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Dorm Room Feng Shui: Ten Tips That Make the Grade

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When you hear the word 'environment' you might just automatically think of global warming, deforestation in the Amazon, tectonic plates shifting and all sorts of other inconvenient truths. However, in the case of the campus dwelling college student, a few design tweaks to their immediate environment could mean the difference between "meh" and magna cum laude. But don't just take my word for it. Sam Gosling, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin has spent the better part of the last decade conducting significant studies and research regarding the impact the 'outer' environment can have on almost every area of our lives. Dorm room dwellers are definitely included.

Gosling has studied, and consequently authored a bestselling book called SNOOP: What Your Stuff Says About You. In his treatise Gosling echoes what Malcolm Gladwell postulates in his New York Times bestselling The Tipping Point when discussing external environment as the final agent of change influencing our decisions and our lives. That 'power of context,' or so says Gladwell, suggests that epidemics are strongly influenced by their own situations and circumstances as well as by the conditions and specifics of the immediate living space and/or surrounding environment. In fact Gladwell goes on to show how simply affecting a relatively few and minor changes in the external environment can have a huge and dramatic impact on who we are and how we function and behave.

Both Gosling and Gladwell are not saying anything that the ancient Feng Shui tradition hasn't been teaching for over five thousand years. See, Feng Shui says that our surrounding environs (among other things) have an immense impact and influence on every single thing that happens in our lives. Gladwell, Gosling and Feng Shui all agree that employing organization is one of the key attributes of a dorm room that then indicates and ensures academic (and personal) success. Feng Shui has some other suggestions about how students can use the space surrounding them in order to tap and increase creativity, good grades, personal power, fulfillment and a purpose driven life. Now it's time to school the student on exactly what can be done to keep the promises accorded to these ages-old premises. Here, then, Ten Feng Shui Tips that offer an academic (and other) competitive collegiate edge:

1. Try to position the dorm room bed so that it sits solidly against a back wall or even attach a headboard of some sort. This will elicit and instill the student with a strong sense of support. An image of a mountain also activates that same subconscious sense of security and support. The bed should also be placed far back into the room with a 'commanding' view of the entry door but not in the 'line of fire' -- that is -- between a window and a door. Having the bed placed in this 'command position' will also instill and imbue a sense of safety and security while allowing the student to have access to the higher order thinking part of the brain. No brain can function optimally when it is always on high 'alert.' Try best not to position a bed in front of a window or directly across from the doorway itself as both of these placements are considered less than energetically optimal as well. If it is not possible to oblige the Feng Shui going commando bed placement gold standards then at least place a healthy green plant or something solid between the head or foot of the bed and the door and/or offending window. A headboard, a solid wall behind and a bed positioned across the room from an entryway door will all bring scholastic (and personal) success.

2. Now, speaking of the dorm room door, Feng Shui says that this is the place where opportunity knocks so please be sure that it doesn't have to struggle to do exactly that. The college kid should keep their name on the front or outside of the door to offer ease in identity as well as affixing something vibrant and red on the front of it too. Positioning anything red outside the entryway door is believed to hasten the arrival of forthcoming fortunate energies since this philosophy says that the color red attracts both good fortune and luck. Door hinges should be well oiled so that the door doesn't stick upon opening and, as always, there should be nothing blocking that door from opening completely and fully. Blockages that prevent the entry door from opening easily translate to blockages and challenges in life as well.

3. ALL electronics should be kept AT LEAST an arm's length away from the head when sleeping. Electromagnetic frequencies have been linked to brain tumors, leukemia, stress, nausea, forgetfulness and a host of other health problems. In fact, in November 1989 the Department of Energy reported that "It has now become generally accepted that there are, indeed, biological effects due to field exposure." This announcement followed Martin Halper, the EPA's Director of Analysis and Support's statement that says, "I have never seen a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of evidence that we're seeing with EMF's" (and their potentially harmful effects.) Recent research is also suggesting that leaving televisions on all night long (or any dim lighting for that matter) can possibly now be linked to changes in the brain that lead to mental health concerns such as depression. If the student simply cannot live without the dim light or the EMFs from computers, televisions, microwaves and other electrical appliances, then healthy and live green plants should be placed around the room so that some of those potentially hazardous frequencies can be oxygenated and absorbed. In fact, healthy plants will help to remove all toxins from any living/sleeping space. Bamboo is often the plant of choice for the college dorm room partly because it's almost impossible to kill and partly because it has a thousands-of-years old reputation for attracting health, happiness and prosperity or what are called the 'Three Great Blessings' in Feng Shui. Many adherents to the Feng Shui tradition also believe that bamboo encourages a long and virtuous life as well. Whatever the legend and the lore, bamboo is a fine plant choice for the savvy student who is blooming and growing all full of fortune and luck.

4. In the last tip I talked about the placement of green plants inside the dorm room, this one will simply share the many benefits of using the color green as a primary or even an accessory hue in the same room as the student sleeps. According to Feng Shui, any shade of green in the immediate sleeping space is considered nourishing and helps to promote healthy living and growth. The color green calms the nerves (think "to sleep per chance to dream" the night before the Shakespeare final exam) and is also said to be the color most associated with renewal, fresh energy and new beginnings. Well, enough said there eh? Except this -- sleeping on green sheets is also touted to bring balance and harmony to the sweet dreamer. Save stimulating red for the study area and use purples, blues and greens to relax and restore.

5. Hang ONLY images, pictures, posters et al that either speak to the heart and soul of the student and will inspire them towards fulfilling their purpose and/or that will help them to attract excellent opportunities along their collegiate path to success. Imagine an image of Spielberg in the budding movie director's room or Einstein in the engineer's and you get the picture. Photos of family and friends strategically placed throughout the dorm room can also offer a sense of familiarity and will almost counter intuitively help to quell homesickness. Feng Shui says that taking a bit of water and dirt from home and scattering both on school grounds on the day of arrival can mysteriously but effectively do the same thing.

6. Any student will feel clearer, calmer and more competent when studying at a well organized and clean desk. In fact (talk about counter intuitive) keeping the entire room clean and organized is believed to promote productivity, peace of mind, happiness and good grades. College kids should eliminate any objects that are not considered absolutely necessary to their academia experience so that they can open up to new ideas, teachings, philosophies and opportunities. Spending a few minutes in the morning sorting laundry (as opposed to letting it sit on the desk chair, the end of the bed and, of course, the 'closet' known as the floor) as well as organizing paperwork and even sorting books will exponentially decrease the amount of time spent later down the line looking for a great job. As will having a small globe positioned in the dorm room as well. This Feng Shui symbol is especially applicable for seniors who will soon be walking into the working world. Positioning a globe, preferably in the middle or center of the back wall of the room (commonly called the 'Fame' area in Feng Shui) is believed to attract or bring excellent employment opportunities from every corner of the -- you guessed it -- globe.

7. If there is 'Jesse James Syndrome' present (sitting or sleeping or spending any substantial amount of time with back to the door) when either sitting at the dorm room desk or even lying in bed then be sure to position a mirror so that it can reflect what's happening or going on behind. The mirror will reflect energy and movement the student otherwise might not see while additionally reflecting more light into the room. In fact using mirrors in small spaces is an old decorating 'trick' that uses decorative mirrors and illusion to open up the space of any small place. Just be sure that there's never a mirror that directly reflects the sleeping student as this is believed to create a negative Chi or energy flow. A mirror that closely reflects the sleeper can scare the bejesus out of them too. Imagine if they wake to take a trip to the loo and see another face staring right back at them. Even if it's their own visage they see, for a few minutes at least, that can still be a jarring and scary situation. Hey, have you ever seen a college student after a long night out at the campus center? You'd be scared too!

8. Forget those classic yellow number twos -- students can sharpen their study skills (and increase their GPA) by softening the corners in their rooms. Feng Shui says that sharp corners on furniture, shelving or any other significant accessories hanging around the dorm room can produce 'poison arrows' or lines of negative energy that disrupt the flow of healthy and happy Chi. The solution here is to attach molded rubber table corners to sharp edges on the desk or dresser or even cover them with a decorative cloth of some sort. Soft and soothing lighting can also help to anesthetize harsh and/or harmful sharp energies. Of course at any and every turn, embrace natural light as this is nourishing and nurturing as well. Light also increases productivity while stimulating and activating corridors of creativity and then continues to keeps those juices flowing.

9. There should always, always, always be inspirational and motivational displays of accolades, awards, even papers with good grades hung at the student's eye level somewhere in the vicinity of the desk in the dorm room. This design ideal is the perfect pick-me-up for those days when the student is hanging on a low limb and/or for when an apple for the teacher just won't cut it. Sow seeds for future success by displaying accolades, awards, letters of encouragement and papers with good grades on them in order to offer a subconscious and subtle yet powerful reminder of the potential and the possibility that accompanies the academic experience.

10. Empty the garbage pail. Every day. Okay, c'mon, after all of this do I really have to tell you why?

And, now for something a bit more mystical that acts like magic. If a student is having difficulties with his or her roommate(s) then they should sit a small bowl or mug of a rice and sea salt combination on the desk. This blend will absorb negative energies and help to smooth over tough tensions and times. This salt and rice mix should be disposed of outside the room and replaced with a fresh blend once every thirty days or so. Now, also according to this age-old and empowering tradition, a room with a view is worth its weight in gold stars but if the student faces a wall when they are studying then they could hit one come testing time too. Rather, place a poster or image of what's called the 'long view' in this same space: a view of the horizon or some expansive image of nature like a field of flowers or a long and winding trail. Not only will this open them up to opportunities but also calms the body and mind while soothing the spirit. This 'view' also allows for better critical thinking too. This tip gets an 'A' in my book. Placing small crystal globes or balls (even clear glass marbles will do) on the desk or on wall shelves will subtly influence and so then symbolize everything going smoothly with few, if any, obstacles around. And hanging a crystal in front of a window will allow prisms of rainbow light to move easily through the room enhancing creativity and appearing to enlarge the space. These 'rainbows' can help to boost both grades and moods too. There's a pot 'o gold for any tired teen. Lastly, no one should ever sleep with a bathroom door open as Feng Shui says that this room of elimination can (and will) drain both energy and opportunities away. Rather, keep bathroom doors closed, especially at night, and the student will awake more refreshed while enjoying some quality slumber and sleep.

Gosling and Gladwell and good OLD Feng Shui all share the same sentiments -- that the things we surround ourselves with actually have a tremendously influential impact on every experience in our lives. In fact, Feng Shui posits that the things we live with can and will determine our lives, for better or for worse. As the college kids get their jumpstart on life, it's up to us to teach them that the words, colors, shapes and the people they surround themselves with are merely metaphors for what they will attract into their present and, then, their future as well. If they follow at least some of these empowering and effective tips I can promise they will go to the head of the class -- in college and in life!