Virtual reality beaches can make us feel better in uncomfortable situations!
IMAGINE WALKING along a beach on a lovely day. The waves are hitting on the shore, crabs are scurrying in the sand, you can hear the calls of the seagulls. You turn to continue along the path feeling calm and relaxed. Then, you suddenly hear your dentist say, “Fine, all done, you can take the headset off now.”
A recent study decided to find out if having a lovely experience at the beach (in virtual reality) would make the dentist chair better. The study was done while fillings were being put in, and teeth were being pulled out.
Two virtual reality programmes were offered to the dental patients. One was a walk along a beach. The other was a walk around an anonymous virtual reality city. Those who ‘walked’ along the beach were less anxious. They experienced less pain, and had more positive recollections of their treatment a week later, than those in the standard care condition. These benefits were not found for those who walked around the virtual city.
Virtual Reality Setting Are not all Equal
Dr Sabine Pahl, the project’s coordinator said, “Merely distracting the patients isn’t enough. The environment for a patient’s visit needs to be welcoming and relaxing.” The beach virtual reality encounter resulted in demonstrably better experiences in the dentist’s chair.
Dr. Karin Tanja-Dijkstra was the lead author of the study. “The use of virtual reality in health care settings is on the rise. Our research demonstrates that under the right conditions, this technology can be used to help both patients and practitioners.”
The authors of the research stress that the type of virtual reality environment the patient visits is important. There is a growing body of work that shows that natural environments, and marine environments in particular, can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Co-author Dr. Mathew White said, “We have done a lot of work recently which suggests that people are happiest and most relaxed when they are at the seaside. So it seemed only natural to investigate whether we could bottle this experience and use it to help people in potentially stressful healthcare contexts.”
Gold Coasters, next time you feel stressed, jump onto the beach! You’ll feel a million times better! ■
In the meantime you can listen to these beautiful beach sounds while you relax.