I would like to introduce Project Soothe—a project led by Dr Stella Chan and her team. This project aims to assist researchers and clinicians alike to help improve mood and overall well-being.
You know that feeling of calmness and tranquility you sometimes get when you see a beautiful view? That same soothing feeling can be “replicated” by observing images depicting similar views. Also, that sense of calmness and tranquility can still be triggered by seeing different types of images. Project Soothe has identified several themes that individuals find soothing including I) landscapes, II) plants and flowers, III) water feature, IV) sky and V) animals.
What helps you relax and just breathe a little easier when you are going through a rough time?
Project Soothe aims to learn about what helps people self-soothe. Since 2015, the project has been inviting anyone over the age of 12 to submit photos of whatever soothes them, alongside a brief description of what that picture makes them feel. So far, more than 800 images have been collected and together have formed a large bank of photos for use in future research and therapies. All of these images can be found in the online gallery on the website www.projectsoothe.com. As postgraduate students, we go through some very stressful times with our studies, so it is good to have a few resources at our disposal!
A few words about Project Soothe in Academic Research:
Project Soothe employs a “citizen-scientist” approach. This approach allows members of the public to be actively involved in academic research. As we all know, academic research can lead to academic publication. So far, the project has found that:
“[…] people experience an increase in positive mood and decrease in negative mood after viewing just 25 soothing photographs. We’ve also found that looking at our images generates more mood benefits than simply asking people to create mental imagery” (1) (Rhodes, 2018)
Moreover, students and researchers within the School of Health in Social Science have also contributed to a few Project Soothe academic publications such as Wilson et al. (2018) and Mok et al. (2019). The study by Wilson et al. (2018) examined the relationship between positive emotional stimuli, general imagery vividness, and self-compassion. The key findings suggest visual mental imagery can be influenced by the soothing images. Soothing images can, therefore, help to generate positive visual mental imagery, which ultimately improves mood.
On the other hand, Mok et al. (2019) sought to understand the feeling of soothing and how the feeling of soothing is developed in everyday life contexts using a qualitative research design. The results demonstrated that the feeling of soothing and the experience of soothing are intertwined. Moreover, participants described the feeling of soothing as an inner sense of “peace and contentment”, as well as the sense of calmness.
(1): To those of you who have never stumbled across the term “visual mental imagery”, these are the visualizations/images in your head that everyone has. You know that phrase: What do you see yourself doing in five years? And you imagine all sorts of accomplishments? Well, that is visual mental imagery–a meta-cognition that allows us to plan ahead and to self-soothe whenever needed.
Now that you know about Project Soothe here are some of my favourite soothing images:
All these photos were copied from the Project Soothe Online Gallery found here
Mok, M. C. L., Schwannauer, M., & Chan, S. W. Y. (2019). Soothe ourselves in times of need: A qualitative exploration of how the feeling of ‘soothe’ is understood and experienced in everyday life. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1111/papt.12245
Project Soothe. (2014, N/A). Gallery Retrieved from: http://www.projectsoothe.com/gallery/4593769653
Project Soothe. (2014, N/A). Submit Photos Retrieved from: http://www.projectsoothe.com/participate/4587215557
Project Soothe. (2014, N/A). Welcome to Project Soothe. Retrieved from: http://www.projectsoothe.com/home/4589131317
Rhodes, E. (2018, February). Soothing public minds. Retrieved from The Psychologist https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-31/february-2018/soothing-public-minds
Wilson, A. C., Schwannauer, M., McLaughlin, A., Ashworth, F., & Chan, S. W. Y. (2018). Vividness of positive mental imagery predicts positive emotional response to visually presented Project Soothe pictures. British Journal of Psychology, 109(2), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12267