Even though the term ‘personal space’ is fairly recent, the science behind it and its impact on one’s mental health has existed for centuries. You can define personal space as quite literally the physical area around a person that they believe to have psychological ownership of. Not only the area around you, it can also be your room, a cabin or seat at your office, a particular spot at home, or even the opportunity to spend time alone. The neuroscientist and author of the new book The Spaces Between Us, Michael Graziano says, “There really is such a thing. The brain computes a buffer zone around the body.”
Most people value their personal space highly, and are usually left irritated, uncomfortable, or anxious when it’s violated without consent.
For the world, the concept of personal space only came under threat while staying indoors due to the pandemic. But in most Indian homes, this concept has been non-existent for generations. From living in noisy joint families and not having our own rooms, to not being able to lock the door even if we have one, it’s safe to say India isn’t a place where personal space is held in high regard. But just because its awareness and culture doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean its consequences don’t.
It’s easy to notice that people living in smaller and smaller houses seem to be increasingly irritable, temperamental and moody. Not only that, they also have a skewed understanding of physical intimacy in a lot of cases, which sometimes gets them in trouble. A Swedish study into open-plan offices found that those who work in them are more likely to fall sick than those who don’t. Researchers suggest it could be because our mental health, and therefore our immune systems, can be negatively impacted by stressors like lack of privacy and excess noise, which are common in open-plan offices. (Why is privacy important?)
There are several ways through which personal space (or the lack of it) affects our mental health. Here are a few:
1. Information Overload
Our personal space protects us and keeps us from feeling overwhelmed. When people are around us in big numbers or for too long, their voices feel louder, and everything they do, smell and look like is processed by our brains, even without was wanting it to. This kind of sensory overload triggers irritation, and leads to excessive stress.
Our personal space protects us from potential aggression, and ultimately, from stress. This is called stress theory, and it states that personal space can shield us from stressful stimuli that may be present when others come too close to us. For example – any act of aggression around us can be far more damaging to us, emotionally as well as psychologically, when it happens really close to us as compared to when it’s at a distance.
3. Communication Channels
Our zones of personal space also communicate the nature of our relationships. The distance we maintain with people we spend our time with reflects the relationship we share with them, and how safe or comfortable we feel around them. It is through this that we control the type of message we send to the people we’re around.
Apart from protecting ourselves from stress, personal space also plays a huge role in how we grow as individuals. It helps us reconnect with ourselves, while giving us the room to organise our minds and plan our lives. It gives us a stronger sense of self, and builds our confidence by helping us stay more in control of our thoughts and emotions.
Personal space is required not only to protect our mental health, but to further fortify it. And it’s clear that people who find the time and space for solitude, are just in general happier and more balanced individuals.
And as we mentioned before, being able to find personal space may not always be a possibility in your home. So if you’re ever in need of it, feel free to book a room with Brevistay by hitting us at 8586877634.
Rest assured, you won’t just get a room. You’ll get tons of personal space too.