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The Power of Virtual Reality April 19, 2016

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Health & Wellness, Humor, Mindfulness.

Happiness can be boosted merely by the thoughts we think.

Especially if we imagine riding around town with a smiling monkey in a naval uniform on the back of our bright red motorcycle!


Or visualize playing catch with a friendly frog!


Or . . . insert your favorite daydream here.


Research in the field of neuroscience demonstrates that we can expand our happiness through visualization, virtual reality, and daydreams:

Research in the field of neuroscience has shown that the part of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure – the mesolimbic dopamine system – can be activated when merely thinking about something pleasurable, such as drinking a favorite brand of beer or driving a favorite type of sports car. In fact, this research shows that people sometimes enjoy anticipating an activity more than actually doing it.

For example, reading guidebooks in advance of a big vacation and anticipating the food you’ll eat and the activities you’ll do while there could actually give you more pleasure than the vacation itself. In short, research suggests that we can be just as well – if not sometimes better – off if we imagine experiences without having them.  

So to increase happiness, spend plenty of time happily daydreaming.

If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Consider Time (Stanford Business)

You read that right.

Research suggests that enjoying a virtual vacation can make us happier than going on an actual vacation (with all the attendant hassles).


Great news for armchair travelers with limited budgets!

2015-05-02 14-16-54_0117

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related:  Neural Pathways & Success (Find Your Middle Ground)


1. Jill Weatherholt - April 19, 2016

You never know what you’ll see down in Florida…love the monkey!

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

That monkey made my day! Talk about a cheer inducing sight.

2. Rainee - April 19, 2016

That is so true Nancy. We have had a few virtual holidays even down to buying the plane tickets but then cancelled at the last minute for one reason or another. 🙂

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

For me, the best part of any vacation is walking in my front door when it’s over. And this research applies to more than virtual vacations. We can enjoy virtual rock concerts, virtual parasailing, virtual hiking, virtual biking, virtual rockclimbing . . . or virtual surfing!

Cowabunga, dude! Hang Ten!

3. Ally Bean - April 19, 2016

I don’t think that these people have ever actually sat down and planned a vacation. The destination research, the airlines schedules, the hotel points, the rental car decisions, the luggage issues, the what to pack for whatever weird weather you’ll find at the other end problem, the arranging with your neighbors to look after your house, the wondering if you’re car will still be in longterm parking when you get back, the evil TSA agents… And all that’s before I get anywhere. Being on vacation is much better, imho.

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

That’s the point they made . . . you don’t have to do any of that if you know you are only going to PLAN the vacation.

You can imagine BEING THERE without pinning down the airlines schedules, the hotel points, the rental car decisions, the luggage issues, what to pack, pet sitters, house sitters, parking issues, and evil TSA agents. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself on a desert island, or wandering the Louvre, or gobbling croissants at a Parisienne Cafe.

Ally Bean - April 19, 2016

I think these people are using the word PLAN in the way I’d use the word DAYDREAM. I can daydream myself anywhere, but planning is work. 😉

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Yes. They conclude with: “So to increase happiness, spend plenty of time happily daydreaming.”

4. L. Marie - April 19, 2016

The monkey makes me smile!!
It really is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We can choose to focus on fear or problems or turn our focus on more positive things.

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

The research brought to mind two favorite quotes:

* When we master our thoughts, we master our life.
* Happiness is never in things . . . it’s in us.

5. William D'Andrea - April 19, 2016

I am a fiction writer, and oh Girl! Have I got virtual realities for you!

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Reading books and watching movies may add to our happiness or subtract from it ~> it all depends on the tale being told.

In contrast, we can custom tailor daydreams to suit our sensibilities.

6. Encore Voyage - April 19, 2016

My fave quote – We are about as happy as we make up our minds to be…Oh, and I wanna go on a motorbike with a monkey! Made me smile!

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

That’s a great quote. What happens “out there” has far less impact on our happiness than our internal landscape. When we remain mindful of the moment, happiness surfaces of its own accord . . . even if we are chopping wood or peeling carrots.

His smile made me smile too!

7. Val Boyko - April 19, 2016

Love it Nancy! I’m already living in Sarasota in my imagination and having fun!
The reality may take a few years to manifest though 😉

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Yay! This research didn’t surprise me ~> it substantiated what I’ve long felt. We can be happy if we make happiness and peace of mind a priority. It is not what happens to us in life that determines our level of happiness, it is how we choose to view what happens.

How we relate to the issue is the issue.

Val Boyko - April 19, 2016

Well said Nancy. I am about to post in a similar vain 😊

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

I’m looking forward to it . . . while staying firmly grounded in the NOW.

8. anotherday2paradise - April 19, 2016

This is so true Nancy. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You are as happy as you make up your mind to be.” 🙂

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Yes! People so often postpone happiness thinking that they need to have X, Y, or Z before they can be happy.

In reality, happiness is just a virtual step away.

anotherday2paradise - April 19, 2016


9. suzicate - April 19, 2016

I’ve been told since I was a little girl that my heads are always in the clouds, ha! Sometimes it a lot more fun there than on the ground!

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Yes! UP, UP, and AWAY!

Since my wander lust is less these days, and travel seems a chore, I’m delighted to learn we can propel our happiness with the power of imagination alone. No Passport required.

10. Carol Ferenc - April 19, 2016

I believe this is so true! Often the planning is more fun than the actual voyage. Such good news for armchair tourists like me.

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

It’s nice to know that daydreaming and visualization pays off in such a positive way . . . with no fuss and bother.

11. brickhousechick - April 19, 2016

This is true. Oftentimes, the reality does not match the expectation! The anticipation is the best part. Still, I will continue to go to Puerto Rico (in spirit and in person) every winter. 🙂

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Puerto Rico will always be a slice of home and a warm hug for you, Maria . . . especially when you want to warm up mid-winter.

In like vein, I am not going to subsist on Virtual Pizza for the rest of my life . . . I want a slice of the real thing!

brickhousechick - April 19, 2016

I’m with you on the Pizza thing! 🙂

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Virtual pizza would be a big calorie saver, eh?

12. Paula Tohline Calhoun - April 19, 2016

No problem agreeing with all of this! Happiness does not hinge on spending money, but it does require imagination!

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Yes! Imagination can help us expand our happiness . . . as long as we don’t gravitate to doom and gloom scenarios. Some people are better at imagining the “worst” that could happen. The key is to utilize the power of imagination to conjure up Best Case Scenarios.

Aah . . . that’s better!

13. diannegray - April 19, 2016

Daydreaming is a lot cheaper too, Nancy 😀 I visualize a lot before I go to sleep and imagine I’m flying (hoping to experience those elusive flying dreams, but they are rare) 😉

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Maybe tonight you’ll soar over the treetops!

diannegray - April 21, 2016

Wouldn’t that be wonderful! 😉

14. Kate Crimmins - April 19, 2016

Maybe I should try a virtual Starbucks….

nrhatch - April 19, 2016

Enjoying a virtual Starbucks would keep you dry on rainy days.

15. Behind the Story - April 20, 2016

Vacations that don’t require too much detailed planning are fun to daydream about. Two of my daughters are great vacation planners. I’m so grateful when they plan a vacation, and all I have to do is show up and enjoy it.

I find that remembering a vacation or looking through my vacation photo album is almost as much fun as being there in reality.

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

Photos are great prompts for daydreaming ~ reminding us of happy moments and memories.

After we learn to “recreate” past vacations in our mind’s eye, we can use the same visualization techniques to imagine new adventures and experiences . . . all from the comfort of our coziest chair.

16. Debra - April 20, 2016

I do believe this myself! I often picture myself sunning on the beach, but next time, I might go for that monkey! 🙂

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

This research substantiated what I’ve experienced first hand on numerous occasions after being lost in a daydream.

And, often, our dreams spur us to action ~> one cold rainy day, I imagined spending the holidays in Florida. Four weeks later, we did!

17. BunKaryudo - April 20, 2016

Interesting that visualization is a helpful technique. With my limited imagination, I’m not sure I could do it all in one step, though, so I’m going to begin be riding about with an actual smiling monkey on the back of my motorbike. (To be fair to myself, I will have to visualize the motorbike.)

Incidentally, that was great news at the end of your post about virtual vacations — the only kind I can afford to go on. 🙂

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

Here’s where writers have an edge . . . they’re pros at conjuring up sights, sounds, and smells to spill onto paper.

A smiling monkey ought to be a piece of cake for you. You can even imagine him keeping track of your umbrellas.

BunKaryudo - April 20, 2016

You know, that is a great point about writers. That genuinely is a big advantage when it comes to visualization techniques. 🙂

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

The pecking order goes like this:

1. Children ~ BEST imaginations by far
2. Writers ~ great at channeling their inner child
3. Walter Mitty
4. Politicians ~ definitely living in virtual reality land
5. Teachers ~ they hang around children
6. Actors & Actresses
7. Drama Queens

18. Under the Oaks - April 20, 2016

I used to daydream all the time. I especially remember daydreaming when I was in high school. I would tell myself little stories in the afternoon (my Mom worked and I was alone after school) and at night to help myself go to sleep. I don’t do that much anymore and I should.

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

Conjuring up happy images makes us happier. Imagination and visualization used mindfully are powerful ~ like sprinkling a magic wand with fairy dust.

Abracadabra! Hocus Pocus!
Visualization changes our locus.

19. roughwighting - April 20, 2016

I’d write a longer comment, but I’m too busy daydreaming about my lounge chair on the beach in Hawaii. 😍

nrhatch - April 20, 2016

That’s the ticket! Enjoy an umbrella drink before you resurface.

20. The Next Best Thing | Reason's Moons - April 22, 2016

[…] Nancy Hatch, of Spirit Lights The Way, posted about the positive effects of visualization. She was so right. Since being restricted from […]

21. nrhatch - April 25, 2016

On a related note, check out Val’s post ~ Neural Pathways & Success:


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