Tall trees with thick, lush canopies stretch as far as the eye can see. There’s a slight breeze blowing, birds are singing, and there’s a faint smell of forest—mostly fir trees and mushrooms. For a moment, people experiencing the scene may forget they’re in a research lab in Sweden helping scientists run an experiment to test how the features of natural environments affect physiological stress.
For many years now, there’s been a consensus that being in nature contributes to good physical and mental health, says Marcus Hedblom, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who helped run the virtual reality experiment. Research has shown that viewing natural scenes can lower heart rate and restore focus, both of which are important for combatting physical and mental health disorders.
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