Stress is a part of life. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, whether you’re a student trying to pass your classes, a homemaker trying to make sure that your household doesn’t fall apart, or a CEO tasked with ensuring your shareholders are earning a profit. What causes you stress may be different, but the chemicals are the same.
There are many ways to deal with stress when it comes on. You can take a warm bath, drink tea, go for a walk or try some deep breathing. All of these will help to reduce stress in the moment, but if you find that stress is something that you are dealing with on a regular basis or is getting out of hand, then you may want to try mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now with openness and curiosity. Most of us tend to be pre-occupied with the past or the future and spare very little time for the moment we are in. Studies have been done that show mindfulness meditation can have a lasting positive impact on mental health if practiced regularly.
Mindfulness, like any other discipline, requires practice. Perhaps the easiest way to get into mindfulness meditation is to download one of the many apps that are available on your favourite app store. There are many different versions but they all generally tend to give guided meditations, offer some way to keep track of your meditations and encourage you to keep going. The best ones tend to be paid, or at least have a paid component, but there are free ones too.
If you have access to a Gear VR, you have even more options. Obviously, with a Samsung device being required to power the headset, you have access to all of the apps on the Play Store, but you also have access to the ones on the Oculus store. And there are a surprising number of them. And as with the non-VR apps, they tend to offer guided meditations, but they also offer new environments, which when done well can really increase your relaxation and meditation experience. Having your view blocked out and replaced with serene locations enhances your ability to not become distracted by the world around you. With headphones on the immersion is even greater. Sometimes it isn’t even a real environment, but rather just black space and something to focus on, or an animation that follows your breathing to make it almost feel like you are really breathing something different, something calming.
If you have an Oculus Rift you are out of luck at the moment as there are no apps specifically designed for mindfulness. There are applications that could be relaxing, such as Ocean Rift or Titans of Space, but they might not be great for mindfulness meditation since there are things going on inside them that will draw your attention and they do not offer guided meditation. However, Rift is still new so there is still plenty of time for meditation apps to arrive.
The HTC Vive fares better in this space. Being powered by SteamVR it has a more open market place than the Rift so that might explain why that is the case, but whatever the reason there are several VR meditation apps for the Vive. These are going to provide the best possible experience at the moment as the Vive is powered by a PC and allows for a much larger play space and hand tracking. Though these last two points aren’t going to play a big role in meditation apps, anything that increases your presence in the virtual world will help you to be less distracted and more able to focus on your mindfulness. It’s hard to focus on your breathing when all you can think about is the world juddering around you or things popping into and out of existence.
Mindfulness mediation may seem to some like hokey, new age nonsense, and if you’re not into new age stuff then some of it will probably seem that way to you. But science seems to indicate that taking the time to focus on the moment is highly beneficial. It also indicates that virtual reality can be a great tool for being distracted from outside influences. As long as the virtual environment that you select is peaceful and doesn’t add to distraction then you should find that meditation in VR is as easy or easier than it is in real life. In fact, I work from home and today my son is home from school which means extra noise in the house. So I am finishing this article in my Oculus Rift using a program called Big Screen and some non-distracting music. It has been very helpful in keeping my mind on task and I think it would do just as well if I were meditating.