Environment is the external space outside of us but that which affects what happens within us. All of our senses -- sight, smell, sound, touch and taste -- can influence our mood as well as our health.

Recent research demonstrates not only the importance of our larger environment (air and water quality) to our health, but also our immediate environment (light, sound, aroma and touch).

Is Your Environment Making You Crazy?

You've probably heard of Pavlov's work with dogs. After allowing them to smell meat while listening to a bell, he discovered that the bell alone soon induced salivation.

The same thing can happen in your body. Just about anything in the environment can elicit an automatic response after an association has been established.

Cancer patients, upon returning to the clinic where they received chemotherapy, will sometimes re-experience the side effects of the treatment despite no longer being in treatment. It turns out that seeing pictures from the room, smelling fragrance worn by a staff member, or even hearing the background music played during treatment triggered this reaction. This research conducted at the Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York underscores why it is essential to pay attention to anything at home or work that might be affecting your health because although you might not make the connection, your body can.

Cut the Clutter

Take a critical look at your personal environment. Is simplicity and order the rule or the exception?

After a routine cleaning of your home, does it still feel cluttered? Are there stacks of old magazines scattered about? Are the closets stuffed with clothes you rarely or never wear? Do too many appliances crowd your kitchen counter? Whether we realize it or not, the very sight of clutter saps our energy, drains our strength, and depletes our sense of peace.

As curious as it may sound, many people have found that by uncluttering their environment they begin to free their thoughts, emotions, and even their priorities. A simple, clean environment helps to clear the mind and create a greater sense of peace.

To establish a sense of visual warmth in your home, display objects that awaken good memories. Surround yourself with things that bring a feeling of peace, comfort, and joy. Perhaps your treasures are pictures of family and friends—or awards or honors that you’ve earned and received. Art may also bring you energy. Try displaying paintings full of color, or sculptures brimming with life. Choose items that allow your spirit to dream and draw your soul closer to God.

The Power of Touch

What was true at Creation is still true today—people need others to survive and thrive. We each require helpmates and heart mates to make it through life. One of the ways we can aid each other to flourish is through the wonderful gift of touch. The skin God created for each of us is the largest sense organ in our bodies and responds positively to every loving touch. Numerous studies document the fact that we must have touch to develop and grow. Research has shown that husbands who hug their wives regularly tend to live longer and have fewer heart problems.

In his book Psychosocial Medicine: A Study of the Sick Society, James L. Halliday writes that infants deprived of regular maternal body contact can develop profound depression with an accompanying lack of appetite and wasting so severe that it can lead to death.

Somewhere deep within the fabric of the human heart, God placed a desire to love and be loved, to touch and be touched. Well-known family therapist Virginia Satir once stated we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth. This topic is covered in more detail in the Interpersonal Relationship section.

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