With a feeling of déjà vu in Sydney, with lockdowns, health alerts and being confined to the walls of our homes again it got me thinking about mental wellbeing through these times and how we cope with the new stresses that have been introduced into the world over the last 12 to 18 months.
What role can Virtual Reality (VR) play to help manage stress and improve out mental wellbeing?
The fundamentals of stress
Simply by definition - stress is our body’s response to a demand placed on it. More specifically, stress has a thinking part and a feeling part. At the same time, your body will go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Your nervous system is activated, and hormones are released that enable you to react quickly.1
Typically, a moderate level of this is good for our bodies – it makes us feel alive! However, its prolonged, chronic stress which can lead to the structural and functional changes inside the brain that play a role in developing severe physical and mental illnesses.
The escape to virtual reality
There is a growing body of research that points to VR activities having an enormously positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing and balance the impact of stress.
Whether you’re virtual fishing on a boat and waiting for that that prized catch (Real Fishing VR), returning serve for match point (Eleven TT) or agonising over the next move on your virtual tabletop (Catan VR, Demeo) - the physical escape from the four corners of your everyday home into the boundless confines of VR has a powerful impact to our sense and happiness.
Research indicates that those who used VR headsets as a way of passing time during the various lockdowns around the world lockdown were using their headsets for much more than playing games. 2
They were using the device to exercise, meditate, socialise, watch films and even travel!
VR provides the opportunity and ability to connect with old or new friends, forget about the stresses of “real life” and engage in an immersive experience be it during competitive simulation (Racket:NX, Thrill of the Fight, Audio Trip) or a serene meditative experience (Soundself)
Fundamentally, VR provided a ritual of social connection that could feel closer to in-person contact and presence than a phone or zoom call.
With various new apps being conceptualised or released, VR users are getting closer to being able to recreate their pre-pandemic reality.
The feel-good effect
The feel-good effect of VR definitely needs more exploration, but of course anecdotally, we can probably all recall the incredible sense of satisfaction and happiness after a VR session and the impact of the after-game endorphin effect flowing into our real-life mindset and interactions we have with those around us.
Used widely, VR could readily form part of the everyday arsenal of tools and strategies used to improve mental and physical health both of course now and in the post-Covid 19 world.
What about you?
- Do you use VR to manage your stress?
- What games and experiences helped your mental and physical well-being?
- Does it work for you?
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