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Returning to Nature: VR Mediated States of Enhanced Wellness

Conference paper
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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 12203)

Abstract

A visit to a place of natural beauty is known to have restorative potential. Immersing oneself in nature - relaxing, contemplating, meditating, walking and so on – can help improve one’s mental and physical wellbeing. Suitably designed VR can encourage beneficial meditative states as well as healthy physical activities. We see fully immersive forms of VR as a form of “synthetic consciousness” that is a modern addition to the three clearly established classic states of consciousness: wakefulness, dreamless, and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Certain therapeutic and self-care mental health therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation can assist individuals to achieve relative peace of mind. We describe the development of aesthetically-appealing VR programs that were designed to induce mental states of equanimity, hopefulness and child-like wonder, referring back to historical aspects of art and design. We also report work where VR was used to embed actions required for exercise within a meaningful experience with the exercise itself, and the associated effort, becomes secondary in the mind of the participant to the flow, and narrative logic, of the interaction being performed. To increase the “stickiness” or attractiveness of our VR approach to exercise we also introduce the idea of rewards for exercise carried out correctly. User groups of “healthy normal” adults, mental health patients with clinically significant anxiety, and frail elderly at risk of institutionalization have provided helpful and generally positive feedback.

Keywords

Virtual reality Health design Disability Rehabilitation Meditation Nature therapy Behavioural activation 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.PRAXIS Holistic HealthTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Applied SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Music and Health Research CollaboratoryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of InformaticsUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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