Project Soothe - pictures to calm the soul

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A bank of comforting pictures is being compiled by team of clinical psychologists to improve the nation’s wellbeing.

Project Soothe, which celebrates its first birthday at the University of Edinburgh today, has an online gallery which will be shared with the public to improve wellbeing.

More than 300 photographs, including a butterfly resting, a peaceful river bank scene and one of pink and white flowers against a blue background, have been collected by researchers after they asked people to submit an image they find comforting.

Feedback is being collected from site visitors 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 photographs are most suitable for use in future research and psychological therapies.

Researchers say that 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.”

Submissions of images for the project can be made at Images can also be viewed on twitter @Project Soothe and facebook