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Into the woods

If you go down to the woods today You're sure of a big surprise If you go down to the woods today You'd better go in disguise.

Many of us are familiar with the lyrics from the Teddy Bears Picnic - I find the idea of a picnic in the woods so tantalising. It satisfies our basic need for nourishment of the body and nourishment of the soul. When Jill and I were working on a way to use this unique collection of images, it was always our wish that we could create a spark for emotional connection. Slowly, as we continue to research and innovate, this concept is gathering momentum. We aim to use this collection to help reduce medical anxiety.

When I think back I can see that this idea has been percolating for a number of years. Back in 2010, I accompanied a friend to a few of his chemo sessions. While I clearly understood the anxiety attached to having cancer, the amount of time spent in treatment was a shock and I could see that these spells in hospital helped the anxiety to grow. Fast forward to last year when two people in my family underwent surgery in the same week, long waits pre-op with limited distraction options in the waiting room. ANXIETY!!

Instinctively I know the benefits the right visual images can have, though most people want proof. During the literature review for this project I have been fascinated to learn about:

  • evidence based positive distraction

  • neuro-aesthetics

  • art therapy

  • diversional therapy

  • anticipatory anxiety

  • psycho-oncology

  • challenging behaviours in waiting rooms

  • evidence based design

Roger Ulrich is a patriarch of Evidence Based Design (EBD), his breakthrough study focussed on the benefits of looking at nature whilst recovering from surgery, was first published in 1984. In a Scientific American interview with Roger Ulrich it is asserted that "Just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity."

In another interview with Healthcare Design Magazine Ulrich says that the evidence continues to be solid, "There are several Randomly Controlled Trials published in prominent medical journals showing that nature distraction reduces pain." With evidence from these different fields we can be confident that the right images can have a positive mind-body effect. As the project continues, I gather knowledge in new areas and recognise gaps that has me seeking expert collaborators. It could be safer to stay at home, but I still want to go down to the woods........

You'd better not go alone It's lovely down in the woods today But safer to stay at home.

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