Low stimulation is a term frequently used in psychiatry for the type of environment required by patients recovering from an episode of severe mental illness, such as bipolar 1 or schizophrenia.
After four weeks of prescribed rest, I sit at home contemplating what low stimulation is and what made me well again. My bird feeder comes to mind. A week into my hospital at home recovery period, my dad found an old bird feeder belonging to my grandmother. He filled it with seed and we found a perfect resting place on the eves trough of my garage. This can be viewed from inside my kitchen or from two seats on my upper deck. The feeder turned out to be the perfect low stimulation remedy.
Initially the birds wouldn’t feed if I was obviously watching them. Now they’ve grown to trust me and they flit in and out of the feeder with relative ease with me sitting a few feet away. There are three main types of visitors including chickadees, sparrows, and a small bird that hangs upside down to eat with chickadee-like colouring. He might be my favourite, or she? They are all uniquely wonderful in their own ways. The sparrows travel in much larger flocks and are very pervasive eaters all day long. The chickadees seem to be more modest and only take what they need. Occasionally other creatures visit to try to benefit from the good eats. One day a squirrel jumped onto the feeder and clung sideways desperately trying to get a few seeds. He or she eventually dropped off having little success. The feeder is designed for lighter creatures and the food gets blocked when a heavy squirrel tries to eat. Yesterday an absolutely magnificent large flicker visited. The large bird also clung, somewhat more elegantly than the squirrel, to the large part of the feeder. He turned sideways to get a nibble. I now sit religiously watching the feeder several times a day and find this deeply restful and healing.
I write all this to express my enjoyment of watching these animals and to explain what low stimulation actually means for me, and likely other psychiatric patients. It is not being shut in a white walled room with your thoughts, which is actually torture. Low stimulation is more like sitting by a babbling brook with a light breeze. There are many things tantalizing the senses, but softly. It is not aggravating, like a gail force wind, but instead enjoyable and peaceful. This type of stimulation lifts the mind from the thoughts to a gentler more relaxed place. When designing mental institutions or hospitals, this concept needs to be deeply considered for the benefit of the patients. Nature provides the ideal low stimulation setting.