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Why virtual reality could be a mindfulness game changer

In today’s world, technology has increased the noise in our lives and it is becoming harder for many of us to achieve a sense of calm for even a moment.

This is why practicing mindfulness and meditation is more important than ever before. When people think of meditation, we often visualise someone inhaling and exhaling while sitting down surrounded by nature. But what if you pictured someone wearing a virtual reality headset instead?

At first, the concept of mindfulness and technology might seem like an oxymoron, but the two can actually be quite symbiotic. We are already seeing the regular use of mindfulness apps on smartphones where a user can plug in their headphones to experience a series of breathing exercises or guided meditation. But what if it could go a step further? With smartphones, the user can still become distracted by their visual surroundings while attempting to complete a session. VR is emerging as a solution to combat this issue for meditation beginners. When a user puts on a VR headset, it virtually removes the individual from reality and all the distractions that go with it.

In addition to removing noise, VR meditation apps can guide us through different “levels” of meditation, making it easier to reach the goal of complete silence and mindfulness. For example, telling someone who is used to a noisy environment to go into a room that is dead silent for a period of time and telling them to mediate would most probably increase their anxiety rather than decrease it. That would be like playing a video game, but you start on level 100. The idea behind VR mindfulness experiences is to allow the user the ability to meditate in an environment that is calming but allowing them to be distracted to begin with. Then with additional use, you are able to decrease the amount of noise in the experience till you reach complete silence, like starting from level 1 and getting to the goal of complete silence (level 100).

VR coupled with an element of “gamification” makes the use of VR for meditation a far more effective method for training the mind over traditional meditation methods. Mindfulness takes several progressive steps to fully achieve, and gamification allows meditation to be practiced and mastered more efficiently. VR is able to transport users to virtual temples or other calming locations for meditation.

Recently, the Nan Tien Institute collaborated with virtual reality experts at Devika to build a VR app that transported users to the Nan Tien Temple. In the virtual environment, a meditation instructor guided the user through the meditation process. The experience was also made interactive by giving the user the opportunity to combat negative thoughts through virtually placing a representation of that thought into a box which would then float away. This gave users a fully immersive experience that made achieving mindfulness more enjoyable and easier.

Instead of technology harming our mental health, we can use it to find relief as well as enable ourselves to strengthen our minds and reinforce positive behaviours. VR has the potential to be a mindfulness game changer and we will likely see a rise in popularity of VR meditation apps as emerging technology becomes more accessible and affordable to consumers.

Ken Kencevski is the CEO and founder of Devika.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain