It is not news to most folks, working out has a great and lasting impact on mental health. Getting up and moving the body surges with dopamine, adrenaline, endorphins, and endocannabinoid. These chemicals are what trigger feelings of happiness, joy, relaxation, and act as our natural anti-depressants.
Virtual Reality also has a positive impact on the brain. When VR technology was first released, there was some initial worry. Doctors and scientists believed that Virtual Reality may harm our brains. More research conducted and tests concluded on the subject have proven that Virtual Reality is GOOD for the ole noggin. VR is used to treat many different disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, and has helped people recover from strokes.
So without question, exercising using Virtual Reality is not only good for slimming your waistline but it battles mental health issues. For myself, I can personally relate to the physical and mental effects of VR.
I used to be extremely depressed, my anxiety was through the roof, and at times my mind seemed to be working against me. It was a chore just getting out of bed. Committing to anything would send me into a downward spiral. I didn’t go out, I didn’t do anything. Sitting around wallowing in depression binge-watching TV (which has its own negative drawbacks mentally and physically) and eating to feel “better”. This led to an increase in my weight and a decrease in my happiness.
I would also spend money to feel better. One of the purchases I made was an Oculus Rift for my PC. I had no idea what this would lead to, I just knew it looked fun. Playing different games I soon fell in love with Beat Saber. Playing every morning shortly after waking up I noticed an increase in my daily productivity. No longer did I sit around and watch TV all day. I started to go outside more. Making commitments to people and projects were no longer the daunting task they once were. I felt different, I felt better.
What do the Experts Say?
My experiences are purely anecdotal so rather than drone on about how “great” I feel since I started applying VR fitness as a nearly daily routine, I will yield to the experts.
Virtual Reality exercise does something to the brain that a traditional workout lacks. VR immerses you into a game and you focus on the experience, not on the pain. You can push harder, longer, and further with your workout routine than you normally would simply because your brain is focused on the fun, not the funk.
Wearing a VR headset, 80% of your brain is concentrating on visual pathways, leaving far less mental capacity to focus on other elements, cheating yourself into having that athlete-like level of determination and willpower. (Virtual Reality News)
According to a study by the School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis the mental health benefits of Virtual Reality exercise have some validity. During their study, they used 5 people that suffered from various mental health issues. They were able to find that 4 of the 5 that took part in their study had a positive impact using Virtual Reality Exercises.
Of the five studies examining the effects of VR exercise on participants’ anxiety- and depression-related outcomes, four reported significant improvements in outcomes associated with these conditions, such as reduced tiredness and tension, and increased energy and enjoyment. (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health)
The Future of Mental Health
The benefits of Virtual Reality are not limited to exercise. A new type of “Exposure” therapy has been developed using Virtual Reality. Putting participants that suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) into a similar situation that caused their trauma, virtually, they can work through the stress.
Combat Veterans were some of the first used during these studies and it was found that more than 90% of those that participated were able to get off of their medications. Now, this therapy can be applied to a host of other people who struggle with PTSD, outside of Combat Veterans.
This therapy puts the person in a virtual experience of what caused their trauma. While they are experiencing what is happening a therapist is sitting with them. They can talk with them about what they are feeling and experience. This gives the person the ability to recognize when they are entering a state of panic or anxiety so they can gain the tools to help talk themselves down. This is a breakthrough in the treatment of PTSD.
Virtual Reality also has some wonderful relaxation benefits. Virtual reality has many experiences available designed to help relax, meditate, and step outside of themselves. Not everyone has access to mountain trails, pristine rivers, or quiet places. In the modern world, it is hard to find a quiet place to really reach zen levels of relaxation.
Virtual Reality opens the door to these worlds and gives people who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity a chance to turn off the world! Even if just for half-an-hour the benefits are very real and tangible.
Healthy Body/ Healthy Mind
Through my personal experiences and clinical research, there is no doubt that Virtual Reality has amazing benefits for the brain and body. Giving you the ability to exercise without focusing on the “suck” is just the start. Virtual Reality gives the brain a break from itself.
VR Therapy and Exercise are just the tip of the iceberg in this new frontier of health benefits. See for yourselves what the experts have to say. If you have the opportunity yourself to try Virtual Reality, you will see what the hype is all about. Virtual Reality is changing the way people heal, inside and out.
Without my experiences in Virtual Reality, I would not here where I am today. I am losing weight and feeling great. I encourage everyone to give this a shot for themselves so they can enjoy the lasting benefits as I have.
VR Experiences to Try!
With all the experiences out there there are a few absolute go-tos for those seeking a nice relaxing experience. Above I mentioned Beat Saber but there are a lot more resources out there for a relaxing trip in the virtual world.
Real VR Fishing is a great way to kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet that accompanies fishing. You can choose to play with a friend now which is a nice addition, but if you want to really dive deep into relaxation you can play on your own. Put your feet up and relax in the sun while catching fish. There is no better real-world way to relax than fishing and the Virtual version brings out the best of the experience, without having to get up at 5 am and deal with mosquitoes.
Tripp is a guided meditation experience that focuses on breath work and allows you to go on a relaxing “trip” in your own mind. It was developed using real science that guides you down the path to enlightenment. There are Mini-games and daily reflections that will keep you coming back, and of course, they are all developed with peace and tranquility in mind. (pun intended)
Guided Meditation, as the name suggests is another guided meditation experience. This one is offered through steam and has a lot of different environments to help you reach that zen, relaxing place. There is even a mode that allows you to float through the various landscapes and experiences and this really helps initiate chill mode. Guided Meditation allows you to go on a virtual vacation, and in these times we all need a vacation from our problems.
Do you have any favorite VR games that you use for relaxation? Let us know in the comments below.