A Virtual Workout for the MindWe all know that a fit and active mind is as important as having a healthy body. Regular exercise and good nutrition can keep your body tuned, and if anything goes wrong medics have an array of diagnostics and treatments to help. Maintaining mental wellbeing however is a trickier thing. Our inner world is by and large a mystery even to ourselves, and just recognising there is a problem can be difficult. Nowadays mental health awareness plays a major role in our society. A new wave of psychological research is realizing that VR can diagnose and treat a whole range of mental health issues, and that VR in healthcare is effective in getting us back to peak performance Here are a few ways you can train your mind with Virtual Reality Therapy as effectively as a gym workout can keep your body fit.
Banish Phobias with Virtual Reality Therapy
We perceive the world entirely through our senses. Sometimes the sensations we receive cause us unnecessary distress. You might have a fear of spiders for example, which can cause a mental breakdown or heights cause you to suffer alarming vertigo. Therapists can train you to control these anxieties by gradually introducing you to the things you fear, teaching you that these so-called threats are not actually as dangerous as you imagine. This ‘exposure’ therapy is carried out in a very controlled way, and it is often time-consuming and costly.
Imagine then if you replaced your body’s stimuli with a VR world of artificial sensations. Virtual reality therapy gives you the experience of moving around in a virtual world as if it were real. The therapist can take a plane flight with you without leaving the ground, or let you peer over or even jump off a cliff without any risk of injury. In a safe, controlled, immersive environment – with your therapist’s guidance – you can learn to reduce your anxiety levels and find the world isn’t as scary as you first thought.
Breaking Unhelpful Behaviour Patterns
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy ) is a well-established therapeutic technique to help someone change the way they think and behave in a given situation. It is a talking therapy where the client is asked to examine their thoughts in a stressful scenario and record what strategies they use to cope. Someone with social anxiety might be asked to imagine themselves alone at a party for example, and asked to describe their thoughts (“no-one wants to talk with me”). Or they might be asked to go away and stand in a supermarket queue for real, and report back at the next session the thoughts going through their head and whether they bailed out of the queue.
With VR as a tool, the therapist can create a virtual party in the VR headset, or the sensation of waiting impatiently in a queue, and get immediate and more realistic feedback on how the client felt and behaved. The client can then explore with the therapist the reasons they felt as they did, and work out better coping strategies. They can then repeatedly go back into the Virtual reality therapy session, there to practice different ways of thinking and behaving to replace the unhelpful habits they had got stuck in.
As well as prospective surgeons can learn and improve their surgical skills through VR without harming any patients.
Chill Out and Relax With VR
The two previous examples should be done with a trained therapist, but there is something we can all use VR for, and that is to take a mini-holiday in a soothing virtual environment.
VR can spirit you away from the stresses of everyday life and transport you to a relaxing nature spot such as on a beach or by a gently burbling waterfall. There you can practice mindfulness, calm your body down with meditation, improve your mental wellness and raise your self-awareness.
Being at one with Nature is a sure way to loosen off anxiety and focus the mind. We can’t all pop out to the mountains but by using VR you can immerse yourself anytime in a relaxing world that is almost as good as the real experience. A calm and open mind is a healthy mind, and VR can give you a safe place of tranquillity in an otherwise confusing and challenging world.
To experience the benefits of meditating in a VR environment and to learn more about VR in healthcare you can check out our app ‘Relax With Nature’. VRdirect is the easiest solution to create and publish Virtual Reality Projects, don’t hesitate to contact us.