News Treehugger Voices Where We Live Affects Who We Are Not only do we shape our environments, but we are also shaped by them in return. By Elizabeth Waddington Elizabeth Waddington Facebook LinkedIn Writer, Permaculture Designer, Sustainability Consultant University of St Andrews (MA) Elizabeth has worked since 2010 as a freelance writer and consultant covering gardening, permaculture, and sustainable living. She has also written a number of books and e-books on gardens and gardening. Learn about our editorial process Published January 19, 2023 03:00PM EST Fact checked by Hayley Bruning Fact checked by Hayley Bruning Ramapo College of New Jersey Hayley Bruning has worked as a staff writer, editor, proofreader, and marketing assistant. Her focuses include veganism, sustainable food, and agriculture. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email eclipse_images / Getty Images News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive One fascinating element of design often overlooked is that we do not only shape our environments, but are also shaped by them in return. In garden design, as in architecture and city or town planning, the idea that where we live impacts who we are is one that we should always be aware of, and which we can use to great advantage in a range of ways. How We Are Shaped by Where We Live Our sense of self is something which has led to much philosophical debate over the millennia. But many would agree that who we are is shaped by where we live, at least in part defined in terms of our sensory perceptions, our relationships with other people, and the environment, both built and natural, where we live. Our relationship to the environment around us shapes who we are in a range of ways. As well as shaping our own sense of self (who we believe ourselves to be), where we live can impact our moods and emotions, how we think, the decisions that we make, and how we behave. This is important because, as Treehugger readers will surely be aware, changing our everyday behaviors in small but significant ways to live in a more sustainable and eco-friendly manner is one of the best things we can do to tackle the global crises we face. Without delving too deeply into the philosophy, it is important for anyone with an interest in living in the "right" way to consider how we are shaped by where we live—and how, therefore, we might shape where we live to define who we are. Since our surroundings have a profound impact on us, small changes to our living environment can alter what we are able to do, and what we want to do. Cavan Images / Getty Images Shaping Where We Live to Define Who We Are By understanding how where we live impacts who we are as people, the connections we forge, and the decisions we make, we can begin to appreciate how even small changes to our homes and gardens can allow us to make positive changes to our moods, thought processes, and behaviors. Of course, when we talk about shaping where we live, the first ideas that spring to mind might relate to an actual move in location. Many people have less than ideal living conditions and, of course, many people find themselves in locations where they do not wish to be. Not everyone has the opportunity to move. But we can all make small changes to the environment that we find ourselves in, as well as small shifts in the way we feel about that place. We can think about how we might want to change our own thought processes or behaviors, and aim to create an environment that's conducive to that way of thinking and behaving. To give a simple example, if we want to be more relaxed and calm people, we might foster a sense of relaxation and calm through the design decisions we make in our homes and gardens. Shannon West / EyeEm / Getty Images We can, for example, surround ourselves with natural greenery and soothing colors. We can use our gardens (or even a windowsill) to grow at least some of our own food and take a DIY approach to other things. Shaping our homes and gardens to take greater control over meeting our own needs can give us a greater sense of resilience, self reliance, and security. Taking practical decisions about how we design our living spaces and gardens will help make sure that we have the option to live in a more sustainable way, so that we feel a sense that we are contributing to global solutions rather than adding to global problems. This is another thing that can reduce stress and help us feel more relaxed. It might not involve a large monetary expense, either. Something as simple as excluding drafts to improve energy efficiency in a home, or choosing options that enable organic growing in a garden, such as creating an area for composting, or setting up a rainwater harvesting system to facilitate your organic growing can make a difference. Being calmer and more relaxed helps us remain healthier and think more clearly, and gives us the space we need to make more ethical and conscientious decisions in all areas of our lives. Whatever changes we feel we want to make in our lives, understanding how where we live impacts who we are can help us challenge our preconceptions and make changes to how we feel, think, and act each day.