Study: Watching nature videos can help improve consumers’ mental health

Study: Watching nature videos can help improve consumers' mental health
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Watching nature videos can help improve consumers’ mental health, according to a study held by researchers from the University of Exeter.

Results suggest that any experience with nature, such as viewing nature videos, can boost a consumer’s mental health.

Whether it is watching a nature-themed TV show or exploring nature in a virtual reality (VR) setup, the experience could improve mental wellness for consumers, the study shows.

“Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people’s mood and combat boredom,” said researcher Nicky Yeo. “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 two-part study had about 100 respondents, who watched an instructional video that was made to make them feel restless and bored. The scenes they viewed included a tropical coral reef through one of three platforms: a VR headset with computer graphics, a VR headset with full video features, or on a TV. The participants’ overall mood, boredom, and connectedness with nature were recorded both before and after the viewing.

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Findings show that consumers do not have to go outside to connect to nature or to lighten up their mood. Having a virtual experience with nature can improve consumers’ well-being, according to researchers.

While the researchers said that the VR experience made participants feel more connected to nature than those who viewed the scenes on a TV, the respondents shared that they felt less bored and negative.

Something as simple as nature programs can lead to positive effects for mental wellness, the study reveals.

“We’re particularly excited by the additional benefits immersive experiences of nature might provide,” said researcher Dr. Matthew White. “Virtual reality could help us to boost the well-being of people who can’t readily access the natural world, such as those in the hospital or long-term care. But it might also help to encourage a deeper connection to nature in healthy populations, a mechanism which can foster more pro-environmental behaviors and prompt people to protect and preserve nature in the real world.”

COVID-19’s impact on mental health

People are forced to stay at home due to the restrictions imposed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. This setting has taken a toll on people’s mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges the stress that the coronavirus outbreak brings.

“Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger,” the CDC states on its website.

Stress comes in many forms during an infectious disease outbreak, according to the health institute. Stress may manifest in fear and worry about one’s own health and the health of loved ones.

People may have difficulty sleeping during coronavirus lockdown. They can experience changes in eating patterns. CDC also warns about the worsening of chronic health problems and mental health conditions. Moreover, increased use of alcohol or drugs is possible.

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