A TRANQUIL picture of a river bank with the trees reflected in the still water, a butterfly having a rest and displaying its markings and a scattering of pink and white flowers are among a host of images specially chosen by scientists at Edinburgh University to help improve mental wellbeing.
Project Soothe is an innovative online gallery developed by clinical psychologists which can be shared by the public to help calm the mind and promote a general feeling of togetherness.
More than 300 photographs have been collected by researchers after they asked people to submit an image they find comforting. Feedback is being collected from visitors to the site about how they feel after viewing an image – and whether it helps them feel calm.
After collecting the images the team will do further research to discover which of the photographs are most suitable for use in future research and psychological therapies.
Researchers say it is known that the ability a person has to soothe themselves in times of distress helps them stay well, but some people are less able to imagine a soothing scene – which is where a bank of images could help.
Since asking people to submit their images researchers have found common themes emerging – with natural landscapes and animals proving more popular than people.
Dr Stella Chan and Prof Matthias Schwannauer launched the project a year ago to investigate the interaction between imagery and how it makes people feel.
Dr Chan, of the university’s school of health in social science, said: “A soothing image can help people on two levels – a person may have an image which is linked to a memory, so the memory associated with the images helps them feel comforted.
“But on another level there may be some universal elements in images which people are more likely to find reassuring.”
The team would like more people to submit images of things which keep them calm through www.projectsoothe.com.