Psychologists at the University of Hertfordshire, U.K., last week unveiled what they are billing as "the world's most relaxing room." The 160-square-meter space, bathed in green lights with an artificially lit blue sky, is furnished with soft mats and lavender-scented pillows "to create a relaxing environment with no sense of threat," explains the project's mastermind Richard Wiseman.
The design is based on research on the effects of light, scent, and music in relaxation. "Cold colors such as blue and green tend to be perceived as calming, whereas warm colors can be perceived as arousing," explains Birgitta Gatersleben, an environmental psychologist from the University of Surrey in Guildford, U.K. Lavender is said to reduce anxiety and induce sleep by lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The room also features specially composed music with a slow, steady beat and low-frequency tones.
So far, the room's 200 visitors have given it mixed reviews. "Some people absolutely love it and can't have enough of it," Wiseman says. "But people who thrive on and need stress to work absolutely hate it."
The project was designed to be easy to replicate in offices and other real-life environments. "I would like to see relaxation rooms in public spaces," Wiseman adds. "If we pay 20p to use a toilet in King's Cross train station, why not pay for 20 minutes of peace?"
Monday, November 10, 2008
From the "Random Samples" section of the Oct. 31 Science Magazine: