The term “feng shui” is now being used in a confusing way, and some people are using it as a get-rich-quick scheme or other ways to scam people.
This post gives you a high-level understanding of feng shui, and you should read it if you want to know what feng shui is really about.
This post uses seven examples and illustrations to explain what feng shui is and how it affects our well-being. It is organized into the following sections:
- A Brief Summary of Feng Shui
- Feng Shui and Retail Shopping
- Feng Shui and the Laws of Nature
- Feng Shui and Behavioral Science
- How Feng Shui Affects Our Well-Being
- Conclusion and Main Takeaways
After reading this post, I hope you have a better understanding of how feng shui can improve the quality of your life.
What you’ve heard or read are largely true. However, as you will see in this post, feng shui is not a belief system. Nor is it a superstition.
The seemingly superstitious explanations and references are merely terms that were used in ancient times, which are very different than what we use today. This is evident even in our century, where the language and terms used by the Millennials are largely different than those of the Baby-Boomers, mainly due to the heavy use of text messaging.
In this blog post, I will be answering what is feng shui using the knowledge and language we have today, so you don’t not need to understand how ancient Chinese viewed the world. Instead, you will see references to scientific publications and consumer studies. If you’re looking for a traditional or literary explanation, this blog post is not for you.
A Brief Summary of Feng Shui
The purpose of feng shui is to better our lives. It does so by adjusting the physical structures, objects, and environment that surrounds us. This practice is commonly applied to residential structures, places of business, and burial sites. This post, however, will only focus on the feng shui for the home.
Feng shui teaches us how to make adjustments to our home so it comforts, soothes, and nurtures our mind and body. The adjustments include furniture placements and floor plan design, to name a few. It is a body of knowledge that teaches us how to achieve harmony with our surrounding environment. Harmony, in this context, means how our mind and body interact with the physical structures, objects, and natural environment that surrounds us.
Achieving harmony is commonly called good feng shui, which can positively affect us by improving many aspects of our lives. Similarly, bad feng shui can also make our lives more difficult.
But how does our surrounding environment affect your well-being, especially in terms of career, health, and human relationships? To answer this, I’d like to begin by using your shopping experience as an example.
Feng Shui and Retail Shopping
You will notice that I frequently compare the use of feng shui to retail management in supermarkets. Here’s an excerpt from my first eBook on supermarkets and feng shui:
“Feng shui is similar to the management of retail shopping. Retailers, such as supermarkets, have conducted extensive scientific experiments on spatial organization to boost their revenue by influencing our shopping behavior….
The management of retail shopping experience is similar to that of feng shui. But instead of influencing shopping behavior to boost sales, feng shui for your home is aimed at bettering your health, career, relationships, and many aspects of your life.”
Here are some examples using this analogy.
Example #1: Restroom Placement
Think about the supermarket that you visit the most. Do you know where the restroom is located? What about the other supermarkets that you’ve visit?
Even though I go to my local supermarket at least once a week, I can barely recall seeing where the restroom is. If you haven’t noticed, restrooms in supermarkets are usually well hidden from our sights.
This is because when we go to supermarkets, the majority of our purchase will be food-related. When you’re hungry, you tend to purchase more food. When you’re not hungry, or are feeling disgusted, you tend to purchase no food at all. The sight and smell of restrooms bring disgust to many people. Thus, in the interest of not losing sales, supermarkets tend to place restrooms in discrete areas that are not visible when you’re shopping for food.
The same concept goes with your home’s feng shui. If you have a restroom with its door facing the kitchen or dining area, the sight (and maybe the smell) of it can negatively impact your appetite and digestion. A prolonged effect can negatively affect your health, perhaps from continued loss of appetite and problems with digestion.
Here’s a more disturbing fact.
If you keep your toilet lid open and the restroom door open while flushing the toilet, harmful bacteria such as E. Coli can travel up to six to eight feet in the form of invisible water droplets.
If you happen to have food, plates, or other tools used for preparing food nearby your restroom, you may be ingesting these bacteria regularly! Even though your body’s immune system has the ability to ward off these bacteria, you may still get sick on a day when your immune system is weak from stress or fatigue.
So here’s the first example in a nutshell.
In supermarket management, the restroom is hidden to prompt shoppers to buy more food. In residential feng shui, restroom door should not be facing the kitchen or dining area because your health can be adversely affected.
Example #2: Kitchen Placement
The supermarket that I frequent have a kitchen area where they make and serve fresh food every day. The food includes fried chicken, potato salad, sandwiches, dessert, cold dishes, and many others.
If you haven’t noticed, the kitchen area is usually in one corner of the supermarket. This is because the process of making food, especially fried or grilled ones, produces repulsive smoke that harms our health.
Imagine if the kitchen was placed in the center of the supermarket. How would your shopping experience be if you walked into a smoke-filled supermarket?
The repulsive smoke produced by the kitchen is as bad feng shui. To mitigate it, the city government usually enforces ordinances that require the merchant to install commercial-grade smoke extractors.
Further, the kitchen is usually placed close to the front door of the supermarket. This placement is used to lure passer-bys into the store with the aroma of freshly prepared food.
As for residential feng shui, having the kitchen at the center of the house is said to hurt more than just health, but the overall spirit of the family.
Think about it. If the kitchen is at the center, the smoke and airborne grease can travel to all the living spaces, including your living room and bedroom. You cannot rest comfortably at home, and the fatigue and stress that ensue will make you feel like having a bad day every single day. Before you know it, your temper, patience, and mood are all spiraling downwards, negatively affecting your career, social relationships, and health.
But this saying originated from a time without smoke extractors. Even so, today’s smoke extractors for residential use cannot fully extract all the smell and airborne grease. (Just look at the areas around your smoke extractor.)
Here’s a personal example.
I love bacon. When I cook them, the smell can stay in my kitchen for days. On days when I forgot to close my bedroom door, the smell travels all the way to the bedroom and disturbs my sleep that night, directly impacting my work productivity the next day.
So here’s the second example in a nutshell.
In supermarket management, the kitchen is located at a corner with commercial-grade smoke extractor to provide a better shopping experience. In residential feng shui, the kitchen should not be located at the center of the house because the smell and airborne grease may cause irritation and loss of sleep.
Example #3: Product arrangements
Have you ever entered a supermarket or a retail store where the products are all over the place as if a stampede had just occurred not a while ago? How did that sight make you feel? How was your shopping experience?
The last time I saw a huge mess was during a Black Friday sale at an Armani Exchange retail outlet. Clothes were everywhere – on the floor, hanging over the racks, and crumbled together into different piles. Even though it was a huge sale, I didn’t even bother to dig through the mess to find a t-shirt I liked, not to mention finding a size that suits me.
Shoppers make a mess, and supermarket and retail store employees have to constantly organize the shelves and product placements. Their purpose is to create a more pleasant shopping experience so we can easily find what we’re looking to purchase while making other products more attractive for purchase. Again, their goal is to boost sales.
Along the same lines, feng shui suggest that your home should be kept organized and without clutter. By doing so, you can avoid the frustration of finding missing items and prevent yourself from kicking and hurting yourself from the mess.
With a clutter-free environment, you will find yourself more relaxed in your home, and you will notice that your frustrations will gradually go away. In the long run, this can translate to improved critical thinking ability and emotional state.
So here’s the third example in a nutshell.
In supermarket management, products are organized to provide a pleasant shopping experience for the purpose of making you buy more. In residential feng shui, your home should be kept clean and free of clutter to help you better relax at home – so you will have calm emotions and a sharp mind.
To summarize these three examples, the placement of the restroom, kitchen, and products in supermarkets are part of the greater knowledge of Retail Management, with its purpose to stimulate our shopping behavior to boost their revenue. The placement of the restroom, kitchen, and objects in your home are part of the greater knowledge of feng shui, with its purpose to better your mind, emotions, health, career, relationships, and your overall life.
Feng Shui and the Laws of Nature
The three examples earlier are about floor plan design, which are only a fraction of what residential feng shui is about. As mentioned earlier, residential feng shui also teaches us how to achieve harmony with the natural surroundings of our home.
The surrounding feng shui of your home refers to the air, land, and water that has the ability to impact both you and your home. To understand this easier, let me give you some extreme examples.
Example #4: Orlando, Los Angeles, and Seattle
For those that haven’t been to these cities, Orlando is hot and humid, Los Angeles is dry and sunny, and Seattle just rains constantly.
As you might have guessed, weather has a big impact on our mood. A friend of mine who just recently moved to Los Angeles from London (also a city with non-stop rain) mentioned how seeing the sun everyday just brightens his mood. “The day just starts better” was what he said exactly. On the contrary, some studies suggest that chronic rain is correlated with depression. Here’s an article by John Grohol, Doctor of Psychology, about weather, mood, and suicide, along with eight references if you’re into the topic.
The weather also impacts us in other ways. For instance, some people may develop skin rashes from humid environments, while others will experience dry skin in places like Los Angeles. Also, molds grow more easily in humid environments, and their impact on our health varies from nasal stiffness, throat irritation, coughing, and many others. Here’s what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (part of U.S. Department of Health and Services) have to say about mold.
Example #5: Pollution, Farm, and Factories
Weather is just one of the many feng shui elements that affect us. Imagine yourself living in a city with heavy pollution like Beijing, where you have to watch sunrise on a video screen because the sun is blocked from the smog. Not only does it adversely affect your health, you are more prone to anger and depression as well.
How about living next to an animal farm or a factory? The start of a typical day would be to smell the feces or whatever the factory is producing. (I remember driving by a food factory that made garlic. I could smell garlic even with all my windows shut and air recirculation turned on.)
Though the smell is sometimes carried away by wind, how would you feel when the wind carries the smell to your house? And if you feel constantly annoyed, do you think your temper and patience will worsen? How would that impact how you treat your friends, family, and those around you? How would that impact your relationships in the long run?
In short, how the natural or artificial surroundings affect you physically and mentally is how feng shui affects your well being.
Feng Shui and Behavioral Science
Other than the surrounding feng shui of your home, residential feng shui also includes the interior design of your home. By interior design, I do not mean the floor plan. Rather, I’m referring to furniture placements, light intensity, the wall colors, and the ceiling design, among many others.
If you’ve ever walked into a fancy hotel, how the lobby’s look and design made you feel is how the feng shui of interior design affects you.
Here are two examples to see how interior design can affect your well-being.
Example #6: Window Design and Placements
Windows give us sunlight. If you remember how you felt when dining at an outdoor patio versus dining in a dimly lit restaurant, you have an idea of how sunlight affects you. Depending on the setting and the light intensity, you may feel relaxed, sleepy, energetic, or alert, among many others.
Windows also give us fresh air. Imagine if your bedroom has no window. If you’re like me, you may feel that the room is stuffy or even suffocating – perhaps due to the large amounts of Carbon Dioxide that cannot circulate out of the room. With the lack of oxygen, you tend to feel sleepy. And with high concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, your sleep may even get disrupted, making you feel less rested even when you get your eight hours of sleep. That is why hotels with sealed windows tend to keep the air conditioning on all the time – so that you feel fresh when you enter your room.
Further, windows give us a view of the outside. Depending on your surrounding feng shui, you may feel relaxed if you see green trees and grass through your window, or your may feel agitated if your window overlooks a cemetery, hospital, or a waste management facility.
Lastly, the size, transparency, and the type of the window affect all those mentioned above. For instance, a larger window gives you more sunlight and fresh air, whereas a double-pane window has great noise cancellation – which is especially useful if you live right in the middle of a busy street.
Example #7: Furniture Placements
Sofa is one of the most essential furniture in your living room. Feng shui suggests that sofa should be placed against a wall so that you can feel more secure and relaxed when resting on the sofa.
If your sofa is not against a wall, you may have noticed that you’re constantly repositioning the sofa into its original place. Because every time you sit on it, you may have moved the sofa a bit backwards. This is more noticeable if your sofa is not quite heavy.
If the back of your sofa is a walkway, you may get distracted every time someone walks behind you. Also, if you have a dining table behind your sofa, you may feel uncomfortable resting on the sofa if someone is sitting quietly behind you, even if you know and trust that person very well. Further, any slight noise you hear from behind compels you to look backwards.
The same applies to the desk arrangement in your office or study room. If you have your back against a door, you will get that irresistible urge to look back whenever the door opens. It disrupts your work concentration, and it can also give you a scare you when someone bolts through your door.
We humans are highly visual. Because we do not have eyes at the back of our head, our sense of security may feel threatened when we hear sound or sense movements behind our back. This may be why feng shui suggests that having our back against a wall will help us with our rest and concentration.
How Feng Shui Affects Our Well-Being
As you may have noticed, our surroundings affect us mentally and physically. The placement of restroom is related to medicine, biology, and health, while product placement is relate to our studies in shopping experience, emotions, and human psychology.
While retail management uses this knowledge to stimulate our shopping behavior, feng shui teaches us how to use the environment to improve our lives.
Good feng shui enables you to relax or sleep better at home, which can lead to better mood and higher performance in your career. Along the same lines, suitable kitchen and restroom locations translate to less sick days, which translates to more time with your loved ones or more days to enjoy life.
In short, how the surrounding objects, structures, and natural environment affect you physically and mentally is how feng shui affects your well-being.
In a sense, feng shui is similar to science. Both bodies of knowledge are meant to improve our lives through a better understanding of this world. The major difference is that science uses experimentation, proof and numbers, whereas feng shui is based on observations and experiences accumulated over the years.
Today, experience is valued the most in careers and professional settings. If feng shui is based on experience, do you think it’s credible?
I personally see many similarities between the practice of feng shui and the practice of medicine. In medicine, doctors have different approaches to a cure the same type of disease. In feng shui, practictioners have different approaches to cure the same feng shui problems.
Also, I believe feng shui practices should evolve according to time, similar to how medicine evolved through the past centuries. Some ancient or outdated practices and experience should be discarded, and new ones should be introduced as we install modern inventions and equipments to our home, such as air conditioning, refrigerator, etc.
Furthermore, how feng shui impacts us varies among individuals. This is similar to medicine, where certain types of treatments work wonders for some but not the others.
Overall, I see feng shui as a body of experiences and knowledge of how our predecessors interacted with their surrounding environment. It has survived the test of time, which tells me is that something must have worked.
So what are your thoughts on feng shui? Share them with us in the comments below!