There are plenty of great stress-reducing techniques out there. However, many methods (e.g. meditation, yoga, daily exercise) take time and effort.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to release some tension, try looking at fractals.
What are fractals?
Also known as “the fingerprints of nature”, fractals are geometric figures which contain similar repeating patterns.
Fractals are all around us. But we rarely pay any attention to them… at least not consciously. Often hidden in plain sight, fractals are present in nature, art, technology, and architecture.
Human beings have evolved while constantly looking at fractal patterns found in clouds, rivers, trees, and other natural entities. Because of this, our brains are actually pre-wired to positively respond to them.
In fact, deliberately looking at these fractals can have significant effects on our mental wellbeing.
Reduce stress, Increase attention
A growing body of research has investigated the therapeutic effects of fractal patterns on the human brain.
Using fMRI and other physiological stress measurements, researchers found that looking at fractals can reduce stress levels by 60%.¹ They suggest that fractals activate certain areas of the brain which are responsible for regulating stress.
When we look at fractals, physiological resonance occurs within the eye, increasing alpha frequency in the frontal areas of the brain. The increase in alpha waves promotes relaxation and a sense of wellbeing.²
These alpha waves also have positive effects on attention. The Attention Restoration Theory suggests that spending time in nature, and around naturally-occurring fractals, can increase concentration and combat mental fatigue.³
Since continuous stress is detrimental to our mood, productivity, and wellbeing, even a short session of looking at fractals can be beneficial. Plus, the effects are almost instant.
What can you do to find fractals?
As mentioned, nature is a fractal-rich environment. Think of something in nature and it probably has some fractal features. Look at the swaying of the trees, visit a garden and inspect the flowers, or just simply watch the clouds pass by.
Keep in mind that it’s best if the fractal pattern is moving slightly. This keeps your brain engaged with the visual stimuli.
Watch a video online
If you aren’t able to go outside, or just don’t want to move from your spot on the couch, you can still experience the same stress-reducing effects of fractals. Computer-generated fractals replicate the same physiological stimuli as naturally occurring fractals.
Download an app
Frax is an app that lets you play with computer-generated fractals. It uses the Mandelbrot set and helps us enjoy the beauty of mathematics.
Check out the link below to watch some fractals.
Your brain will thank you later.
Hägerhäll, C. M., Laike, T., Küller, M., Marcheschi, E., Boydston, C., & Taylor, R. P. (2015). Human physiological benefits of viewing nature: EEG responses to exact and statistical fractal patterns. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 19(1), 1–12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25575556/
Taylor, R. P., Spehar, B., Wise, J. A., Clifford, C. W. G., Newell, B. R., Hagerhall, C. M., Purcell, T., & Martin, T. P. (2005). Perceptual and Physiological Responses to the Visual Complexity of Fractal Patterns. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 9(1), 89–114. https://cpb-use1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.uoregon.edu/dist/e/12535/files/2015/12/ResponseNon-linear-28e9hbu.pdf
Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23718837_The_Cognitive_Benefits_of_Interacting_With_Nature