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Title:Investigating how mindfulness promotes the restorative effects of nature exposure in virtual reality
Author(s):Mimnaugh, Katherine J.
Advisor(s):van Riper, Carena; Browning, Matthew
Contributor(s):Laurent, Heidemarie; LaValle, Steven
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Virtual reality
virtual restorative environments
virtual restorative environment therapy
mental health
natural environments
Abstract:Over the last century, the number of people living in urban areas has been increasing and the general health and happiness of the public has been decreasing (Emfield & Neider, 2014). As more people move into urban environments, the negative consequences of reduced connection with nature are becoming more apparent. One promising way to reverse this trend is by reconnecting humans with the natural world. Natural environments have been shown to exert beneficial influences on mental health; however, to effectively develop therapeutic interventions, there is a strong need to understand the mechanisms of action by which natural environments support positive mental health outcomes. This thesis investigated potential mechanisms of action for therapeutic nature exposure as well as the preliminary efficacy of nature exposure therapy in virtual reality. Research subjects completed a survey measure assessing previous visits to nature and self-reported mental health symptoms. They subsequently completed an in situ experimental session in which they received one of three treatments (real nature, virtual nature or no nature) and then completed a laboratory stress task. Levels of mindfulness during the stressor and changes in self-reported levels of state positive and negative affect before and after the stressor were assessed. Results showed nature visitation indirectly correlated with psychopathology and emotional responses to nature. Additionally, mindfulness covaried with nature treatment type (real nature or virtual nature) for positive affect. These results elucidate the relationship between nature and mental health and demonstrate the potential for virtual restorative environments to be used in the treatment of mental health disorders.
Issue Date:2018-04-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Katherine J. Mimnaugh
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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