For those of you who don’t have time to take a vacation, get a massage at your favorite spa or soak in a luxurious warm bath, instant zen can be found on your computer screen. There are five types of images that can ease your mind. So get comfortable, kick back and relax.
A 2012 study conducted in Dutch hospital waiting rooms found that patients in the presence of live plants or those who viewed posters of them experienced much less stress than folks who were exposed to neither. That line of thinking goes along with psychologists’ studies of city dwellers: The ones who live near green spaces immediately feel less mental distress.
“When [the ocean is] landmark-free, it’s naturally calming to us, much like closing your eyes is calming,” Michael Merzenich, PhD and neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. So just as the hypnotic whooshing sound of crashing waves has become popular for white noise machines, the sight of the ocean has its own soothing properties. Experts believe it’s because the sea creates a sense of safety because of water’s life-giving properties and its smooth-looking surface.
There’s a perfectly good and natural reason why natural fractals have a calming effect on our minds. The repeating patterns that recur on finer scales on things like shells, flowers, leaves, snowflakes, river deltas and the veins of our bodies, and the placating sensation this creates, has to do with how our brains have evolved to interpret them. “The idea is that, through evolution, our visual system has developed to efficiently process the visual patterns of fractals that are prevalent in nature,” Richard Taylor, PhD, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon, told Health.com. “This increased efficiency results in the observer becoming relaxed.”
Man-made fractals have the same effect on our brains even though they differ from ones found in nature. “Most artificial fractals belong to a family called exact fractals because the patterns repeat exactly,” Taylor said. Many architecture lovers would agree that building designs based on fractal geometry can have almost a mesmerizing effect on sightseers.
The Color Blue
A study involving 98 college students found that the color blue had a good psychological effect on those who viewed it. When asked about the associations that various colors elicited, blue ranked high for positive emotional responses that included feelings of calmness, happiness, peace, hope and comfort. It rated low for negative responses, such as sadness and depression.