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 30.09.2019

A museum visit on a prescription? The power of pictures – how images can affect our moods

And how the influence of visual stimuli on our moods could even help us

Hello from Essen! My name is Fabian Posern and I work as an independent film producer. We Humans are very visual beings by nature. Of course, I deal with this aspect in my work on a daily basis. Creating a coherent overall product from individually filmed sequences requires a lot of tact and sensitivity. Ultimately, the finished film is supposed to tell a story and captivate the viewer.

Depending on the effect you want to achieve, a film can generate a huge range of emotions in the audience. I have always been fascinated by the power that images can have on us. However, until recently, I wouldn’t have thought it possible that it could also be beneficial for our health.

Can the effect of images on our mood be harnessed?

Those who read up a bit on the subject will quickly discover that the effect of images on the Human mind has been in use for some time. A very good example of this is the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), which is used for numerous psychological studies to cause defined emotions in test subjects (https://csea.phhp.ufl.edu/media.html). The fact that emotions can be standardized in such a way is a bit strange at first glance. But it clearly shows once again how universally we as Human beings react to certain visual stimuli. But can this connection also be used for the benefit of our health?

I came across a very interesting study from the Journal of Applied Gerontology here (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0733464817743332). They were able to find evidence that a kind of "art therapy", in which patients actively engage with art, can have a positive effect on the mood of the test subjects and thus could help with various psychological illnesses such as depression.

Naturheilzentrum blog: Healthy through art?

Apparently, there are even some institutions which are already trying to draw conclusions from this. For example, I found an initiative by a Montreal museum, allowing free visits for patients and relatives in the future, if prescribed by a doctor. Museum visits on prescription? This sounds kind of crazy, but the whole thing has obviously been well documented scientifically.

Our own emotions are often hidden in pictures

Just as pictures can make an impression on us, we can express ourselves and our emotions through them. As a filmmaker, I am very familiar with this, of course. Apparently, however, we subconsciously use this method much more frequently than one might think. This is at least the conclusion of another very interesting study from the EPJ Data Science journal, which I recently found on the Internet (https://epjdatascience.springeropen.com/articles/10.1140/epjds/s13688-017-0110-z): Apparently, researchers have been able to use self-learning computer algorithms to determine with a high level of accuracy whether someone is suffering from depression simply on the basis of their Instagram photos.

The wholly natural effect of pictures on our health

I find that really astounding, especially since all sorts of photos were taken into account and not just selfies. Is there always a part of ourselves and even hints about our mental health in the images we share? I don't think we should jump to conclusions here, but the whole thing is still intriguing. It definitely makes me think about how great the power of the pictures really is.

Positive pictures - positive mood?

Especially now, when the days are getting shorter and colder again, we often want positive incentives to put us in a better mood. Can't we somehow harness the power of pictures to do that?

Good to know: Positive pictures for positive moods

In conversation with Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger from Naturheilzentrum Bottrop, I learned that both of them are well acquainted with the effects of visual stimuli on People’s moods and have even adjusted the naturopathic practice for integrative medicine accordingly. This does not seem to be so far-fetched to me, given that pictures may even have a therapeutic value.

I think we as Humans are too individual and too different to find a universal panacea against the gloom, but perhaps positive pictures, whether they are photos, works of art or films, can contribute towards us feeling better in our everyday lives. The new video by the Bottrop-based YouTubers and naturopaths Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger should be counted among them, because there is so much laughter in the outtakes that as a viewer, it’s impossible to resist them. Sometimes the connection between pictures and our mood really is quite simple.

From Bottrop’s naturopathic practice: Video for Health & Lifestyle 2go

What would interest me now is to know whether you’ve noticed that pictures or videos have a positive effect on your mood? I am looking forward to reading your comments.

On that note, I send you my best regards,

Fabian Posern

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More on the topic of moods in the cold season and winter depression can be found in the news section of the Naturheilzentrum Bottrop website. There is also a more general post on illnesses in winter in the NABO Tumblr blog.

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*important note: till now, the statements met here concerning the effect and the interdependencies of the therapies and means are not accepted generally among scientific experts,particularly the orthodox medicine.

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