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How does your physical environment influence the choices you make?

Whether you’re at the supermarket, lying on the couch at home, or sitting at your desk at work, you are consciously and unconsciously influenced throughout the day by the environment you’re in. We call this your physical environment, and it’s partly responsible for determining your direction.

There are two types of environment: your social and physical environments. This article explores the physical environment, which consists of a number of factors. It's not just about the space you're in; the atmosphere, colours, temperature and light also play an important role. All these elements together determine how you feel, and therefore how you behave.

In some cases, you decide what your physical environment looks like. For example, you can arrange and decorate your own living room so that you’re comfortable in it. However in other cases, you have no control over that, such as at work or in the supermarket. The question then is how to deal with this.

Fortunately, every person possesses the capacity to adapt, including you. You have learned how to deal with changes in your physical environment. But just because you’ve learned to adapt and cope with this doesn't mean that adaptation is always good for you. Take a look around you and ask yourself whether the layout of the supermarket influences your choice.

There are many ways in which an environment affects your behaviour. It’s best to set up an environment in a way that enables you to perform the tasks that need to be done there optimally. Your living room should feel warm and pleasant so you can relax, while a restaurant should have good music and dim lighting.

This sounds completely logical, but it can also go wrong occasionally. These days, this happens especially in the bedroom. The temperature is often too high, watching television right before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, and having your phone next to your bed disrupts your sleep. Things can also go wrong at the office from time to time. For example, what kind of lighting is there? Good lighting increases productivity and improves concentration, yet you still regularly see fluorescent lighting being used in offices.

Hopefully, after reading this article you will occasionally pause to consider your physical environment. Ask yourself how your environment affects you, why you made certain choices in decorating your living room, and how a layout affects your choices.

Check your own environment

I can imagine that you’re curious about the quality of your living environment. Are there many noisy roads nearby? What’s the air quality like? Is there a lot of greenery in the area? And are there places where you can go to relax?

Check how your own environment scores Arrow icon

Author: Dennis Arts, Doctoral candidate TU/e and educational manager Fontys Sports Science