Visual Activities for Sensory Modulation Regulation Relaxation and Stress Management in Occupational Therapy

The visual system significantly contributes to the ability for occupational therapy clients to see and has a powerful influence on other sensory systems and how they feel. Visual techniques have been used as a method for relaxation in the research.((vinash, A. C., & George, S. V. (2018). Effectiveness of different relaxation techniques. International Journal of Research in Social Sciences, 8(5), 222-232.))((MRUDULA, M. M., POOVISHNU, D. T., & VAISHALI KRISHNAT, J. A. G. T. A. P. (2018). Comparison of the effectiveness of visual imagery technique and progressive relaxation technique on anxiety and depression in subjects with moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Asian J Pharm Clin Res, 11(6), 318-323.)) Overall, visual activities can be used as a method either alone or in conjunction with other methods to help promote sensory regulation for anything from agitation to stress to anxiety. Between the two, combined approaches appear to be more successful in promoting overall therapeutic improvements in mental and physical health such as with anxiety, depression and pain.((Khanolkar, T. S., Metgud, S., & Verma, C. (2013). A Study on Combined effects of Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Visual Imagery Technique on Perceived Pain, Levels of Anxiety and Depression in Patients with Burns. Indian Journal of Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy, 7(2).))

One study investigated the impact of different visual art conditions on the agitation and anxiety levels of patients by measuring the rate of incidents and collecting nurse feedback. Visual art was displayed on a rotation basis on the walls of a small multi-purpose lounge for psychiatric patients in an East Alabama Hospital. Results showed that PRN medication dispensed by nurses for anxiety and agitation was significantly lower on days when a realistic nature image of a landscape was displayed as compared to days when abstract art, abstract or no art was displayed. The study concluded that positive distractions, like visual art depicting restorative nature scenes, could help to reduce mental health patients’ anxiety and agitation in healthcare settings.((Nanda, U., Eisen, S., Zadeh, R. S., & Owen, D. (2011). Effect of visual art on patient anxiety and agitation in a mental health facility and implications for the business case. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 18(5), 386-393.))

It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to experiment and find what works best for each client. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that visual relaxation techniques are just one aspect of overall well-being and clients should take a holistic approach and have clear achievable goals to maximize their engagement and achievement of such goals.

  1. Nature scenes: Viewing pictures or videos of nature scenes, such as beaches, forests, or waterfalls, can be calming and soothing to the mind.
  2. Color therapy: Viewing certain colors, such as blue or green, has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  3. Mandala coloring: Coloring in intricate designs, such as mandalas, can be a meditative and relaxing activity.
  4. Guided imagery: Listening to guided imagery recordings or watching videos that take you through a peaceful scene can be a great way to relax and unwind.
  5. Mindful looking: Take a few minutes to look at an object or scene in detail, focusing on its colors, shapes, and textures. This can help to quiet the mind and reduce stress.
  6. Light therapy: Using light boxes or special lamps designed to simulate natural light can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and regulate sleep patterns.

Specific Examples

  • Projector slides
  • Pictures or photographs or drawings
  • Posters and murals
  • Bubbles
  • Bubble lamps
  • Automated or smart LED lights
  • Nature videos
  • Novelty toys
  • Water
  • Kaleidoscopes
  • Gazing balls
  • Moving patterns
  • Fish tanks
  • Picture books
  • Coloring books, Color by numbers, Paint by numbers
  • Glitter wands
  • Natural items such as flowers and plants
  • Zen gardens
  • Aromatherapy misters
  • Relaxing video games
  • Movies
  • YouTube video loops, e.g., walkthroughs
  • Screensavers
  • Chalk or color boards
  • Colored sunglasses
  • Artwork
  • Puzzles
  • Relaxation Apps
  • Relaxaing board games
  • Virtual reality
  • Guided imagery
  • Being out in nature, e.g., beach
  • Commercial visual relaxation products