Get out the tinsel and light up the tree … it’s that time of year again! The arrival of the holiday season brings out the kid in all of us. There are family dinners to host, office holiday parties to attend, halls to deck, candles to light, and gifts to shop for. In fact, there’s so much to do that it’s easy to become overloaded and overwhelmed.
The idea of finding a bit of quiet time during this festive and frantic time of year can be a challenge. But now, thanks to the powers of virtual reality (VR), you can leave the traffic, crowds, and mall madness behind and meditate peacefully for a few minutes each day without ever leaving your house.
Simply put on your VR headset and get instantly transported to a relaxing private beach, idyllic mountain meadow, or the location of your dreams. If you’re a VR meditation beginner, here’s how it works:
- Load the app onto your phone.
- Select your favorite virtual scene or destination.
- Slip your phone into a Google Cardboard or other VR headset and put on your headphones.
- Sit back and let your mind sink into the ultimate relaxing audio-visual experience.
Research shows that meditation has numerous benefits, including an increase in mindfulness and overall well-being. Meditating may even reduce emotional symptoms of depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms of pain, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
While VR meditation has garnered cautious skepticism from hardcore meditation devotees (whose fans include high-powered celebs like Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, and Katy Perry), it provides a low-cost, user-friendly introduction.
Per Fornander, developer of the app VR Zen Garden, says using VR to meditate allows you to easily take a break wherever you are for a few minutes. “It allows you single-minded focus and a sense of great or small space. These aspects let your brain take a much-needed break from having to deal with too much stressful information” — like what to fill the stockings with, where to find the perfect gift for your husband, or what holiday treats to serve your gluten-free friends.
If your holiday plans include travel, simply take your VR headset along for the trip. “Imagine yourself sitting on a noisy plane, tightly packed with other passengers, you’re exhausted and uncomfortable. [With VR] you can let the brain relax in an open Saharan desert plain [and] hear the birds sing while they pass above you as the sun sets,” says Fornander.
So this season, silence your inner Scrooge and meditate your way back to ‘merry.’ Sample one of these seven amazing apps and discover your own little patch of Zen before New Year’s.
1. Relax VR ($1.99)
If you're dreaming about jetting off to an exotic location for the holidays instead of spending them at your uncle's house, try this app. Enjoy 360-degree views of beaches in the Philippines or the Rock Pools of Australia. You can choose to do a full-body Yoga Nidra guided meditation or simply listen to dreamy music as you repeat your own mantras.
2. Perfect Beach ($0.99)
Everything you love about the beach is right in front of you with this VR experience, including the sounds of the waves rolling in and the seagulls circling above. Take in this idyllic scene while a guided meditation plays, or import your own music or podcasts.
3. Zen Zone ($0.99)
If spending time in the woods or nature is more your scene, you'll love meditating with Zen Zone. The two-part program offers guided breathing exercises and full-body relaxation techniques to create a calmer you from head to toe.
4. VR Tropical Meditation 3D (Free)
“Start the day with beauty” via this free app which transports you to a tropical island setting where you can kick back to the soft sound of the waves. Hammock and Mai Tai not included.
5. Relaxity VR ($2.99)
New to meditation? This app will walk you through it. In just seven minutes, you'll be transported on a virtual walk set to a soothing voice and thematic music. Currently, there's a "Have a Nice Day" session available, but a "Sweet Dreams" and even a "Fly Away" version for travel are in the works.
6. Yana VR Relaxation ($1.99)
Watch the sun set and lounge under thousands of stars as a stunning night sky and calm, dark ocean offer the ideal backdrop to a peaceful soundtrack.
7. VR Zen Garden ($0.99)
Japanese gardens are designed for optimal Zen and tranquility. Transport yourself to one with this app where you’ll enjoy calming sounds of birds, the wind, and a trickling river as you meditate.