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Attention Restoration Theory

Attention Restoration Theory (ART), originally developed in the 1980s (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989), is often used to account for the positive mental health and wellbeing effects of nature. The theory holds that “nature provides the particular environmental stimuli to allow restoration from attention fatigue, which occurs during the performance of cognitive tasks that require prolonged maintenance of directed attention” (Bowler, Buyung-Ali, Knight, and Pullin, 2010, p. 2). A psycho-evolutionary theory proposed by Ulrich (1983) is in keeping with ART, suggesting that “nature may allow psychophysiological stress recovery through innate, adaptive responses to attributes of natural environments such as spatial openness, the presence of pattern or structure, and water features” (ibid, p. 2) and that these features promote positive emotions related to safety and survival. Ulrich’s theory is sometimes referred to as the Stress Reduction/Recovery Theory (SRT). These two theoretical orientations have helped to direct much of the research examining the possible mental health and stress-related impacts of nature. -From the nurture of nature

“The proponents of ART suggest that restorative settings remove an individual from their daily tasks, contain features that hold their attention with little effort (e.g. clouds, rustling leaves) and restores their ability to concentrate, allowing them to recover from stress (Kaplan, 1987).” McSweeney et al Comparison of Studies

Healthcare Applications

The waiting, treatment and recovery rooms of general practices, specialist consulting rooms, clinics and hospitals are all places where it is usual to feel varying levels of anxiety. Currently what patients do is read magazines or newspapers, talk with someone accompanying them, use their personal digital devices, or watch television. Mindsettle can work in tandem with these traditional diversions offering the patient more control over their wait. Mindsettle’s service offers nature on a screen which can lower heart rates, speed healing, reduce requests for pain medication, decrease levels of stress hormones and increase a sense of well-being and calm.

“The fact that patients frequently express a preference for landscape and nature scenes is consistent with this observation and with evolutionary psychological theories which predict positive emotional responses to flourishing natural environments.” McSweeney et al Comparison of Studies


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