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The Science of Self-Soothing: Young Citizen Scientists create tools for mental wellbeing with Project Soothe

In 2020 Project Soothe, the ‘citizen science’ community project, ran workshops with young people to go on to then design and develop original ideas for digital mental health tools – that you can use now!

Project Soothe is the ongoing ‘citizen science’ endeavour originally founded by psychologists at the University of Edinburgh in 2015 which, among its various projects, has engaged young people in schools and youth groups in the research and design of digital mental health resources.

Their projects are community-driven, connecting Citizen Scientists of all ages from over 40 countries to amass banks of media that can then be used in developing tools for mindfulness and self-care.

The Young Citizen Scientists Project in particular showcased the dividends of these contributions as in 2020 around 200 children and young people were taught research skills through Project Soothe workshops and went on to form small teams to design wellness tools – tools that you can now even use yourself. By applying scientific rigour and feedback analysis, the teams not only highlighted amazing creativity and design vision, they exemplified practical use of their new research knowledge.

All of the teams’ designs and processes can be viewed in the Flipbook and featured proudly on the Project Soothe website under ‘Teams & Tools’ – three of them are particularly accessible and can be used at your leisure! Here are some more details about these designs.

Team ‘Cool, Calm & Collective designed an online wellbeing tool incorporating calming images and music to reduce stress, increasing general mood and feelings of happiness. A priority for the team was the focus on the individual user, prioritising ease of access, minimalistic imagery and colour schemes, and customisation options according to one’s preferences and mental health needs at that moment. Varying image albums drawing from Project Soothe’s vast collection are categorised by type, whether you feel soothed by animals, landscapes or plant life, or if you have affinity for a certain colour of image, the tool is prepared for the needs of everyone. In an inventive twist, the team of 14-16 year-olds hung enormous QR codes around their school linking to the tool so that it can be accessed quickly, wherever and whenever needed.

Team ‘Soothe Vision’ designed their own multimedia tool with video and music drawn from the Project Soothe vaults. Their unique style was to involve quotes from literature, in particular Harry Potter, and feature 6 differently styled videos to choose from, each with varying moods and emotional impacts. A key parallel is the team’s determination to individualise the tool and offer options that would cater to various needs. By including more intense and reactive choices alongside the calming ones, when the young scientists came to their analysis not only did they have feedback of which options were most effective, but they had acknowledged a spectrum of impacts and could gauge how much effective these were.

Team ‘Honey Beam struck out from the pack by presenting their tool as a narrative – a pdf book, The Soothing Adventures of Bea with original illustrations and writing. Comprised of the broadest age range of the groups, 30 students aged 3-18 from George Watson’s College attended the workshops, 9 of them going on to form ‘Honey Beam’ and develop this beautiful 40-page story. The anchor of Bea the protagonist engages the reader wonderfully as she explores different techniques and activities to seek relief from her stress. Incorporating dynamic and empathetically-charged art to visualise the emotions and reactions of the character as she cooks, listens to music, tries yoga, uses breathing techniques and much more, the creativity on display must be seen to be believed.

Images from The Soothing Adventures of Bea


All three of the teams’ tools are online and available for use now at the link below.

Take a breather and relax: your wellness is well in-hand.


Try the tools yourself here: Home – Young Citizen Scientists (

Download the full project report here: Project Soothe YCS Flipbook (

Project Soothe is a ‘citizen science’ research project launched by a team of Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh in 2015 which moved to the University of Reading in 2020. Citizen Scientists from 40+ countries have helped to create a bank of 800+ soothing  images so far. Browse these images and learn more at