It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK with many struggling with being stuck at home, unable to see friends and family. Whilst lockdown restrictions are slowly being rolled back that doesn’t mean everyone’s wellbeing instantly improves overnight. There are various ways to improve your mental health and virtual reality (VR) can be part of that process, from exploring the great outdoors to engaging in some light fitness. So here are a few recommendations for when those stress levels begin to rise.
While you should get out for the odd walk when (and if) you can, there are plenty of studies that highlight the fact that even doing some light exercise can help lift your mood. And this doesn’t need to be intensive workout sessions as long as you’re moving. Naturally, the more often you do exercise, and for longer periods, the greater the effect.
The UK’s Mental Health Foundation also highlights the positive attributes of getting closer to nature, finding that “More than half of UK adults saying being close to nature improved their mental health.” You might not think VR and nature go hand-in-hand but they definitely do if you know where to look.
Tackling fatigue, stress or anxiety with VR Guided Tai Chi
Perfect as a form of exercise as well as being able to refresh your mind and spirit, Guided Tai Chi provides over 200 workouts, allowing you to select 20 scenic locations and the music to go with each session. These can range from a quick 3-minute warm-up all the way up to 60-minute Tai Chi endurance marathons. On Oculus Quest you even have the ability to use hand tracking for a more natural experience.
An interactive collection of 360-degree videos, Ecosphere is a nature documentary series. Featuring content from the jungles of Borneo to the rich coral reefs of Raja Ampat, viewers will be able to see a diverse selection of wildlife created in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
A rhythm-action videogame every VR player knows and has probably played, Beat Saber can help you work up a sweat on its expert difficulty levels. With its simple yet addictive gameplay Beat Saber is easy to zone into and forget about the outside world, slicing and dicing coloured blocks to your heart’s content. There are even multiplayer and 360-degree modes when you really want to turn things up a notch.
Nature Treks VR
Keeping with the nature theme, Nature Treks VR is just what you want to explore the great outdoors in VR. Get up close with 20 different animals across a range of environments where you can control the weather and time of day, activate audio visualizations and more. Music plays over each scene of you can turn it off to hear the soothing sounds of nature.
Another rhythm-action title to help get the blood pumping and loosen those muscles is Synth Riders. Rather than all the hectic slashing of Beat Saber, Synth Riders is a fluid, orb matching experience that helps to stretch your body to a variety of music, from synth-wave through to Muse. The videogame also features a 360° Spin Mode and a cross-platform multiplayer for up to 10 people because it’s nice to get a few mates involved.
An award-winning meditation app, Tripp offers 40+ meditative experiences with a mobile app to help personalise and track your Tripp’s. “TRIPP uniquely integrates game play mechanics, breathing exercises, beautiful visual landscapes and sound frequencies. Based on scientific research and used in several clinical studies.” So get comfy on the sofa and enjoy a relaxing journey in VR.
As you might expect from an app called Wander, this is all about travelling the world and being able to visit locations like the gardens of the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Using data from Google StreetView, you can navigate around using voice controls as well as other input methods. Plus, if you want to learn something along the way Wander features Wikipedia integration.
Where Thoughts Go
A very existential, award-winning social experience, Where Thoughts Go is the work of indie developer Lucas Rizzotto. It lets you uncover the dreams, fears and secrets of other players by waking up creatures – and also leave your own for others to find. Unusual and highly thought-provoking, “These anonymous stories are revealing and inspiring, encouraging reflection and introspection,” explains the synopsis. “Participants have no way to discern who they are hearing from, only how considerate and sensitive each and every person is.”
Real VR Fishing
Time for more VR videogame fun. Fishing has always been considered one of those relaxing, Sunday afternoon past times and with Real VR Fishing, every day can be Sunday. Designed as a realistic fishing simulation, you can head to real-world fishing locations to cast off and see if you can get a bite, on your own or with friends. You’ve got your own aquarium to put the fish you’ve caught in and there’s even a web browsing option so you can pull up YouTube and listen to some tunes out on the water.
National Geographic Explore VR
Last on the list is National Geographic Explore VR an interactive experience where you can explore two locations, Antarctica and Machu Picchu, Peru. In the frozen wastes of the southern continent, you can kayak around icebergs and search for a lost emperor penguin colony. While in Peru wander through digital reconstructions of the ancient Inca citadel, encounter alpacas and take photos of your journey.
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