Much has been written about video games, and quite a lot tends to be negative. But has it ever occurred to you that all those hours you spent playing Fortnite might have helped you distress and become more relaxed? Well, as it turns out, playing videos can help to relieve stress, reduce depression and make you smarter.
That may sound like a big assumption to make, but there is a ton of scientific evidence to back it up. In fact, the evidence is so compelling that if video games aren’t part of your life, adding a little game-playing time to your daily schedule could improve your mental health in many ways.
To that end, let’s take a look at what research says about the impact of playing video games on stress management, and why it works.
Video Games & Mental Health
Playing video games has become a key strategy for coping with stress, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cyber Therapy & Rehabilitation has revealed.
The effects of this study included Heart Rate Variability and electroencephalography—a test used to evaluate electrical activity in the brain. Since these physiological responses are used to show brain stress levels, you’d expect brain activity to be strenuous when playing high-intensity video games.
However, the opposite turned out to be true.
The study found that different games had varying mood-changing effects. For example, timed and high-activity games decreased left alpha brain waves that are associated with withdrawal and depressive-type behavior.
Fun and adventurous games, including video, and other games like those on Casumo bump up the brain waves associated with euphoric behavior. It was concluded that playing video games not only help to relieve stress but can also be used as a therapy for people with mental problems.
In another 2014 Study, researchers found a clear correlation between the number of hours spent playing video games and recovery from work-related stress.
In the study, researchers Anna Cox and Emily Collins surveyed 491 participants and found a positive correlation between the number of hours spent playing action, first-shooter games and overall recovery.
They concluded that in order for recovery from work-related stress to be successful, one must experience psychological detachment from work, which playing video games provide.
Why Video Games Help Relieve Stress
Research to establish a direct relationship between playing video games and stress management is not yet conclusive. But from what we know so far, there are a few theories that could help to explain why playing video games is a great remedy for coping with stress.
In most cases, stress and depression result from a patterned way of thinking. You know the feeling, you wake up every morning feeling like “another day, ugh!”.
From the very start, your brain is programmed to expect to be stressed out. This negative expectation plus the monotony of doing daily tasks repeatedly is what triggers the stress receptors. By the end of the day, you can’t escape from work-related stress.
Playing video games help to break that pattern by giving your brain a mental break. You can say they help to deprogram your brain and refocus your mind onto something new and exciting.
What Games Work Best
Not all games are great at relieving stress. Some games might exacerbate your stress levels. Here are some key characteristics to look for.
Easy To Get Started
Games that are easy to get started are the best for relieving stress.
Avoid games that come with a ton of tutorials as they might overwork your brain.
Not Too Involving
Games such as World of Warcraft that requires a lot of time, commitment, and mental agility might not be the best to distress. Look for games that are fun, exciting and adventurous such as The Last of Us: Remastered.
Have Nothing To Do With Your Real Life
Video games help you to manage stress because they give you a break from your real life.
What other methods do you use to cope with stress? Share with us in the comments section below.