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An ancient Chinese practice, Feng Shui, has moved from the annals of time into modern life. Practitioners of Feng Shui claim that the system of aesthetics it promotes can provide a means of harnessing the power of heaven and earth to generate positive energy flow (called Qi in the relevant literature). Modern practitioners of this ancient system tie the positive energy flow to enhanced productivity, less stress, and better mental health.

Sceptics may be chiming in with an “Oh, really?” right about now. Still, as science progresses, it has become clear that laboratory studies don’t have the answers to everything. Take a moment to suspend disbelief and explore Feng Shui’s effects on your mental state, the science behind modern Feng Shui practices, how you can leverage Feng Shui in your work space, and the potential benefits to be had.

Soothing The Troubled Soul

The idea of Feng Shui is promoting harmony, peace, and positive energy. Recognizing that life doesn’t always work in accordance with those principles, Feng Shui can be thought of as a barrier removal system. By aligning life spaces along Feng Shui principles, the things that are keeping you stressed out, unproductive, and unhappy will fall out of your life.

Many of the practitioners of modern Feng Shui target “environmental pollutants,” as they realign spaces, according to Vanderbilt University. This can include low level irritants like humming refrigerators or too much outside noise, all the way along the spectrum to traffic flow issues in reception spaces and electromagnetic fields around the building where you work. By removing “pollutants,” practitioners promise to provide a space where there are no barriers to accomplishing good work and nothing irritating grinding down on workers all day long, leaving them stressed and scatter-brained.

A Placebo or Just Proactive?

So is this barrier removal system offered by Feng Shui at all effective? When it comes to the powers of Qi, a literature review performed by the Psychology Dept. at Vanderbilt University notes that it is generally not included in scientific publications, leaving the validation of that element of Feng Shui out in the cold. On the other hand, there have been an endless number of studies that target other elements addressed by Feng Shui, such as the presence or absence of natural light, the effect of plants on the environment, how room colours affect moods, and so on.

This link to tangible benefits moves parts of Feng Shui out of the realm of mysticism into the realm of applicable benefits for modern workers. For example, Feng Shui advocates having windows or natural light in work spaces, and productivity studies have shown that workers with natural light perform better on work tasks than workers who work only under fluorescent or artificial lights. In response to Feng Shui’s claimed of clean lines for better work results, hoarding studies published in the Journal of Health and Social Work show that clutter in personal spaces can negatively affect mood as well as hygiene. Feng Shui also promotes plants in the work environment, and caring for plants has been shown to improve mental health, even in hospitalized mentally ill patients.

With hard science behind some of the softer elements, modern Feng Shui consultants and practitioners can point to real health and productivity benefits that result from their changes and recommendations. In this sense, Feng Shui is offering more than a simple placebo effect if you choose to bring it into your work space. It can also offer you proactive and measurable solutions to common workplace irritants, productivity drains, and mental health stressors.

Quick Fixes For Work Spaces

If Feng Shui can help give you the positive energy flow in your workspaces you need to work more effectively as an individual and an organization, how can you quickly take advantage of its benefits? For most minority businesses, a complete overhaul of existing workspaces simply isn’t in the budget. However, there are a few quick fixes that you can implement today that will help you Feng Shui your space without breaking the bank:

u Remove clutter. Clutter causes negative energy flow, according to Feng Shui principles. Get a filing cabinet for loose papers that need to be kept, throw away outdated manuals or presentation printouts, and find new homes (like the trash or deep storage) for obsolete or rarely used pieces of office equipment.

u Bring in plants. Feng Shui advocates the use of plants in the workspace to bring in life-giving and peaceful elements. Modern decorators will also tell you that plants soothe workers and help improve air quality. While not every part of the building needs to be covered with greens, try adding plants to cubicles, break rooms, and reception areas.

u Focus on light. Working under artificial light all day can be annoying and negatively impact vision, especially with bulbs that flicker or buzz. Small full-spectrum lights on desks can mimic natural light where there are no windows, and leveraging natural light can boost personal productivity and mood state while still being in line with sustainability and green mandates.

u Check your alignment. Office Feng Shui guides target the desk as a major center of influence on your productivity and mood. Where possible, practitioners recommend that desks face doorways rather than walls. The thinking is that since business comes in through the door, why turn your back to it? The tangible side of the coin is that facing doors or entry spaces prevents you from being startled by people coming up behind you and helps you focus on keeping work flowing in and out rather letting it pile up against the back wall. Where desks can’t be realigned, placing a mirror on the desk or wall that gives a view of the doorway is recommended.

Working on these points is a matter of a few hours. The results may allow you to easily recoup that time with increased productivity and less workplace distraction.

Reaping the Benefits

With Feng Shui changes in place, you have the opportunity to reap the benefits of positive energy flow in your workspace. In some cases, this will be tangible. More productivity under natural light, less clutter and distraction in the workspace, and improved air quality thanks to plants can all help you get the job done day in and day out.

There is also the intangible element. Choosing to implement Feng Shui in your workspace is a mental health decision. You are choosing not to accept things as they are, and acknowledging you have the power to take control over your environment. For workers, this shows you care about their mental well-being in the workplace. For yourself, it is a way of addressing elements in your work-life that may not be in an optimal state, even if you can’t always put your finger on why.

The practice of Feng Shui is more than 3,500 years old. While all of its effects can’t be fully explained by science, and not all sceptics agree with its principles, it may offer you mental health and well-being benefits. Suspend your disbelief, embrace your power as a change agent, and see if Feng Shui truly can help you.

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