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Changes in emotions and perceived stress following time spent in an artistically designed multisensory environment

Abstract

Self-management strategies that enhance positive emotions are considered most effective to cope with stress and maintain good mental health and well-being. An artistically designed multisensory environment, The Sensory-Art Space (SAS), was installed in a university in NSW Australia as a new self-management intervention. The design of the SAS was informed by evidence regarding the benefits of viewing art, experiencing nature and accessing sensory rooms.

A pilot pre–post intervention study measured changes in affect and perceived stress in 224 participants who spent time in the SAS. Descriptive statistics were completed on the individual affective states, and paired sample t-tests were used to determine changes in Positive and Negative Affect (PANAS-X) and perceived stress (Visual Analogue Scale).

The Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed that negative affect reduced, z=−10.23 (p<0.001), and positiveaffect increased, z=−2.57 (p=0.01), following spending time in the SAS. In addition, stress levels reduced after time spent in the SAS, z=−11.29 (p<0.0001).

Self-management benefits were found following time in the SAS and future implications for public health and well-being are discussed.

  • arts in health/arts and health
  • design
  • medical humanities
  • mental health care
  • public health

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