Every summer I take my houseplants outside for a change of scenery.  They grow quite well indoors during the winter months, but something magical happens to them outdoors in the right environment of fresh air, warm temperatures and daily sunlight.  Their growth accelerates as vibrant, green leaves emerge and flowers multiply. Under the right conditions, these plants come alive in a way I don’t see them doing inside the house during the rest of the year. 

It reminds me that each of us is like my plants. We bloom under the right conditions.  The shift from surviving to thriving is so subtle that often this shift goes undetected like my plants during the winter months.  They seem to hang on, but with only minimal growth.  They survive and that becomes their “normal.”  I get used to seeing my plants in this way and assume they are doing well.

It reminds me that each of us is like my plants. We bloom under the right conditions.

But in the summer, under the right conditions, this normal awakens into a “new normal,” which is way beyond surviving to the happy land of thriving.  It’s like a colorless gray scale shifting into the deepest and richest intensity of light and color.  It is fantastic to see each leaf plump with new colors of green created by the intensity of chlorophyll.   It reminds me that we too under the right conditions can make that leap for ourselves from surviving to thriving!   

Biologist Stephan Boyden discusses how to go beyond surviving and design for well-being.  Survival needs are about an environment that directly affects human health like clean air and water, no toxins and getting enough rest and sleep.  Well-being needs are about the quality of life with the feeling of fulfillment high on the list. Survival is necessary but even more important is an environment designed to thrive. 

Well-being needs are about the quality of life with the feeling of fulfillment high on the list.

Boyden and others have identified what kinds of opportunities need to be within an environment in order to allow people to thrive.  This applies to our homes, and small or large environments.  Here are some of them:

  • The opportunity to engage in spontaneous social encounters
  • To relax and restore
  • To have privacy and movement between interaction and solitude
  • Learning and information sharing
  • Connecting to the natural world and exercise

Here are a few ways to apply this information to your home.

Begin by as asking yourself:

  1. Do I have space(s) that promote solitude for each person?  This could be a solo chair in a bedroom for each person or in a quiet nook or corner of a family room.  Or, it can be an entire room that is designed as a library, meditation or prayer room. 
  2. Does my space connect with nature?  The opportunity to connect with nature could be a chair that faces a window.  Place flower boxes near the windows to bring the outdoor connection even closer.  Also, you can add pictures of nature in spaces that don’t have a window or enough of a view. Adding more plants within a room also is a great idea for connecting with nature. 
  3. Am I sleeping well at night, are the rest of my family members sleeping well?  If not, then make sure the bedrooms are clutter free, use relaxing colors, pastel or the cooler colors, purple, blue or green as well as having dimmers on the lights that allow the control of lighting suited for sleeping.  Make sure your mattress and bedding are comfortable for you. 

These are only a few design ideas to help with better sleep, connecting with nature and providing the opportunity for solitude and interaction, but they demonstrate how simple design tweaks can yield huge results in creating environments that make the shift from surviving to thriving.   


(c) Can Stock Photo / mdilsiz