Virtual reality nature boosts positive mood


ISLAMABAD, October 22 (Online): According to a study watching nature on an ordinary television relieves boredom and negative emotions, but interacting with nature in virtual reality (VR) leads to greater improvements in positive mood and nature connectedness.
Many people say they notice the psychological benefits of reconnecting with nature during the COVID-19 pandemic — whether in their backyards, in public parks, or in the countryside.
Numerous studies indicate the mental health benefits of experiencing nature first-hand. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have direct access to natural environments, not least care home residents and hospital inpatients with limited mobility.
Television provides a window to the outside world for these individuals, and watching nature programs may therefore be a good way to improve their mental well-being.
In particular, nature documentaries may relieve boredom, which research has found to be associated with loneliness, agitation, and depression among care home residents.
Psychologists at the University of Exeter and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom wanted to investigate whether experiencing nature through a VR headset provides advantages for mental well-being compared with watching it on television.
They were also curious to know if interacting with a virtual natural environment brings any additional benefits compared with a more passive VR experience.
They reasoned that the more immersive the experience, the more “presence” people would feel, improving their mood and sense of connectedness with nature.
Contrary to their expectations, they found that television was just as effective as the two forms of VR for relieving boredom and negative mood states such as sadness.
“Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help lift people’s mood and combat boredom,” says Ph.D. student Nicky Yeo, who led the research.