People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Benefits of Barbeques

Barbequing is good for your mental health!

Barbeques, it turns out, are good for your mental health - particularly when they take place in green spaces.

Previous posts have covered ways the natural environment helps restock mental energy after it has been depleted by activities such as knowledge work. The music and the food are important parts of any barbeque - and they're the links to barbequing's other mental health benefits.

Those burgers -vegetarian or not - are a comfort food to many. A new study to be published in Psychological Science ("Chicken Soup Really is Good for the Soul: ‘Comfort Food' Fulfills the Need to Belong" by Troisi and Gabriel) found that "comfort foods are associated with relationships and alleviate loneliness [in people with positive associations to relationships]." So, even solo barbequing - or eating any other comfort food for that matter - can be a good idea if you're feeling lonesome - as long as you keep calorie consumption at a healthy level.

Music can establish a mood - that's another topic that's been covered extensively in previous posts. Jolij and Meurs ("Music Alters Visual Perception," PLoS ONE) investigated how mood can influence perception. They found that "Mood, in this case manipulated by music, may also directly alter the way we perceive the world." In their experiment, people saw more faces that looked happy in images shown to them when the music they were listening to made them feel happy and more sad faces when the music they heard made them feel sad - even when there were actually no faces in those images. As Jolij and Meurs conclude "The music you are listening to might directly alter the way you perceive the world."

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Who knew so much good could come from barbequing comfort foods while listening to music that makes you happy in the great outdoors?

Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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