In a chaotic and fast-paced world, everyone has their own way of keeping themselves in check and making sure they don’t spontaneously combust.
Some people indulge in a cold beer, some people exercise, some people paint miniature models of soldiers while imagining the unspeakable horror of trench warfare with a misty look in their eye and Wagner playing in the background. It takes all sorts, you know?
Of course, some people swear by Feng shui, translated directly as ‘wind’ and ‘water’, an ancient Chinese practice concerned with finding balance in the world.
It’s about creating harmony and balance within the built environment through placement of items designed to maximise the flow of Ch’i or life energy.
Even the words sound soothing, and with all that talk of balance and harmony it sounds like something that Yoda would approve of, so that’s good enough for us.
Various sources, including the confident-sounding fengshui.about website, estimate between two and five thousand years of teaching on the subject. There’s got to be something in it for all that, right?
Well, Techly isn’t about making assumptions, so, in a hunt for some actual science, we headed to the blog of Feng Shui-practicing architect Howard Choy.
He argued that;
If Feng Shui is defined as a traditional Chinese study of Man’s relationship to his environment, in particular the siting and construction of human dwellings and tombs (as given by Lee Sang-Hai in his PhD thesis “Feng Shui: Its Context and Meaning), and by Science, we are referring to “soft” science rather than “hard” science (“hard” science deals with the tangible matters, whereas “soft” science deals with the intangible, like feelings, thoughts, opinions and ideals), then there is Science behind Feng Shui and we can study its effects with scientific methods.
He then acknowledges that if Feng Shui is “defined from a folk angle… which believe in the idea that Feng Shui can change one’s luck, allow one to see into the future and can make one happy, rich and famous directly, then there is no Science to speak about.”
However, perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Feng Shui.
It’s worth noting that the built environment’s effect on people, and vice versa, is a subject that has been studied extensively. The link between environment and behaviour has essentially been proved in texts such as John Ziesel’s book Inquiry by Design: Environment/Behaviour/Neuroscience in Architecture, Design, Interiors, Landscape and Planning.
Another related idea that’s getting a lot of airtime at the minute is hygge (pronounced HUE-gah), which is the Scandinavians’ answer to the art of Feng Shui.
Hygge, which is an important part of traditional Danish culture, is all about using the physical space to improve comfort and harmony.
In fact, hyyge is endorsed by the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. It’s an independent research centre that works with world governments to improve happiness levels and has published books and reports on the topic.
Zen design is a big consideration in traditional Japanese houses and gardens, due to the belief that simplicity and harmony in the built environment creates feelings of calmness and helps order the mind.
The same theory appears in modern minimalism movements which claim that certain rules about our physical surroundings can help us to relax, think more clearly and maintain calm in our lives.
The point we’re making here is that its status as a folk tradition means that data about the effectiveness of Feng Shui is limited, but taken in a wider context, there is plenty of material to support the broader idea that taking a little extra care with your surroundings will benefit you psychologically.
And while we can’t speak to how pointing the head of your bed towards the North Pole may affect your career, we can certainly recommend buying a few flowers every now and again.