Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Open the Windows!

Day not going your way? Let the fresh air in.

Whether you live in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, it’s almost time for that much-anticipated yearly event, The Re-Opening of the Windows. As summer turns to fall or winter to spring, opening up the windows to let in a little fresh air seems like a better and better idea until, one day, it happens—the outside air is invited inside, at least until winter/summer are back upon us.

If you live somewhere where nature’s sounds and scents drift in on those fresh-from-the-outdoors breezes, you know immediately that opening up the windows was a good idea. Research consistently shows that smelling natural scents, such as lavender and other flowers or just the general odor of trees, is a great stress-buster. So is hearing nature sounds, whether they’re waves or wind moving gently through branches or birds singing.

Wherever you live, opening the windows changes the ventilation in a space, which is a good thing, as long as you aren’t in one of the world’s more polluted cities. If you live in one of these areas, stop reading now and start working to improve the city where you’re based.

When the windows are open and fresh air flows indoors, we’re healthier, in mind and body. Our moods improve and our brains function better.

Our satisfaction with our jobs, and our performance of them, improves when the space where we’re working is a comfortable temperature (generally around 70 degrees) and its air is fresh (for example, carbon monoxide levels are at accepted levels). Seeing gentle movement, reminiscent of the way that grasses sway in the breeze in a meadow on a pleasant Spring day, is profoundly comforting and calming. So, placing a mobile by an open window is a good idea—and that mobile can hang near a heating/air conditioning vent for the rest of the year. What works in our offices works in our homes—natural ventilation there is just as good for us as it is in our offices—which are often in our homes, anyway.

Moving air seems fresher than air that’s static, so just adding a fan to recirculate air can be a good idea. With that fresher-seeming air come the benefits for our mood and cognitive performance mentioned earlier. Moving air seems cooler, also, so adding a fan can cut money and resources spent on air conditioning, even if the windows remain closed.

Opening the windows cuts indoor carbon dioxide levels. Lower carbon dioxide levels mean higher levels of cognitive performance. Stuck on a crossword puzzle clue or how to revamp an advertising campaign? Open the window!

Relish this moment—the open-window season—and use it to your mental and physical advantage. All too soon, the seasons will change again and those windows will have to close.

More from Sally Augustin Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today