How to Destress With Calming Pictures

Certain images, colors, and shapes have a calming effect. Learn how and why you can destress with pictures.

green succulent fractal
Photo: Photo by Martin Rancourt on Unsplash

Stress can cause a number of health problems, ranging from heart disease to seizures to insomnia. Getting a massage or doing breathing exercises are some common methods for alleviating stress, but these don't work for everyone. They can also take more time than you have during a workday. Instead, just looking at calming pictures could help you feel less stressed.

Looking at calming pictures is a form of mindfulness meditation, also known as training your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions. If you've ever heard the phrases "zone out" or "take a mental vacation," that's exactly what calming pictures have the power to do for your mind and, therefore, your overall wellness.

Learn more about what makes pictures calming and how to use calming pictures to destress.

Types of Calming Pictures

Here's what research tells us about why certain images and colors are so soothing.

Green spaces

Green mountains
Photo by Claudel Rheault on Unsplash

Nature has a calming effect, but pictures of nature can also help. According to a 2021 Environmental Research and Public Health article, looking at calming pictures of nature reduced activity in the brain's orbitofrontal cortex. This area of the brain is involved in regulating emotion and can be hyperactive when you experience anxiety or depression, causing feelings like stress or worry.

A 2018 Environmental Research and Public Health article also compared looking at calming pictures of forests versus calming pictures of cities. Results showed that the forest pictures similarly reduced activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, increasing comfort and relaxation.

The connection between nature and relaxation is no secret. In fact, researchers in a 2017 British Journal of Psychiatry article found that simply living near green space is associated with improved mental health and wellbeing.

Seascapes

seascape
Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

Many white noise machines include a "whoosh" of crashing waves, but even looking at calming pictures of the ocean might have a similar relaxing effect. A 2021 Scientific Reports article showed a promising link between ocean views and better mental health. Increased views of blue space (like seascapes) were associated with less stress.

Fractals

green succulent fractal
Photo by Martin Rancourt on Unsplash

Natural fractals are repeating patterns that recur on finer and finer scales. They can be found almost everywhere in nature, including in shells, flowers, leaves, snowflakes, and river deltas. There are also man-made fractals, which are artificially-made designs found in architecture.

And, according to a 2021 Frontiers in Psychology article, fractals can reduce stress. Fractal patterns are associated with positive psychological experiences, particularly relaxation. If you want to look at a fractal to reduce stress, try looking at a succulent or a sunflower.

What Colors Are Calming?

In addition to calming pictures, colors can have a major impact on stress levels. Blue and green, in particular, can do wonders for your mood. According to a 2014 SAGE Open article, both colors are common in nature. Green and neutral earth tones remind people of plans while blue is found in both the sky and the sea. As such, these colors can stimulate clear thought, calm the mind, and help with concentration.

Plus, blue light can actually lower your blood pressure. A 2020 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology study found that blue light exposure significantly decreased blood pressure, which can temporarily spike due to stress.

How to Use Calming Pictures and Colors

How often you use calming pictures and colors is up to you. Whether you choose to look at calming pictures and colors every day, or once a week, try to be consistent either way.

The NIH recommends first finding somewhere quiet and comfortable free from interruption. Your relaxation space should also have a comfortable temperature that isn't too hot or cold, which can make it hard to relax. Lastly, relax your body and muscles, especially any tense areas.

Once you're ready, spend a few minutes looking at calming pictures or colors. Try to focus on the image in front of you and how it makes you feel. Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is also helpful since it is another powerful tool in reducing stress.

Summary

The next time you're stressed, try looking at calming pictures. Certain images, shapes, and colors can have a calming effect on the mind, which can improve your mood and help you relax. Whether you're new to using calming pictures and colors or a seasoned professional, consider keeping these sorts of images on hand for times of stress.

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