Background: Previous studies suggest that favorite places provide stress-alleviating experiences and serve emotion regulation. This study used a prospective, experimental design to investigate the hypothesis that a group of adults instructed to regularly visit their local favorite places will experience greater daily restoration and fewer self-reported physical symptoms than a group instructed to avoid all favorite-place visits.
Methods: Members of the favorite-place group were asked to visit their local favorite places at least once per day on 5 weekdays. They visited five times, on average, and also reported all other place visits in a structured place diary. Members of the not-visiting group visited their favorite place 0-1 times and daily reported all place visits outside the home. The control group, which was given instructions that did not mention favorite places, reported all place visits outside the home. Restorative experiences (assessed on the Restoration Outcome Scale and including attentiveness, relaxation, clearing one's mind, subjective vitality, and self-confidence) and self-reported physical symptoms (headache, backache, muscle tension and pain) were measured with structured health diaries using Likert scales. Data were collected in 2006 and analyzed in 2007 and 2008.
Results: Every day the group visiting favorite places experienced significantly stronger restorative experiences than the not-visiting and control groups. The groups did not differ in the amount of self-rated physical symptoms reported at the end of each day. In all groups such symptoms decreased toward the end of the week.
Conclusions: Favorite-place prescriptions and visits affect subjective well-being. Health counseling and research on coping strategies should not ignore the use of sociophysical environments for self- and emotion-regulation.