Stopping the train of thought: A pilot study using an Ecological Momentary Intervention with twice-daily exposure to natural versus urban scenes to lower stress and rumination

F. Beute, Y.A.W. de Kort

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Abstract

Background: Stress, and specifically perseverative cognition, is considered to have considerable detrimental effects on mental and physical health. Interventions that can offer temporary stress relief could, therefore, bring considerable health benefits. Previous research has pointed to stress-reducing effects of exposure to nature after acute stressors, but has not yet investigated effects in the realm of everyday life. The present pilot study explores whether an ecological momentary intervention using exposure to natural images could be effective in lowering stress and improve mood. Methods: Fifteen participants (12 females) scoring above threshold on stress, depression, or anxiety completed two study periods of 6 days. They watched an urban (control) or natural slideshow twice daily. Using Ecological Momentary Assessment, effects on mood, and stress-related complaints were measured in everyday life. Results: Compliance to the study protocol was high, especially in the first week, with slightly more videos watched in the morning than in the evening. We found indications of improvements in mood, self-reported worrying (but not stress levels), and heart rate. Conclusions: The results suggest that twice-daily exposure to restorative visual content could be a viable Ecological Momentary Intervention, with the potential to reduce self-reported worry, lower autonomic activity, and increase positive affect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-253
JournalApplied Psychology : Health and Well-Being
Volume10
Issue number2
Early online dateMay 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

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Insurance Benefits
Cognition
Mental Health
Anxiety
Heart Rate
Depression
Research
Ecological Momentary Assessment

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title = "Stopping the train of thought: A pilot study using an Ecological Momentary Intervention with twice-daily exposure to natural versus urban scenes to lower stress and rumination",
abstract = "Background: Stress, and specifically perseverative cognition, is considered to have considerable detrimental effects on mental and physical health. Interventions that can offer temporary stress relief could, therefore, bring considerable health benefits. Previous research has pointed to stress-reducing effects of exposure to nature after acute stressors, but has not yet investigated effects in the realm of everyday life. The present pilot study explores whether an ecological momentary intervention using exposure to natural images could be effective in lowering stress and improve mood. Methods: Fifteen participants (12 females) scoring above threshold on stress, depression, or anxiety completed two study periods of 6 days. They watched an urban (control) or natural slideshow twice daily. Using Ecological Momentary Assessment, effects on mood, and stress-related complaints were measured in everyday life. Results: Compliance to the study protocol was high, especially in the first week, with slightly more videos watched in the morning than in the evening. We found indications of improvements in mood, self-reported worrying (but not stress levels), and heart rate. Conclusions: The results suggest that twice-daily exposure to restorative visual content could be a viable Ecological Momentary Intervention, with the potential to reduce self-reported worry, lower autonomic activity, and increase positive affect.",
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