Watching nature television programmes with a VR headset is good for mental well-being. For me, this is unsurprising. Scientists have confirmed that if you watch nature programmes on television it’s good for you. It is particularly good for you if you watch nature programmes on a VR headset. These are virtual reality headsets which gives you a more immersive experience.
It is essentially an extension of what we already know, namely, that walking in nature is good for you. By this I mean you walk in a forest or a wood or in a beautiful landscape and sense and connect with nature. I do it almost every day and feel better all afternoon. It is almost bound to be good for you because it combines light exercise with “touching base” with nature. My theory is that when humans do this they go back to their roots. We come from nature, we are part of nature. We should not distance ourselves from it because if we do so we become orphans to our ancestral home. We need to remind and reassure ourselves that we are part of nature, part of the planet. One of the great modern problems is due to being distanced from our roots.
The scientists decided that the above-mentioned reason is one reason why people feel better when they watch nature programs. Another is that they believe the parasympathetic nervous system is activated which helps to calm and restore the body. A third possibility is that modern life depletes “attentional resources” which leads to brain fatigue and as a consequence a negative mood. Watching nature on television helps to restore balance to one’s life and refresh the brain.
They studied 96 participants who initially watched a very boring video to put them into a board mood and then they had them watch a beautiful “dynamic underwater scene with colourful fish, corals and titles”. The participants were divided up into two groups. One group wore a VR headset with 360-degree video and the other group watched the nature programmes on a VR headset using interactive graphics. All participants benefited by negative feelings being minimised such as sadness. Their boredom was relieved.
When they watch the programs using the interactive VR group they reported increased positive feelings such as happiness. The lead researchers, Nicky Yeo and Matthew White are of course delighted because it confirms that the benefits from watching nature programmes can be enjoyed by people confined to the home and isolated which is particularly relevant today during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. You don’t have to go outside into nature to achieve those desirable benefits which we crave.
The quotes and story are from Kat Lay of The Times. Oct 14 2020. The study is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.