Dr Stella Chan, lead researcher at the University of Edinburgh for a project looking into the effects of photographs on people’s moods, made the initial discovery during her training as a clinical psychologists.
View this post on Instagram
A warm painterly sky shared by @rmacimages. . "Fire in the sky" . #goexplore #wanderlust #sunset #nationaltrustsouthwest #nationalparks #dartmoor #devon #devonlife #igers #igersuk #instalike #instagood #igersdevon #uk #ukpotd #swisbest #higspic #joyful_pics #scenicbritain #gloriousbritain #skies #photooftheday #photosofbritain #landscape #nature #cloud #skyporn #ilovesouthdevon #visitbritain #visitsouthdevon @visitdartmoor @fujifilm_uk @nationaltrustsouthwest @visitengland @bbcwestweather
A post shared by Amateur Photographer Magazine (@ap_magazine) on
The discovery has helped to inform and develop a form of therapy known as Compassion-Focused Therapy, which seeks to address mental health issues and improve people’s sense of wellbeing.
Speaking in a report published by the BBC, Dr Chan said: “This therapy is about helping people develop a new sense of connection with themselves in amore compassionate way. One of the exercises we ask people to do is to close their eyes and create some mental imagery.
“So we started having this idea – what if we give people actual photographs to look at.”
Using photographs was a natural progressing for the project, due to the fact that some people find it extremely difficult to conjure up soothing images without any visual stimulation. Dr Chan, decided to reach out to the public and ask them to submit photographs so that they cab be collated and tested for efficacy in a scientific setting. Below are some of the images used in the study to test their impact on people’s moods.
If you’d like to take part in the project by submitting your own responses to sets of photos you can do so by clicking on this link. So far, the team at Edinburgh University has identified five types of images that seem to have the most positive, soothing effects on people – animals, skies, trees and floral images, water and landscapes.
Interestingly, photographs of people seem to have the opposite or at least a less calming effect on individuals. Dr Chan has suggested a possible reason for this: “When it comes to human faces, they normally connect to some kind of personal relationship.
“When relationships go well this is one of the best protective factors against mental health problems. But when relationships go wrong that is often a cause of distress and psychological difficulties.