Stress is part of life but in the past year and a half, the levels of stress have been unprecedented. According to the American Psychological Association, we are facing a mental health crisis, and 78% of adults say they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic. There are many ways to cope with stress adequately and one of them is gaming. Let’s look into some of the ways video games help reduce stress.
Benefits of Video Games
An important way video games help reduce stress is by increasing pleasure. Activities that increase pleasure or enjoyment, whether is working out, spending time with loved ones, laughing, or playing video games relieve stress. Pleasurable activities increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. These positive feelings are a great tool to combat daily stress.
You have certainly heard of instant gratification. This is when you engage in an activity and receive a reward or a positive feeling right away. Having a positive mood change without delay is a powerful incentive to keep engaging in that activity. Activities that provide instant gratification totally transform those feelings of stress. Video games give you just that. However, keep in mind that instant gratification is temporary and you need to keep engaging in the activity or substance to get that positive feeling.
A flow state is the sense of fluidity between your body and mind. It’s when you are fully immersed and focused on something without being distracted, which is also referred to as being “in the zone.” This flow state can also be achieved during meditation, athletic activities, or creative processes. Research shows that being in a flow state provides a sense of accomplishment, meaningfulness, and positive mood states – All-powerful stress fighters.
Another way video games help reduce stress is by the process of achieving. Just like having goals is an important aspect of life, achieving goals, milestones, and overcoming challenges are beneficial. They affect your mood positively. This process of achieving and moving forward is a great stress reliever. And you know that gaming is all about trying to advance to the next level.
More Right-Brain Engagement
You may know that most of our daily routines engage the left part of our brain. This is the part dealing in analysis, logic, numbers, facts, and words – everything that’s structured. On the opposite spectrum is the right brain, the part of the brain that engages in creativity, intuition, brainstorming, and visuals rather than words. Research shows that right hemisphere activation (engaging in creative and artsy activities) helps you decrease stress faster and handle stress more effectively. Video games engage your right brain more, helping you in stress management.
Another way video games help you reduce stress is by keeping you connected to others. Since isolation plays a big role in depression and heightened stress, anything that helps you to socialize and form relationships serves as a therapeutic tool against stress and negative feelings. Video games allow you to play with your friends and even strangers who share similar interests in casual or competitive ways, helping you combat stress.
Video Game Addiction
The dark side of video games is gaming addiction. Yes, this is a thing. You can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, cutting, porn, gambling, video games, food, or even exercise – pretty much anything that makes you feel good. If you are using video games to escape from life and gaming is the only way in which you are dealing with stress and your emotions, you may be using video games negatively.
How do you know if you have an addiction?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has specific criteria to identify addiction or dependency. If you feel that you have problems controlling your gaming or it interferes with major responsibilities, you may have a problem.
- Preoccupation with gaming
- Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
- Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
- Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
- Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
- Continuing to game despite problems
- Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
- The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
- Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming
If you have identified a problem, there are several things you can do. You should deal with the underlying issues and emotions that are causing your dysfunctional use of video games and you should learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with your emotions. You can also seek the professional help of a therapist and/or engage in a Twelve Step program.
Games to Play
There are many sources that you can use to play video games. I generally use a browser-based online platform Plays.org. The site is free and offers hundreds of games. Plus, they keep adding new games to the site regularly. They have a collection of arcade, cartoon, sport, simulation, comic-based, card, and educational games.
I love to play Solitaire, Pin Ball, PacRat, and Tetra Blocks. My son, on the other hand, enjoys playing the Lego game Build & Protect, Tank Wars, MiniGolf Universe, Avengers Hydra Dash, and Billiard Tricks. The games are a lot of fun and a great way to destress.
As you can see, there are many ways in which video games help you reduce stress and benefit you. Video games can allow you to experience a flow and achieving state. Additionally, video games increase pleasure, gratification, right-brain engagement, and can promote socialization. Just be mindful to use video games to destress from life and don’t stress to play video games.
To a Fitter Healthier You,
The Fitness Wellness Mentor