The virtual outdoors can be good for your health:
In the 1980s, experimental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan studied the effects of nature on people. They found that small glimpses of the natural world – “nearby nature” – could have measurable effects on well-being. Even an insignificant or faraway sight, such as a few trees viewed through a window, could still give us a good feeling. The Kaplans found that people with access to nearby natural settings were healthier than those without. And these subjects also experienced increased levels of satisfaction with their home, job, and life in general.
Nearby nature does not have to be beautiful or complex. And, surprisingly, you do not have to be actually outside to gain the benefits. Many studies that have looked at this have taken place indoors, using images rather than the real thing. The effect is still potent when viewed through a window or seen in a photograph or video. … I called this phenomenon “technobiophilia” – the innate attraction to life and lifelike processes that are found in technology. Images of nearby nature on our phones and computers can alleviate mental fatigue. They enhance our attention, help us cope with distraction, and generally improve our well-being.
For more on the subject, check out Sue Thomas’ book, Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace.
(Image of a landscape from Grand Theft Auto V by Smade Media)