A virtual natural environment to support mental health

 

When we long for a relaxing and stress-relieving daily walk, we often turn to nature – even a quick walk in the woods seems to quickly refresh the mood, and many of us find the beaches by the waters soothing places. Indeed, the positive effects of nature on mental health have been extensively studied, and one major contributing factor is the calm sensory stimulation of natural environments. A nature trip is like a festive food for the senses, mainly offering only positive and relaxed stimulation – especially for the senses of sight, hearing, and smell.

 

Why a Natural Environment

 

The sensory stimulation nature provides contains information about a safe environment and analyzing this requires little of our cognitive resources. The modern world, on the other hand, has far more sensory stimuli, and many of them are not soothing in nature, require more attention, and increase a person’s state of stress. In nature, our senses are allowed to rest on the stimuli to which we are accustomed in the course of evolution.

However, it is not always possible to go on a nature trip, and recent studies on the possibilities of virtual natural environments have appeared. In the light of current research data, the nature experience implemented in the virtual world corresponds to its effects on the actual natural environment. The magnitude of the impact is probably weaker than in the real natural environment, but the opportunities in mental health technology, for example, are still significant. With the help of modern technology, we can not only replicate nature experiences with the use of 360 video technology, but we can also combine other forms of treatment with it.

 

How Getting Better Helps

 

Getting Better has created virtual nature tours to Finnish forests and lakes. You can take virtual nature trips by listening to natural sounds and watching videos with the help of VR glasses. The virtual nature experience offers promising opportunities for mental health work. Solutions based on virtual reality can be a cost-effective way to bring a calming nature to an anxious person, and their reproducibility would allow for a uniform and measurable form of treatment.

Young woman in VR glasses. See nature through virtual reality

In a study conducted by Tampere University Finland. The study confirmed the results of previous studies on the overall positive impact of the virtual natural environment. Subjects’ subjective experiences of anxiety and tension decreased, and the feeling of relaxation increased with the virtual natural environment. The results also indicate that the relaxation produced by the virtual natural environment increased the stress-reducing effect, which was similar to the impact caused by the actual natural environment.

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