Mindfulness and Virtual Reality: A New Way to Reduce Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the U.S. every year. While many treatments are available for anxiety, such as medication and therapy, some people are looking for new ways to reduce their stress. Research has shown that mindfulness is an effective way to manage anxiety symptoms.

Mindfulness teaches us to focus on what’s happening in the present moment instead of having an emotionally driven reaction. Practicing mindfulness encourages us to accept our emotions, so we can better process them. It also enables us to see things from a different perspective. 

This article will discuss how mindfulness can help reduce and overcome anxiety, how mindfulness can be implemented into mental health treatment, and the role virtual reality can play in teaching mindfulness techniques. 

How mindfulness works to control anxiety

To find out how mindfulness works to control anxiety, we need to look at the brain. When we’re feeling anxious, our brain produces more cortisol than it should be. This causes an increase in stress and makes us feel like our life is falling apart. The only way to stop this is by taking a break from the stressor or managing thoughts and emotions. 

Mindfulness can help do both of these things. When we’re mindful, we’re paying attention to the present moment instead of letting our minds wander. This allows us to take a break from stressful thoughts and emotions, reducing the amount of cortisol our brain produces.

Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all or a quick-fix that will make anxiety disappear. Instead, it’s a different relationship with fear and emotional ups and downs. Practicing mindfulness means accepting anxiety rather than struggling against it because it’s easy to get stuck in the struggle. Mindfulness is about focusing on tangible things at the moment. Focusing on things that you can experience with the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste allows you to shift attention away from whatever is causing anxiety.

Its emphasis on the present moment instead of anxious thoughts about the past, present, or future makes mindfulness a technique that can be practiced almost anywhere. It’s a simple yet highly effective method that teaches people to take a calmer approach to life so they can respond productively to their anxiety. 

Implementing mindfulness into mental health treatment

Mindfulness isn’t meant to treat any one specific condition but rather to be used in conjunction with different therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It can also act as a complement to treating specific symptoms of many mental health disorders. It’s a technique that can be used on many patients. 

The practice of mindfulness is being utilized more frequently as part of mental health treatment as research shows that it is effective in treating anxiety and a multitude of other mental health conditions. 

The most common mindfulness techniques involve guided imagery, breathing methods, and other exercises that relax both mind and body. Online mindfulness interventions are now readily available through smartphones and tablets. Early findings suggest they have a positive effect on mental health. There are also numerous telehealth and technology-based interventions available to learn how to practice mindfulness, including virtual reality. 

Virtual reality and mindfulness

Virtual reality (VR) therapy consists of stimulation that is realistic enough that patients don’t always need in-person exposure to achieve anxiety reduction. The therapist can also control the parameters of the environment, reinforcing progress and challenging patients gradually at a pace that is unique to them. 

Virtual reality is also cost-effective and user-friendly. With the increasing development of affordable systems, more mental health professionals are using VR exposure therapy to treat patients with anxiety disorders. 

Amelia’s mindfulness VR environments can be instrumental in practicing breathing exercises, gratitude, and imagery with immersive experiences in emotional regulation, attentional focus, body scanning, mindfulness techniques for children, and more. 

Patients can practice full-attention exercises, mindfulness and acceptance exercises, progressive muscle relaxation in calming, immersive environments. Although VR is not meant as a substitute for face-to-face therapy, it is an optimal choice to supplement traditional treatment methods. If you would like to learn more about how virtual reality can help your patients supplement their treatment with mindfulness practices, contact us to set up a demo session and answer any doubts or concerns you may have.