Immersive experiences of nature can boost wellbeing and reduce negative emotions, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology has revealed.

Researchers from the University of Exeter first induced feelings of boredom in 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 research team found that all viewing methods minimised negative feelings such as sadness, as well as significantly reducing boredom. However, the interactive virtual reality experience also led to increases in positive feelings, such as happiness, and strengthened how connected people felt to nature.

Nicky Yeo, lead researcher on the study, commented: “Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people’s mood and combat boredom. With people around the world facing limited access to outdoor environments because of COVID-19 quarantines, this study suggests that nature programmes might offer an accessible way for populations to benefit from a ‘dose’ of digital nature.”

About the Author

Dr Ashleigh McLellanDr Ashleigh McLellan

Ashleigh is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with 20 years’ experience in the NHS. She is trained in a broad range of psychological models and specialises in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT).