A Tool to Increase Happiness: Visual Cues

If we didn’t believe that surrounding ourselves with beauty made us feel better we wouldn’t have interior design. 

Every year, college and university students decorate the bland, off-white walls of their dorm rooms with posters. Often it's posters of their favourite movies, cities and celebrities. Unlike the walls of an apartment you rent or own, the walls of a dorm room can’t be altered. You can’t paint or make holes in them, your options are limited. That’s what makes posters such a good alternative. 

Although a poster can’t completely cover the unpalatable colour and texture of dorm walls, a poster still gives your eye a distraction. It creates a focal point. 

When you consider that most posters we buy are of things we like or love, posters not only add aesthetic value to environments, they add sentimental and emotional value. As a result, you can think of a poster as a “visual cue” that reminds us of things we like and make us feel good. In this way, a visual cue can counteract the general malaise one might feel from a bland or sterile environment. 

Visual cues can be used as a remedy for malaise in a variety of settings. In my personal life, because I live with chronic illness, most of my workspaces are covered in bottles of pills and other home care items such as therapy bands, heating pads and ergonomical supports. I also wear an ugly splint on my left trigger finger that always clashes with my outfits. 

There’s no way to really hide the clinical nature of these objects and because of my condition I can’t get rid of them. As a result, I’ve started using visual cues to counteract the malaise I get from staring at these objects day in and day out. 

For example, when I wear my splint, I wear different rings next to it. I’ve also started using a pretty pillbox for my daily meds. Although you may not be able to change the environment you live in you can add visual cues to that environment. The aesthetic and emotional value of these visual cues will provide you with comfort in an otherwise unsettling environment.

Here are some examples of how I used visual cues to ameliorate my experience of my health paraphernalia. 

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Author's Note: I included this essay in the "Live with Intention" section of Lamp in Hand because you may not be able to pick where you spend your time, but you can intentionally change how that environment makes you feel.