If you’re among the millions of virtual gamers across the planet, chances are, you’ve heard all the assumptions and stereotypes. Gaming causes laziness and inactivity. Gaming leads to a disconnect from the world around you. Gaming even harms your brain cells from a lack of productivity. And the list goes on.
Sure, if consumed in excess—like any other form of entertainment—these side-effects can occur. But if enjoyed in moderation, gaming is actually a source of various mental health benefits. Rather than inhibiting cognitive function, this hobby has been found to accelerate it. When balanced out with physical and social activities too, gaming is more than just the mindless distraction it’s been reduced to.
Whether your game of choice is Mario Kart, Fortnite, Global Poker, Minecraft or anything in between, here are four reasons to grab that controller or mobile device and hit the “play” button. And sharing these insights with the virtual game skeptics in your life just might reframe their ideas about your favorite pastime. So that’s a bonus too!
Gaming Stimulates and Enhances Creativity.
In order to negotiate different challenges and advance onto the next level, you need to harness some ingenuity. This teaches you how to assess an environment or situation from unique angles to find a resourceful course of action. Honing this skill releases imagination and creativity which are essential for mind-body integration. In fact, research conducted at Michigan State University indicated that children who play video games also project creativity in other “tasks such as drawing pictures or writing stories.” The more time you spend tapping into creative expression, the more alertness, coordination, focus and physiological well-being you can experience.
Gaming Alleviates the Effects of Depression.
Anyone who has suffered through depression, knows this psychological disorder can feel hopeless at times, but gaming counteracts that negativity. According to Jane McGonigal, a video game designer, this activity triggers the brain’s reward pathway system (linked to goal orientation and motivation) and the hippocampus (linked to memory and critical thinking). These neural responses tend to be stifled in people with depression, but gaming can bridge this detachment. Virtual games promote a “real sense of optimism in our abilities and our opportunities to get better and succeed,” while initiating the physical and mental stamina to “engage with difficult problems,” she suggests.
Gaming Recharges Depleted Energy Levels.
If you’re all too familiar with the mid-afternoon slump that causes you to feel drained, lethargic, uninspired or inattentive, gaming has been found to re-energize both the mind and body. This is a result dopamine activated in the brain which sends a concentration of energy to be absorbed, channeled and expended. In addition, scientists from Queen Mary University of London propose the strategic, problem-solving nature of gaming enhances cognitive agility and flexibility which can refocus your fading attention and concentration when you’re forced to make quick decisions “in response to changing goals and environmental conditions” in the virtual landscape of a game.
Gaming Offers a Stress Management Outlet.
From careers to families to schedules to finances, the ongoing demands of life are hectic and stressful across-the-board. If you need a constructive outlet to unwind from this heightened pressure, gaming is an ideal stress reliever. Interacting with an alternate reality and becoming engrossed in the game’s mission offers a mental break from whatever situations are causing tension. This enables you to later revisit the issue with balance, composure and a new perspective. The University of Central Florida reinforces this idea by suggesting those who participate in “guided relaxation activities” like gaming are more efficient than people who “power through” and disregard their stress.
Just to reiterate excessive gameplay has a negative impact on well-being, but if you engage in moderate gaming periodically throughout the week, the health benefits are noticeable. From boosting creativity to enhancing your mood to troubleshooting stress, despite the negative connotation it too often carries, virtual gaming is a worthwhile pastime.