Unsure of what to watch? Opt for nature shows, scientists say

  • People confined to their homes or beds may experience chronic boredom
  • Researchers investigated if video footage of nature could improve these people's mood
  • They found that 'virtual reality' can boost the wellbeing of people who can't readily access the natural world 

The strict lockdown period earlier this year left many South Africans confined to their homes.

While the boredom that came with the lockdown was only temporary, many people are permanently confined to their homes, hospital beds or institutions of care. These people tend to experience what is known as chronic boredom, according to researchers of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology presents a possible solution for people who are confined to their homes or beds, and also for those who simply want to boost their mood.

Images of nature

The study investigated the concept that contact with nature can improve one’s health and wellbeing. Because it is not always possible to directly access nature, researchers opted to test how digital images of nature can affect people’s mood. 

A total of 96 people took part in the study. It started off by intentionally inducing boredom in the participants, and then exposing them to underwater scenes “with colourful fish, corals and a turtle”. Underwater scenes were specifically used as this setting is not easily accessible and would be interesting to most people.

The underwater scenes were presented in one of three modes: 2D video on a TV screen, 2D video viewed on a high-definition TV screen and 360-degree video in VR (virtual reality) using a headset, and interactive computer-generated VR.

Decreased boredom

Researchers found that exposure to nature across all modes had a positive effect on participants, reducing boredom and also improving their mood. All three modes prompted a connectedness to nature. Although all modes had a positive effect, computer-generated interactive virtual reality (CG VR) had the strongest effect.

Researchers attribute this result to the fact that CG VR allowed for interaction and created a stronger feeling of connectedness.

How useful is this study?

According to the study, “boredom in care homes has been linked with loneliness, agitation and depression”. The authors added: “Virtual reality could help us to boost the wellbeing of people who can't readily access the natural world, such as those in hospital or in long term care."

Additionally, it could also encourage a deeper connection to nature in healthy populations. This means that people in lockdown can also improve their mood by turning on the TV and watching a programme on nature.

Looking for something to watch? Channel24 has you covered: When a Cape Town man makes friends with an octopus an unbelievable story unfolds

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