Why going to your 'special place' makes you feel better

Whether it's where you got married, or a place you can remember going to with a loved one, everyone has certain places that are intensely meaningful.

And a new study has found that these places play a huge part in our emotional and physical well-being, according to Daily mail.

The findings underline the importance of caring for special places for future generations to enjoy, according to the researchers.

Researchers, used brain imaging technology to demonstrate how meaningful places impact our conscious and unconscious minds.

 Dr Andy Myers, one of the researchers who worked on the study, said: 'For the first time we have been able to prove the physical and emotional benefits of place, far beyond any research that has been done before.'

The study involved three main stages.

Firstly, fMRI scans were completed on 20 participants, who viewed three different types of images in a random order.

The images included places and objects that were meaningful to them, common places and objects, and positive and negative images.

Dr Myers said: 'fMRI opens a window into the brain allowing us to explore automatic emotional responses, scientifically demonstrating a tangible link between people and places that is often difficult to verbally describe.'

Next, 11 people completed in-depth qualitative interviews, both at home and at a place meaningful to them.

And finally, over 2,000 people completed an online quantitative survey, in which they described a place, and why it was special to them.

Results revealed that the brain generates an emotional response to places an individual deems to be significant such as feeling joyful, calm and energised.

The brain's emotional response was also found to be much higher towards special places than objects, such as a wedding ring or photograph.

This suggests that the place where a person got married has greater emotional importance than the ring they received, according to the researchers.

Meaningful places were found to provide people with space to think and reinforce well-being.

In the survey, 64 per cent of people said their special place made them feel calm, and 53 per cent said it helped them to escape everyday life.

Almost half also said their meaningful place helps them re-evaluate their stresses and worries, with a further 41 per cent saying it makes them emotionally secure.

Special places also appear to play a key role in shaping a person's identity.

Sixty seven per cent of younger people said their meaningful place has shaped who they are, while 60 per cent of over 55s felt nostalgic when visiting their special place, as it reminded them of a significant time in their life.

In terms of behaviour, special places had an impact on how people preserve and share their love for places, with 92 per cent saying they would be upset if their meaningful place was lost.

Dr Myers said: 'The study has established that our brain responds in a very specific way to meaningful places which is something we do not see when we are shown meaningful objects such as a wedding ring or photograph.

'With meaningful places generating a significant response in areas of the brain known to process emotion, it's exciting to understand how deep rooted this connection truly is.'

Nino Strachey, Head of Research, added: 'This research confirms places we love not only shape who we are , but offer deep physical and psychological benefits making it even more vital that we look after them for future generations.'

N.H.Kh

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