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Atmosphere and how it affects our bodies

It is, say, a Tuesday at 4.45pm. The air is muggy and close as you step out of your air-conditioned office. Your body aches from sitting for eight hours straight. You ate lunch at your desk again, even though you swore you wouldn’t. There was just too much to get through, too much to do. Now you’re late to pick up your child from daycare. You need to go shopping. You need to cook dinner. You need to spruce up your house for guests coming to dinner tomorrow evening. Most of all you need rest and calm. So when one of your guests gives you a gift card for toast&co, you’re more grateful than is strictly polite. 

You arrive on a Saturday morning, the only time you have free, and you’re bracing for it to be packed full of similarly desperate people, but it’s not. There is a whoosh of fresh, cool air as you enter with the slightest scent of jasmine. The walls are a gentle green, the chairs soft, the towels fluffy. Everything is slow and quiet, voices speak softly and you are led to a space that is all yours for an hour. Tea arrives on a smart tray and you bite down on a buttery biscuit. 

Meanwhile, a friendly woman tends to your aching feet. You place them in a bath of warm water with floating rose petals. She pops in a fizz ball and you catch a hint of lavender. After you’re dried off you get a massage. While your toes are painted the subtlest shade of nude pink, you close your eyes for a moment, taking it all in. When you leave, you feel more revived than you have in months – and you begin to wonder why exactly. 

In a word: atmosphere. 

How our environment affects us

The link between your physical environment and your emotional state is well established. One study showed that a cluttered space stimulates cortisol, the stress hormone. In another, in which women’s cortisol levels were compared to their husbands’, the wives with messy homes showed more depression and higher stress. Tons of research points to how loud, polluted and ugly cityscapes make people more unhappy, violent and unproductive. Spending time in nature or other similarly tranquil spaces does the opposite: brain scans after people walked in nature or even looked at pictures of nature showed that they ruminated less. In Japan they practise forest bathing, in which people are encouraged to spend time in forests to promote wellbeing. 

All this points to the importance of atmosphere to your health and happiness. Atmosphere includes all your senses: what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch, and each sense can send your body into a fear reaction in which it braces to defend itself – even in a mild way, such as when you enter a cluttered or loud environment – or it can send messages to your parasympathetic system that tells your body it safe to rest and digest. 

toast&co has this in mind each morning when the salon is opened and the air is spritzed clean with a jasmine infuser. The colour of the walls – a soft green – was chosen precisely because green is the easiest colour for our eyes to see and, as it is one of the cool colours, it makes the space feel fresh. Cellphone conversations are asked to be kept to a minimum to preserve the sense of tranquillity and safety. The tea, coffee and biscuits are carefully selected and tested, as are the towels for their feel and colour. Every inch of the space is curated for a peaceful, restful and beautiful experience. After all, your whole body reacts to the environment in which it finds itself, and when you come to treat yourself to some care and reprieve from your hectic life, you deserve a serene, gentle space to rest and recover. 

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