For moments when you want to change your mood in way less time than the duration of a yoga class, there actually are a few specific images that are scientifically proven to relax you. Click through our slideshow above to see five visuals that will ease your stress, then read below for some additional insight into the science behind them:
1. THE RELAXING IMAGE: Greenery
A 17-year study lead by psychologist Mathew White—Professor as the University of Exeter’s European Center for Environment and Human Health in Truro—found that city-dwellers who live near green spaces felt less mental distress than those who didn’t. Additionally, in 2012 researchers at the Department of Communication Science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam found that seeing images of greenery showed positive mental effects. It showed that patients in waiting rooms at a Dutch hospital who were exposed to either real plants or posters of plants felt less stress than those who saw neither.
2. THE RELAXING IMAGE: The Open Sea
“Water is life,” is more than a health-conscious slogan. It really doe represent the vital nature of water to basically all living organisms. Aside from being a necessary part of a human’s physical diet, the sound and imagery of water is actually proven to be essential in the mental health of humans as well.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, believes that we all encompass a “blue mind.” He describes it as, “A mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.” This state of mind is triggered by images of the sea.
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3. THE RELAXING IMAGE: Natural Fractals
Natural fractals are or repeating patterns that occur in nature, carrying recurring defined shapes and lines. Natural fractals can be found around the world—trunks of trees to the petals of flowers, as well as the cyclical shape of ocean waves, and snowflakes.
According to Dr. Richard Taylor, PhD, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon, the calming effect of fractals may have to do with how our brains have evolved overtime. "The idea is that, through evolution, our visual system has developed to efficiently process the visual patterns of fractals that are prevalent in nature," he explains on Health.com. He continues to say, "This increased efficiency results in the observer becoming relaxed."
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4. THE RELAXING IMAGE: Man-Made Fractals
Like natural fractals, man-made fractals are comprised of repeating patterns defined by specific shapes and lines. And like naturally occurring fractals, man-made fractals have a relaxing effect on the mind by complementing areas of our brain which enjoy seeing symmetry. Humans’ attraction to these types of patterns can be seen in common image stylings like mandalas, and popular designs like a Sierpinski Triangle.
5. THE RELAXING IMAGE: The Color Blue
Color researcher Dr. Nancy J. Stone, PhD, a professor of psychology at Creighton University, has found in her own research that individuals doing challenging tasks were less anxious after viewing the color blue. Additionally, studies such as 2004’s Relationship Between Color and Emotion: a Study of College Students found that the the color blue further elicits a high number of positive emotional responses, such as feelings of calmness, happiness, peace, hope, and comfort. Contrary to the sad emotions associated with “having the blues,” the color inspires a low number of negative responses, like sadness and depression.
Do you have any life hacks for relaxation? We love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments below.