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Underwater Meditation and the Therapeutic Benefits of VR

It’s Sunday evening, and I’m sitting with my legs crossed on the bottom of the sea. My fingers poke a nearby turquoise anemone, and it reflexively tucks into itself. A crab off to my left scuttles into a cave. My breath catches in my throat as a smack of vibrant pink jellyfish come into view. It’s gorgeous. I could stay here forever.

But then I hear a loud alarm ringing, and the moment is broken. Meditation time is up; back to the real world I go. I remove the headset and start downstairs for dinner, feeling renewed and refreshed.

This has become a weekend tradition, one of many I’ve integrated into my life over the past year. A proud introvert, I was surprised to learn that I don’t do as well in quarantine as I anticipated I would. I longed for social interactions after merely a month. I missed going to the beach on Saturday mornings to play in the tide pools. A stationary bike at home wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as my gym. Seasonal depression sank its talons deeper than ever. On top of it all came a crushing anxiety, one that I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t long before “self-quarantine” orders became I-don’t-want-to-leave-the-couch orders.

Google Cardboard Was a Side Project. The Google Cardboard platform was developed by David Coz and Damien Henry. The two engineers developed the project as part of Google’s”innovation time off” program in which engineers are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their time working on projects that interest them. Thankfully, Google backed the project, and Google Cardboard is now one of the cornerstones of scalable virtual reality.

Enter virtual reality.

Just as the lethargy bordered on clinical, my husband brought home the Valve Index, and he excitedly pitched how much fun this new toy would be. “This is the VR we’ve been waiting for,” he said, bouncing on his toes in anticipation.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical. A lifelong gamer, I’ve tried numerous VR products, but all have been a far cry from what science fiction movies tell us is possible.

“This is much better than those,” my husband promised, as he hurried to set it up for me. After a quick tutorial, I was fitting the headset on.

Suddenly, my room was gone and I was in an ultramodern house with hardwood floors and cement walls. Sliding glass doors opened out onto a patio. I could see the sun beating down onto tall pines and mountains outside. I heard birds chirping, a breeze swaying through the leaves. It was breathtaking.

I took a few steps toward the door and the view got sharper, the sounds closer. A few more and BAM! I hit my shin on the chair. My brain slammed back into reality, reminding me that I wasn’t actually in the scene I was looking at. I had to chuckle at myself for being so completely transported so quickly. I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before I began looking forward to my VR sessions. There were so many options of places to explore, things to see, people to meet, and some cardio fitness choices too. This was more than playing games. This was therapy.

Scientists with NASA can use virtual reality to enable robot arms in space to perform gestures that are being done on earth with an operator.

Marketed and sold as entertainment systems, VR is quickly proving valuable in medicine, from MS to anxiety treatments. While the validity of the term “VR therapy” is still being debated, my journey led me to explore the emerging therapeutic tools that VR has to offer.

Meditation and Mindfulness With so much negative news permeating our lives, my anxiety had reached an all-time high. I needed something to aid in keeping me calm. A study by University College London found that 10 to 20 minutes of daily mindful meditating can have some remarkable benefits for your well-being—but if you’re like me, you may find it difficult to sit in quietness with your own breath. Some fantastic alternatives can be found in VR. My all-time favorite place to be is Reef Migration, where I spend time with corals and jellyfish. Part of theBlu underwater series from Wevr, the graphics are wonderful, the sounds are peaceful, and there’s enough passive action to keep my brain entertained. The best part? I’m not wet or cold, and I don’t need to go up for air.

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