I tried virtual reality with Healium for my anxiety…here’s how it went

With life resembling one of my dystopian stories in draft, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to try out Healium, a channel that uses virtual and augmented reality apps to help people self-manage stress and anxiety, through a range of immersive, guided meditations.

And why wouldn’t I want to try a product offering an escape to different space with just a few clicks, in these times when many of us are confined to our homes.

As is the case for many people, my anxiety and mood have suffered immensely during the past year, as we grapple with life in a pandemic, with grief, loss, stress and uncertainty.  And pandemic or not, life goes on. I’ve struggled massively with this part – keeping my gears turning while grieving for my Ma and managing a breadth of other not-so-welcome feelings, while still having to manage with my conditions – fibromyalgia, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

I was keen to find out whether virtual reality (VR) and Healium would help with my anxiety and stress levels in particular. I was super thrilled to discover that I could also track my brain’s electrical pulses with Healium’s wearable headband, to see which of my brainwaves were dominant at the time, and thus, telling me whether I was calm, focusing on something or stressed for instance.

It helped to bring some calm after long, stressful days, transporting me to serene places of beauty and helped me to concentrate on my breathing, Click To Tweet

Studies show the VR has wide application, and can be helpful in conjunction with other treatments to address conditions like PTSD, phobias, addictions and anxiety. As an emerging technology, there is also ongoing discourse on whether VR may reduce pain in patients with chronic illness (I’m super interested and monitoring developments on this). 

This was my first time using VR so I wanted to keep things simple.

I decided that everyday, where possible, I would use Healium virtual reality, with and without the wearable headband, at the end of the work day to see if it helped ease my anxiety and stress levels. On bad pain days I would also take note of any changes to my pain levels.

First impressions 

The Dream Pool experience

The moment I put the VR headset on, I was blown away (first time user here). I mean, I was still on the login screen, set against a beach background. I might as well have been there in the flesh. Once I got past the realness of the sensation, I set out to explore some of the guided meditations. 

The technology was easy to use and offered simple step-by-step guidance. I began by taking a survey to help me decide what kind of meditation would suit my needs best. 10 points for that feature. The app suggested the Dream Pool meditation, where I sat on the edge of a teeming forest amongst large mushrooms, a towering canopy of trees, and streaming lake with fish. I was prompted to breathe in and out deeply, and on the screen I could see the lines corresponding with my brain activity, so I knew whether I needed to relax more and so forth.

Those lines

It was super helpful to see what my stress levels were, because you know when you tell yourself to calm down, and breathe, but you can still feel your heart wanting to beat out your chest? Well, the lines indicating my brain waves helped me to really focus on my breathing to centre and bring myself down to a calmer place.

Between December 2020 and February 2021 I tried a vast range of different experiences. I’ve meditated on a beach watching the waves roll to the shore; I’ve been floating above an ethereal forest, and I’ve been out of space in the quiet vastness.

Verdict

I definitely noticed an improvement in my state of mind when I used Healium. It helped to bring some calm after long, stressful days, transporting me to serene places of beauty and helped me to concentrate on my breathing, which I usually struggle with.

Initially, perhaps due to previous traumas, I felt a bit unsafe when I put the headset on but the Healium gear has a little space around the nose bridge to allow one to keep track of one’s controller, so that was helpful in allowing me to see my immediate real life surroundings. This feeling eased the more I used the headset. 

I wasn’t keen to use the headset daily after staring at my computer screen all day for work and I found it more beneficial when used every other day or so. On days when my mood was particularly low, I lacked the motivation to meditate. What I needed was a dose of light humour, so instead I opted for repeat episodes of Brooklyn 99. But of course everyone is different and meditation works for some people facing depression. For me Healium worked best when I was anxious or stressed.

I can’t say that I noticed a direct improvement in my pain levels on bad pain days, but we all know that our mental wellbeing impacts our physical wellbeing and vice versa. I felt by helping me with my anxiety and stress levels Healium’s meditation exercises took my focus away from my physical pain, allowing me to manage better.

The future is bright and full of possibilities thanks to VR and products like Healium. But I questioned accessibility for people like myself who may not have the income to purchase these tools. Healium does have an augmented reality app that can be used with one’s smart phone, and the company is working with organisations to provide services to employees. 

Until we can all access this amazing technology, maybe one day we will get to a place where places like libraries, community centres and voluntary organisations have VR stations offering wellbeing sessions for the public.

That would be out of this world!

Gentle hugs  x

4 Replies to “I tried virtual reality with Healium for my anxiety…here’s how it went”

  1. I would love to do this! sounds like fun and helpful. it is something I have never thought of to help body challenges. Love how it brought you a sense of calm. I agree with you we need better access to these technologies for everyone.

    1. I wish there was some way we could quickly open up access to see if and how it could help those of us especially who live with chronic conditions. Thanks Lee x

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