The research has also shown that experiencing nature on virtual reality could have even larger benefits, boosting positive feelings and raising people’s connection to the natural world.
Under lab conditions, researchers from the University of Exeter first induced feelings of boredom in 96 participants by asking them to watch a movie in which a person describes their work at an office supply company. Then they experienced scenes of an underwater coral reef in one of three distinct ways: on TV; at a VR headset utilizing 360o video; and at a VR headset utilizing computer generated interactive graphics.
The group found that all viewing approaches minimized negative feelings such as depression, as well as significantly reducing boredom. However, only the interactive virtual reality experience contributed to increases in positive emotions, such as happiness, and strengthened how connected people felt to nature.
Nicky Yeo, lead researcher on the study, believes the findings may Have significant implications for people facing extended periods in the home. She said:
“Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people’s mood and combat boredom. With people around the world facing limited access to outdoor environments because of COVID-19 quarantines, this study suggests that nature programs might offer an accessible way for populations to benefit from a ‘dose’ of digital nature.”
The group worked with the BBC Natural History Unit to create their experimental conditions, which featured several scenes from the Blue Planet II series, including hidden 360o footage. Their findings encourage initiatives trying to bring the therapeutic potential of character to individuals in the home, such as BBC Four’s current Mindful Escapes series.
Dr Mathew White, co-author of the study, said:
“We’re particularly excited by the additional benefits immersive experiences of nature might provide. Virtual reality could help us to boost the wellbeing of people who can’t readily access the natural world, such as those in hospital or in long term care. But it might also help to encourage a deeper connection to nature in healthy populations, a mechanism which can foster more pro-environmental behaviors and prompt people to protect and preserve nature in the real world.”
Related Journal Article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494420306654?via%3Dihub