Experience and exposure: virtual reality as a conduit for active meditation

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Erik Anthony Swanson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Amanda Gale

Abstract: The mental health of university students is a mounting topic of concern. With the rise in students self-reporting an increase in mental health distress, steps need to be taken to provide accessible intervention methods. According to the National College Health Assessment (2018), university students are experiencing various forms of mental health issues ranging from feeling overwhelmed (85%), to feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function (41.4%). Meditation in nature and exposure to nature can be beneficial to mental health by lowering depression, anxiety, and stress, due in part to people’s innate connection to nature called biophilia (Pasanen, Tyrva¨inen & Korpela, 2014). This research sought out to expand upon existing claims that dynamic meditation in a virtual setting can positively impact university student’s perceived depression, anxiety, and stress. A paper-based questionnaire as well as two active meditation sessions in a designed virtual environment were used to collect data from thirty-one university students from the department of Interior Architecture attending the University of North Carolina Greensboro. The questionnaire consisted of five demographic questions as well as the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). The questionnaire was administered as a pre and posttest. The virtual environment consisted of six biomes that were designed based on the biophilic elements of design. Ambient sounds of nature were mapped throughout the space as well as dynamic elements such as waterfalls, mist, and animals frolicking throughout. All of this allowed for a fully immersed experience for participants. The results indicated that after two sessions in the virtual environment, there was a statistically significant decrease in perceived depression, anxiety, and stress levels in participants. Considering these findings, providing students with an accessible intervention can improve their well-being.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Active Meditation, Anxiety, Biophilic design elements, Depression, Stress, Virtual Reality
Architecture $x Environmental aspects
Virtual reality $x Health aspects
Meditation $x Therapeutic use
College students $x Mental health

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