KEYWORDS – Virtual Reality | Reduce Stress | Improved Relaxation | Improved Mood | Scene Preference Important | Large Selection of Content Needed | Attention Restoration Theory | Isolated Confined Environments
This study tested whether 360° VR nature videos could reduce stress and improve the mood of people in isolation. Eighteen participants viewed two different 15-minute 360° nature videos using a VR headset. Physiological measures like electrodermal activity and heart rate variability were used to evaluate stress levels. Subjective measures of relaxation, mood, and scene preference were also collected. Results showed the VR nature videos significantly reduced stress and negative feelings compared to a control scene, and were perceived as more enjoyable and relaxing. Participants’ preferred nature scene led to an even greater improvement in mood. This suggests virtual nature experiences can restore attention and promote well-being, especially when matched to individual preferences. The findings support using 360° VR videos to improve mental health outcomes for isolated individuals with limited nature access, like in hospitals or retirement homes. A variety of simulated nature content is needed to accommodate personal preferences.
Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests the benefits of nature in reducing stress and restoring attention. Immersive VR offers potential relief for individuals in isolated environments who lack access to nature. Simulated nature has shown promise, but distinguishing effects of modality and immersion is challenging. The effect of individual scene preferences on restoration is unclear. This study assessed the efficacy of VR in reducing stress and improving mood, while further investigating the influence of scene preferences.
The study recruited 18 participants to evaluate the effectiveness of VR-presented 360° nature scenes in reducing stress levels and improving mood. The study used two 15-minute nature scenes, one from Ireland and one from Australia, played in a VR headset. Both 360° nature experiences were provided by Atmosphaeres. Objective physiological measures such as electrodermal activity (EDA, a measure of arousal) and heart rate variability (HRV) were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the VR scenes in reducing stress. Subjective responses for perceived relaxation, mood and scene preference were collected using a 7-point Likert scale.
Experiencing 360° nature videos in a VR headset reduced stress significantly more than the control scene. In addition, people’s negative feelings were reduced after the nature scenes, but not after the control scene. VR nature scenes were generally perceived as more enjoyable and relaxing than the control scene. Participants also reported higher scores for scene quality in the natural scenes compared to the control scene. Among the nature scenes, the preferred scene led to an even greater reduction in negative feelings and was perceived as more pleasant and peaceful than the non-preferred nature scene. This suggests that experiencing nature virtually can help reduce stress and improve mood, especially when the scene matches a person’s preference. The subjective preference measures “suggest that a wide variety of content needs to be made available in isolation” (p. 525).
The study found that 360° nature videos presented in a VR headset can help people relax and feel better, supporting the idea that spending time in natural VR environments can be restorative. The findings are consistent with other research on attention restoration theory and simulated nature experiences. The study used a variety of measures to show that participants became more relaxed and their mood improved after viewing the VR nature scenes compared to a control scene. Preference for certain scenes also played a role in how effective the VR experience was at improving mood, so a wide variety of content needs to be made available to meet individual preferences. This study also highlights the benefits of 360° video and VR in isolated confined environments where access to nature is limited, such as hospitals, retirement homes, etc. 360 VR provides a sense of being away and experiencing nature, which helps stressed and unmotivated individuals to cope with stress and improve their mental well-being. 360 VR is therefore a valuable tool for improving mental health outcomes in these environments.
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Citation: Anderson, A. P., Mayer, M. D., Fellows, A. M., Cowan, D. R., Hegel, M. T., & Buckey, J. C. (2017). Relaxation with Immersive Natural Scenes Presented Using Virtual Reality. Aerospace medicine and human performance, 88(6), 520–526. https://doi.org/10.3357/AMHP.4747.2017
Conflict of Interest Declaration: While this study used two of Atmosphaeres’ 360 VR Experiences, the study was conducted fully independently by the study authors and without any involvement of the video creators Eric & Susanne Fassbender (Atmosphaeres).
Disclaimer: This summary was created with the help of AI writing tools. The content may therefore not always be entirely accurate. We assume no responsibility for any false or incorrect information provided in this article. It is essential to independently verify the content in the original publication which is linked in the citation section above.
Dr. Eric Fassbender holds a PhD in Virtual Reality and since 2013 he and his wife Susanne Fassbender have created a large catalogue of 360° Videos and VR Experiences that have been used successfully in numerous scientific research studies.