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Virtual Nature to the Pain Rescue!

by Hayzell

People often talk about the healing power of nature, and I am a big believer of this. I love the ocean and miss walks on the beach—they always made me feel more at ease and lifted my spirits. Unfortunately, living in a colder climate makes such walks a freezing ordeal rather than a pleasant stroll.

Imagine my surprise last week when I found a peaceful ocean in my bedroom. My husband had set up our home projector to show ocean waves gently breaking on a sandy shore. The video was the size of our bedroom wall and in high definition, giving a convincing illusion of “being there.” I lay down on my bed, focused on the image, and took a few deep, mindful breaths. I imagined being on the beach and soon felt my tension drain away as every muscle in my body begun to relax. It was as if I were whisked away to my own private paradise!

Simulating nature to relax and relieve pain is also a hot topic in research. Professor Diane Gromala has taken nature simulations one step forward. She has created 3D virtual forest walks that seem to alleviate pain even better than morphine. Professor Gromala calls this technique a “walking meditation.” The virtual reality equipment is interactive and provides feedback via body sensors. There are also options for music and a meditative voice that can suggest what to focus on during your simulated walk. And if that wasn’t enough, you also have audio feedback—you can also hear the sounds of your steps as you walk through leaves in the virtual forest.

What is even more wonderful is that this research is being developed by someone who understands pain on a personal level. In Professor Gromala’s blog, she mentions her experiences with neuropathic chronic pain and the unique needs of people with pain. In an interview, she said that you can feel “distracted from intense pain” in her virtual forest. Sign me up for that!


  • Gromala, D., Barnes, S., Squire, P., Song, M. “A Virtual Reality Environment and Adjuvant for Managing Chronic Pain,” Pain Week, Las Vegas, 2010.

{ 1 comment }

Rosemary Lee May 14, 2021 at 5:27 pm

Wow! That is a VERY COOL idea! Where did you find that? The beach is my zen place and I can really understand how that might help.


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