In a new study, researchers found that watching high-quality nature programs on TV can uplift people’s moods, reduce negative emotions, and help alleviate the kind of boredom associated with being isolated indoors.
They also found that experiencing nature in virtual reality could have even larger benefits, boosting positive feelings, and increasing people’s connection to the natural world.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Exeter.
In the study, the team first induced feelings of boredom in 96 participants by asking them to watch a video in which a person describes their work at an office supply company.
They then experienced scenes of an underwater coral reef in one of three different ways: on TV; in a VR headset using 360o video, and in a VR headset using computer-generated interactive graphics.
The team found that all viewing methods minimized negative feelings such as sadness, as well as significantly reducing boredom.
However, only the interactive virtual reality experience led to increases in positive feelings, such as happiness, and strengthened how connected people felt to nature.
The results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people’s moods and combat boredom.
With people around the world facing limited access to outdoor environments because of COVID-19 quarantines, this study suggests that nature programs might offer an accessible way for populations to benefit from a ‘dose’ of digital nature.”
The team worked with the BBC Natural History Unit to create their experimental conditions, which featured several scenes from the Blue Planet II series, including unseen 360o footage.
Their findings support initiatives seeking to bring the therapeutic potential of nature to people at home, such as BBC Four’s recent Mindful Escapes series.
One author of the study is Nicky Yeo.
The study is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
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