Finding Fractals

Pictures of plants in a repeating pattern.

A fractal is a repeating pattern found in many aspects of our life, from nature to modern science and technology! But what effect do fractals have on humans? Studies show that our brain actually has a certain response to these never-ending repetitive patterns and simply looking at them can reduce stress. Let’s break down the pattern!

What is a fractal?

Fractals are repeating patterns that are identical, or very similar. Examples in nature include leaves, snowflakes, lightning, flowers and ocean waves. An example of a classic fractal is the Koch Snowflake, as illustrated below.

a picture of the progression of a Koch Snowflake.

The Koch Snowflake was one of the earliest fractal studies. By repeating the pattern of adding triangles to the original triangle, you’ll see the exponential growth of the perimeter of the shape without a major increase to its area.

In the photo below you can see fractals in the way the mountain has been cut by runoff. Fractals are everywhere!

a aerial view of the mountains and the runoff rainwater carved shapes.

Fractals and their effect on stress

Scientists have been studying what happens to the brain when a person looks at a fractal using fMRI, eye-tracking equipment, and other brain tracking technology. The results show the brain having a reaction to these fractals, especially while looking at fractals found in nature. Looking at fractals in nature have shown a reduction in stress by up to 60%. These natural fractals resonate with the human brain, stimulating relaxation.

Using nature to tend to your mental health.

a picture of leaves that are symmetrical and have a repeated pattern.

2020 has been a stressful year across the board. If you’re looking for new ways to find peace, one thing you may want to try is searching for fractals in nature. Doctors recommend spending at least 20 minutes a day outside to promote a healthy lifestyle. Next time you’re outside, sit and watch clouds, or pick up a fallen maple leaf and get a good look at it – you might just find some fractals! Fractals and the brain’s response might be the science behind why some people feel a sense of calm in the outdoors.

When you’re outside, make a note of the patterns you find or snap a photo and share it with us on social media using #forcvnp.

Fun with Fractals

Here are a few ways you can discover fractals – either with your family and friends or on your own!

  • Activites from the Fractal Foundation Sierpinski Triangle Coloring Page and Fractal Triangles Challenge.
  • Make your own photo collage like the one at the beginning of this blog!
  • Create a short video featuring the fractals you find on your next hike or backyard excursion.
  • Use twigs and/or leaves from near your home to make your own fractals!

We would love to see your creations – please tag us on social media using #forcvnp or send a photo/video to and you could be featured on our social media pages!

Sources for this article were found through Psychology Today:

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