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Create Well-Loved Spaces

Last year, I visited a new strategic planning client and as I entered the building I immediately thought to myself, “Somebody loves this place.”

I couldn’t say why, but it felt good to be there. After I left, I did a little field research and asked myself to reconstruct the experience. Retracing the clues, I asked myself why it felt good.

  • I heard laughter.

  • I saw smiling people.

  • I was greeted warmly (with a smile and friendly eye contact).

  • The floors were shiny and polished.

  • There were well-tended, healthy plants all around.

  • Positive words and quotations were painted brightly on the walls.

  • Flyers and poster boards were spaced out, bright and colorful without tattered edges.

  • There were lots of clean windows showing off a bright, sunny day – one of them was begging me to sit beneath it – and I did.

I observed these things, but there was one incident that sealed the deal.

As I tucked myself away in a quiet little meditation garden that I found outside, a little boy, about 10-years-old, whisked by on a bicycle. As he traveled back and forth on the organization’s paved walkways, he saw me, smiled and yelled, “Good morning!”

He knew it too – it felt good to be here. And he spread that feeling to me.

That same week, I was blasted with well-loved spaces - at work, with clients and in my personal life.

It made me wonder, “Was I surrounding myself with well-loved spaces?”

I went back to my office where I had left a whir of positive activity – however, the wake of my activity left my space begging for attention and I have to admit, I wasn’t excited to face it each morning.

My home space was a similar situation. My plants were looking a little bedraggled and unfolded laundry piles were nagging for my attention. The refrigerator was stacked with outdated leftovers that I didn’t want to address.

I loved my spaces – but they lacked the kind of energy that makes me happy. So, I decided to embrace my space.

I quickly learned that it doesn’t take a lot of time to boost our happiness levels by adding a little love to the spaces we choose to spend time in.

Well-Loved Space Defined

A “well-loved space” is one that generates good feelings and happiness the minute you enter it. A well-loved space might make you feel productive or it can make you feel peaceful and centered. It’s a space that can breed feelings of gratitude and positivity. Well-loved spaces giveus energy rather than takeit away.

I was first intrigued by the power of well-loved spaces when I visited the Mayo Clinic in Florida many years ago (see 9 Lessons Learned at the Mayo Clinic). I still remember my time there with great fondness because of the intentional healing spaces they had created – from artwork, to fountains, to meditative chapels, to plant-filled atriums, to roaming musicians, to smiling employees, to guided support animals – every moment was a refreshing surprise.

The Mayo Clinic is a good example of a clean well-loved space, but it may be worth noting that a well-loved space isn’t necessarily spit polish clean – many a time I have put on some music and baked a batch of brownies instead of cleaning my house and it made me feel pretty happy for a long time. As a bonus, others noticed the happy sounds and good smells before they noticed anything else. That’s a plus! That space had been loved.

So, although there is research that suggests that there are certain things we can and should do to add energy to our spaces, it is important to remember that, when it comes to your space, a well-loved space is also a very personal thing.

Dr. Amit Sood is a former Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, creator of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Resilient Mind program and has authored multiple books on mindfulness and stress-free living. He’s produced a short video on this topic – it’s adorably narrated by his daughter and weaves in some of the science behind creating well-loved spaces. (Some of the ideas from the video are included in the next section.)

So what does a well-loved space look like and feel like to you?

Does it give you energy or take it away?

Are you in one now?

If not, perhaps it’s time for a quick intervention.

Quick Wins: Boost Your Positivity in 5 Minutes or Less

You might start by identifying a place or space where you spend a good bit of time. You might pick one that is screaming for a little love and attention or you might choose to focus on one that will make you the happiest right now.

Here’s a list of 20 “quick win” ideas to transform your space into a well-loved space.

  1. Clean your favorite window.

  2. Surround yourself with music.

  3. Whenever possible, bring in sunlight.

  4. Burn a candle - enjoy the light and smell.

  5. Add plants to your home or work environment.

  6. Add pictures and color to add life to your space.

  7. Dust something – not everything, but something.

  8. Add the soothing sound of water with a fountain.

  9. Straighten one mess (keep this simple and fast).

  10. Weed a small patch of your yard/garden for 5 minutes.

  11. Add crystals, gems or a special memento to an eye-catching spot.

  12. Pinch dead leaves off of plants; spritz them with some water and gently wipe off the dust.

  13. Cut some greenery from your garden/yard and bring it into your space.

  14. Buy some flowers ($4.00 at the grocery story). Smell them for a bonus boost.

  15. Surround yourself with inspiring and/or motivating words (e.g., gratitude, catalyst, etc.).

  16. Add vitality with natural sounds (e.g., a fountain with flowing water) or pictures that replicate nature.

  17. Play music that creates the energy/mood you desire and enhances your goals. Some music is conducive for work, while other music is perfect for play. Visit the Music and Meditation page for ideas.

  18. Explore aromatherapy – this need not be an expensive endeavor; test some samples at a natural food store and bring home one essential oil that appeals to you. I love orange and lime essence for my workspace.

  19. Cut some herbs from your garden – if you grow herbs, bring some into your space and sniff them regularly. Rosemary is a natural energy booster; lavender calms and soothes frazzled nerves.

  20. Bake or cook something - you might follow the classic realtor tip about creating inviting spaces – bake some bread or cookies (find something in the freezer or refrigerator section for quick satisfaction).

Pick any one of these ideas to begin your “spatial intervention.” Or better yet, let it inspire another idea that’s all your own. It’s not the method as much as the action that matters – and even more important is the feeling of satisfaction that taking the action gives you.

It’s something you can do for yourself - and others will feel the difference too. Well-loved spaces create a positive ripple effect that benefits all who enter.

Love your space – one step at a time. It’s a great way to start with week.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist and social scientist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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