You may be used to routine methods that help you reduce stress like yoga, going to the gym, taking a walk in the park, or spending time with friends. Unfortunately, some of those activities may not be available during these unprecedented times, due to shutdowns and closures of indoor, large-group facilities. Did you know that an alternative way to reduce stress is looking at or surrounding yourself with calm images?
Observing calm, relaxing photos can be a good mindfulness technique or tool to reduce moderate stress. According to a study designed to understand the physiological benefits of viewing nature indoors, scientists concluded that exposure to images and videos of nature induced a more relaxed state. Their research reported improvements and recovery in participant stress levels and fatigue when viewing calm, natural settings. Other reported symptoms included a decrease in heart rates, while visual and attention areas of the brain demonstrated increased reactions (in comparison to images of urban environments). These findings suggest that observing images of nature may cause positive changes in our parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates important body functions like breathing and digestion.
Viewing calm images of nature is a stress management technique you can utilize in these difficult times, especially if you find it challenging to produce your own mental pictures or practice meditation. Types of nature images you may enjoy include forest landscapes, urban green spaces such as gardens and flowers, or mountains, fields, and water.
Set aside a few minutes in your day to take a break and look at photos that instill a sense of calm. “Since many of our typical routines have been disrupted right now – along with the fact that stress levels are rising – it may be especially helpful to create new routines centered around relaxation,” encourages Dr. Lindsay Gries, Director of Psychological Services at Diversus Health. “Just a few minutes at a time, two to three times a day, can yield significant benefits.”
Incorporating calm images into your everyday routine can benefit as daily reminders to soothe your mind. Try replacing your cell phone or computer wallpaper, hang a nature photo on your fridge, or put calming images and décor in your home office and bedroom.
Take a look at some of the calm images below and assess your stress levels before and after viewing.