag or not? Will I be out long; should I bring books and money? I dread making these kinds of practical choices in the depths of a depressing mood.
One effective strategy, therefore, has been not to make decisions at all. Best personal example I can think of is choosing what to order at a restaurant. My neurotic mind usually has a conversation with itself that follows these lines:
I don’t know what I want. If I pick something I might not like it. If I don’t like it, I won’t really want to eat it. But if I don’t eat it I’ll be hungry, and I’ll want to get something later, so I should pick something now.
I’m not really hungry for something specific though, so I don’t know what to pick.
At this point it cycles and becomes more like circular logic than actual decision-making. At times like these not thinking about choices has proven effective and insightful. I’ve noticed that at first I constantly “messed up” and chose things I didn’t really want. The more I stuck with the technique, however, the more often I chose things I really ended up loving.
Same thing applies to whether, and how, and where, to get myself moving. Sometimes I head over to the Hudson River Park, other times to Saint’s Alp Teahouse, and yet other times to Chelsea Market. I’m lucky because I live in a place where I have all these options, and most of them have Wi-Fi access so I can bring my computer.
Nevertheless, the technique of using one’s environment to affect one’s mood can be a hugely powerful tool. I’ve found that places of commerce tend to get me in a productive mood and inspire me to do things like write, code, focus on work-related tasks, and the like while recreational places like parks, flower gardens, and water-fronts tend to help me relax and slip away from work or an over-active mind.
The same may not be true with you, of course, but I think exploring your environment as a way to effect your moods can be very helpful, and in a very specific, controllable way.