A new field is being pioneered by Virtual Reality: meditation.
Users can focus on their breath while watching different calming images using a headset displaying them. Instead of reacting to negative emotions in stressful situations, they can take a moment to step out and come back refreshed and ready to respond.
VR meditation in action
In virtual reality (VR) meditation, a headset, often called goggles, delivers an immersive simulation experience that simulates other realities to transport one to a peaceful place. Aside from reducing worldly distractions, it allows the user to relax and focus.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual reality has become popular, especially among mental health professionals. Users who struggle with regular or traditional meditation can use it as an alternative.
VR headsets, for instance, allow the user to travel anywhere, including the beach or the countryside, facilitating a sense of calm. The experience may also be enhanced with gentle sounds like flowing water or a gentle breeze. Getting some gentle relief for a short time will allow people to tune out distracting thoughts.
Benefits and risks of VR meditation
Meditation using VR technology is a part of the growing technology called meditation movement. Almost 20,000 apps and binaural beats music are available for electronic devices worldwide, podcasts, guided meditations on YouTube and more.
VR meditation has seen an uptick in use by teenagers who suffer from anxiety and depression. Some psychiatry practices are implementing this technology, especially for teens who suffer from social anxiety disorder .
Some benefits of VR mediation are:
- Improved sense of calm
- Rational decision making
- Enhanced socialisation
- Reduced anxiety
- Greater feelings of gratitude
- Having a sense of wonder and awe
- Grief recovery
- Increasing happiness
- Getting better sleep
While studies have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of VR meditation, there are still some warnings . The following reasons may cause some people to be cautious:
- Having headaches
- VR “cyber sickness” or motion sickness
- Eye strain
- Hearing can be affected if the volume is too high
- Individuals with a history of delusions may become more delusional
- Too much “screen-time” can damage children’s developing eyes.
If you suffer from motion sickness, eye disorders, hearing disorders or severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, consult your doctor before beginning a new health regimen.
Is VR meditation accessible to everyone?
Over the past few years, VR meditation has grown in popularity, but its price point may deter some people. Meta Quest 2, for instance, costs $400.
Moreover, users need to download a $10 to $20 app to guide them through meditation. It is not a good fit for lower-income households, and they will have to rely on traditional medicine and behavioural therapy instead.
The VR meditation process
The user starts the app after putting on the headset. One favorite app is TRIPP, which guides users through calming scenes and breathing exercises, including the box breath, during the meditation experience.
Doing this makes them feel like they are in a relaxing, peaceful place. Those living in big cities without a lot of nature or who can’t travel to exotic places can benefit from this.
VR causes some people to worry about eye safety, but studies report it can be helpful in the following ways :
- Lazy eye
- Reaction time
- Hand-eye coordination
- Depth perception
At the very least, virtual reality meditation allows one to experience meditation unusually. In some studies, VR meditation can produce psychedelic-like feelings . However, something like this does not happen overnight.
To see the results and how VR meditation affects them, experts recommend using it regularly. In addition, the study authors note that more than one solo session is required.
The use of VR technology with meditation can have some powerful effects on promoting mindfulness, and there are two layers to achieving mindfulness:
The first step is to settle the mind. Afterwards, they must observe whatever thoughts or habits arise in their minds. Unfortunately, people become frustrated because they feel they can’t stop outside thoughts from entering their minds, and this is where they give up and give up.
With the VR headset, relaxation can be induced between two stages. Thus, the user can experience mindfulness by entering the present moment and letting the thoughts drift away. The more often this process occurs, the more likely it is that positive mindset changes will happen.
Meditation as a bridge
The popularity of virtual reality among gamers and teenagers makes it a bridge to meditation for those who might never have tried it before. Individuals with mental health disorders have benefited from traditional meditation and breathing exercises for calming the nervous system.
There has also been an increase in mental health issues following the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein people have been locked in their homes for months without socialising. This pandemic changed the fabric of society, and virtual reality may do the same in the future.
There is a new, exciting and relatively safe way to meditate and engage in mindfulness for peace and relaxation through virtual reality. Eventually, it may become more affordable as it gains popularity and spreads. Despite not understanding its entire mechanism for the human condition, brain and psyche, it provides hope for overcoming mental illness .