by Clara Valdés stauber and maximilian reiner
Practices of relaxation can be discovered throughout many different times and cultures. The variations are manifold. They reach from meditative, religious rituals like Buddhist walking sessions, to modern scientific developments like autogenic training. For Europeans, a short walk in nature can provide relaxation of mind and body.
Physiological relaxation is well studied. The basis is the vegetative nervous system, which cannot be controlled wilfully. The nervous system is divided into two parts, an activating one, called the sympathetic nervous system, and a calming one, called the parasympathetic nervous system. While the former is, among others, responsible for reactions of fear, anger and arousal, the latter is the system which is connected to recreation and regeneration. Relaxation techniques target the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, muscle tension is reduced, as well as blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption.
Our approach connects relaxation techniques with the soothing effect of natural environments and modern VR-technologies in a time of collective stress. But what is nature? In a world, where even the smallest meadow is deliberately shaped in some way, what is our understanding of nature? And how can we depict it digitally in a way that it still transfers a calming effect? By employing the concept of Research Creation, we could investigate underlying assumptions about our understanding of nature and mind. We all have a certain idea of what natural means. And we are also embedded in a culture with its own practices and assumptions about relaxation and stressfulness. Our project incorporates our own experiences and intuitions.
Full paper to follow.