Soothing images may help those feeling isolated during Covid-19 pandemic, researchers say

Researchers at Edinburgh University have created a bank of soothing images to improve the wellbeing and mood of those caring for people suffering with dementia.

The categories on the app include "water" and "landscape".
The categories on the app include "water" and "landscape".

The pictures may be especially helpful in improving the mood of those feeling isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic, clinical psychologists said.

They were collected as part of a project between the university’s Advanced Care Research Centre, Project Soothe, an initiative to look at how certain images make people feel, and CogniHealth, a company supported by Edinburgh Innovations which creates digital solutions to support families affected by dementia.

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The pictures have been divided into categories including “sky”, “animals”, “water” and “landscape”.

The online gallery has been added to the CogniCare app. Picture: Project Soothe

They have been made available on a free app, CogniCare, which offers advice, support and resources for dementia care.

Researchers asked members of the public to submit their most calming pictures for an online gallery, and ended up with a collection of over 200.

The researchers then asked for feedback from people from more than 40 countries about how they felt after looking at each picture, and whether or not it made them feel calm.

People using the app can view a slide show, and choose their own preference of theme or colour.

Researchers say the images have been shown to improve wellbeing. Picture: Project Soothe

Dr Stella Chan, Project Lead from the School of Health in Social Science, said people are able to soothe themselves by imagining certain scenes, but that not everyone has the ability to conjure up such images on their own.

“It is known that the ability a person has to soothe themselves in difficult times helps them stay well, but some people are less able to imagine a soothing scene – which is where a bank of images could help,” she said.

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Liz Casely, Programme Manager at the Advanced Care Research Centre, said the feature could be used by anyone to soothe themselves during the pandemic.

Animals are included in the categories. Picture: Project Soothe

“We are delighted to offer this positive initiative. The Advanced Care Research Centre will be encouraging people in later life to view the app along with friends, family and carers to promote recall of memories and stimulate discussion,” she said.

The app will also generate data that will help the team develop an Images of Care project led by Stella Chan within the Advanced Care Research Centre.

Images of Care will aim to use imagery to explore what care in later life means to people. The project was funded by the Data-Driven Innovation’s Programme (DDI) as part of its open call for Covid response projects to help regional recovery.

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