Restoration in its natural context: how ecological momentary assessment can advance restoration research

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More and more people use self-tracking technologies to track their psychological states, physiology, and behaviors to gain a better understanding of themselves or to achieve a certain goal. Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) also offers an excellent opportunity for restorative environments research, which examines how our physical environment (especially nature) can positively influence health and wellbeing. It enables investigating restorative health effects in everyday life, providing not only high ecological validity but also opportunities to study in more detail the dynamic processes playing out over time on recovery, thereby bridging the gap between laboratory (i.e., short-term effects) and epidemiological (long-term effects) research. We have identified four main areas in which self-tracking could help advance restoration research: (1) capturing a rich set of environment types and restorative characteristics; (2) distinguishing intra-individual from inter-individual effects; (3) bridging the gap between laboratory and epidemiological research; and (4) advancing theoretical insights by measuring a more broad range of effects in everyday life.
This paper briefly introduces restorative environments research, then reviews the state of the art of self-tracking technologies and methodologies, discusses how these can be implemented to advance restoration research, and presents some examples of pioneering work in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Article number420
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016


  • restorative environments
  • experience sampling method
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • nature
  • mHealth
  • environmental psychology


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