Understanding the Psychology of Space

I like most things about being in college, but there’s one thing that I really can’t stand: my dorm room. It’s not just that it’s small, though that’s a factor. I just hate how it looks and feels. It’s not comfortable, it’s not beautiful, and I don’t feel relaxed and restful when I try to get sleep in there.

My roommate thinks I’m overreacting, and maybe I am. But I really feel like living in this room is holding me back from succeeding in school. Moving out isn’t an option though, because I can’t afford to eat the cost to move off-campus and I don’t want to move within campus and lose my roommate (who is great) while maybe not even improving the space. Experts, am I crazy? What can I do to make this situation better? Please help!

No, you’re certainly not crazy. While some people (like your roommate) might not mind the space that you’re living in now, it’s clear that you strongly dislike it. And experts agree that the spaces that we spend time in have a profound effect on us.

Some of the ways in which our spaces affect us are obvious. For instance, you said that you were having trouble sleeping in your dorm room. That’s bad news! Sleep deprivation is unhealthy, and it can certainly limit your performance in school in the way that you worried your living space would.

It goes deeper than just sleep, though. Everything from the shape of a space to the color of the walls can affect our moods and our mental health. Some spaces can make us more or less productive, and others can make us more or less comfortable. Sometimes, using the same space for two activities — such as studying and sleep, for instance — can hurt our mental health, too. You’ll even find design psychologists who specialize in these aspects of our minds.

So what can you do? If moving out isn’t an option, you should consider looking for ways to transform your space into a place that makes you feel better. Why not check out some blogs and magazines for home design inspiration? Take note of the things that you like, and try to imagine ways that you could make your space more like the spaces that you would prefer to live in.

Naturally, your design options will be a little limited because your time in your dorm room is relatively temporary and because you don’t own the space. Still, you can find plenty of great ways to decorate a space on a temporary basis. If you get your roommate in on the fun, you might find that you can change the feel of your dorm room to something that pleases both of you more.

Consider softening the space with fabrics; materials, say experts who specializes in luxury homes, can be what make homes of distinction stand out. And think about how you can use furniture and storage solutions to organize your space to make your daily life a little less stressful. A good interior space should quite literally make your life a little bit easier.

All of this should help, but this isn’t all on your dorm room. To some extent, you have to consider your own behavior, too. The ways in which you use your space can really affect how you feel in that same space.

For example, studying at your desk in your dorm room will condition you to think of that space as a working and thinking space. Maybe you’d sleep better if you studied in the library and kept your dorm room relatively free of responsibilities. That way, your brain would know that coming home means resting up. At the very least, you should strive to avoid doing work while lying in bed.

You should also think about your sleep habits. Are you going to bed and waking up at the same time every day? Are you using a white noise machine or earplugs to keep out rowdy college noises, and are you using a sleep mask to make sure it’s dark when you’re trying to rest? These things might help you sleep better in your space, improving your mental health and your relationship with your own living space.

There’s no magic bullet to make you love your dorm room, but smart decorating and some lifestyle changes could make a big difference. Good luck!

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