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Zen And The Effect Of Living Spaces On Your Life

Updated: Jun 30, 2022


Image: Therapinterior | Miller House


The effect of interior spaces on your perception, energy, psychology and therefore on your life is an undeniable fact. For this reason, it would be a useful approach to consider the space within the context of the feeling it creates, rather than just considering it aesthetically or functionally. In this article, you can observe how theoretically adapting the "ZEN" perspective to the space can be effective in your life.




Reflections of ZEN in Our Lives

Zen is only about being. This is not a branch of a philosophy, it is a way of acknowledging the existence of your existence and consciousness. It's about simplifying everything that includes the chaotic, entropic world of biological complexity and its inevitable accidental tendency. Due to the "simplification" in its infrastructure, it can often be seen as minimalism.



If you get rid of inconclusive sensations in all areas of life, you can begin to value your true self, your essence. However, when the effect of space on psychology is foreseen, sustainability of individual awareness is not possible without space and environment. When you need to reflect this awareness to your lifestyle and space, “ZEN” will be one of the best approaches.


Although it can be modernized as a result of its interaction with different styles in a spatial sense, we can easily say that theoretically, "Zen" is not new and modern because it is based on traditional Japanese culture, but on the contrary, it is a well-established concept.


Minimalism and ZEN

Although the "minimalist" lifestyle is relatively new, it is possible to say that the "minimalism" word has been in our lives for a very long time. Following Robert Browning's "Less is More" philosophy in the 19th century, minimalism was openly used by artists and architects who participated in the "De Stijl" movement founded in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 20th century. Innovative German architect Mies Van Der Rohe, who followed this trend, transferred minimalism to his architectural arrangements.

In fact, about five hundred years before the De Stijl movement, Zen priests and artists in Japan seem to have been practicing minimalism extensively in their Zen gardens and arts, known as "Kare-Sansui".


When examined in general terms, it turns out that being a minimalist is a lifestyle choice to achieve happiness. Minimalist art and design, on the other hand, embodies beauty and contentment in "less" or "void / nothingness".

Although the motivation behind the concepts of ZEN and Minimalism is different, they share a common enlightenment point; It is that "the void elicits an astonishingly large and profound perception". Perhaps the real happiness can be achieved in the whole life order, from “more” to “less” or in other words, from “crowd” to “qualified spaces”.





Our ability to feel the happiness is not unlimited


It is customary to seek “more” in the social sense, as it is often believed that having more means more happiness.


“More” is also popular as a design approach; more quantity, more functionality, more activities, more embellishments etc. Interestingly, however, it is easily observable that the spaces which are crowded, cluttered, and surrounded by too many “things” is distracting. Accordingly, the minimalist movement has emerged as a result of the awareness that it becomes more and more difficult to control when the “More” stack is entered. The pioneers of the minimalist movement first decided to get rid of excess items that cause stress and distraction. In fact, “ZEN” follows the same path: it forces you to give up your possessions, so you only have objects or entities that make you happy in your space, and your space; so you can manage your life the way you want.

If we want to scientifically examine the idea that more things do not guarantee happiness and may even cause stress, it would be right to refer to the Yerkes-Dodson Law.



Yerkes-Dodson Law is an empirical theory between mental arousal and performance. According to this theory, it has been determined that when we wake up physiologically and mentally, or the state of alertness intensifies, but our performance increases only up to a point. It has been observed that when the level of mental arousal is too high, one feels increasingly stressed and anxious, and this brings unhappiness.

Considering the Yerkes-Dodson Law, we can see that our ability to feel happiness is actually limited. If this situation is examined in the context of space, it can be concluded that even if we continue to increase the amount of our favorite items, it is the most appropriate point where our happiness starts to decrease.

Zen has followed this point of "optimal happiness" for thousands of years. Yet we can see that the Zen approach confirms the Yerkes-Dodson law, even though we almost believe in a linear correlation between our happiness and the amount of items that can satisfy our desires.




Zen arts such as Kare- Sansui (dried-up landscape, Zen garden) epitomize the space that Zen priests/artists would like to see at their best moment of enlightenment. The aesthetics of Zen and minimalism are still very powerful and influential today and have often inspired modern design. The design elements that lie deep in the philosophy of “less is less” continue to add serenity to our lives, as they act as a means of finding true happiness.




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