Playing videogames has been a hobby that’s historically been maligned and associated with a couch potato lifestyle. But new research is lifting the lid on the potentially massive health benefits of booting up the PlayStation. It’s important to stress that gaming addiction is a very real issue, and if you’re opting to grind away in World of Warcraft over tackling important tasks such as work, taking care of your household, or staying fit, then you’ll quickly undo any of those playtime perks. That said, let’s take a deep dive into some of the mood-boosting rewards of logging sessions in your favourite videogames.
Videogames Might Help Reduce Stress
We tend to associate mindfulness with long meditation sessions and journaling. But breathwork isn’t the only way to beat stress. A 2015 study compared the effects of mindfulness meditation (a body scan) versus logging time playing a casual videogame. The game in question? Flower. The premise is simple: you’re confronted by a beautiful piece of flora and your role is to act like the wind and start gusting away at its petals.
Granted, the researchers did find that meditation did provide a slight advantage for stress reduction over casual videogames, but that petal-blasting caper still proved to be an effective medium. The researchers say that the game wins out on a few factors, namely: it’s easy to use, accessible and incredibly popular.
We tried Flower for ourselves, and anecdotally, it actually helps you tap into some unexpected Zen. Give it a go right HERE.
Videogames Might Help Reduce Depression
While playing videogames excessively has been linked to a sharp increase in your risk of developing mental health issues, striking the balance could tip the scales in the other direction. A Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software report found that playing commercial videogames might help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. They could also help regulate your mood and, according to some studies, break cycles of potentially damaging rumination.
Disclaimer: sites such as Game Quitters have collated plenty of info that shows you should never use gaming as a coping mechanism to deal with mental disorders as it’ll most likely make matters worse.
Videogames Might Boost Your Memory
If your memory is starting to take a hit, booting up the Nintendo Switch could help you supercharge your gray matter. In one study, groups of university students and adults in their 70s and 80s were tasked with playing either Angry Birds or Super Mario 3D World for 30 minutes every day for two weeks. Before and after this gaming stint, participants took memory tests.
The results? Those playing Mario were able to ramp up their test scores by around 12%. The authors said that it essentially helped reverse around 20 years of cognitive decline. Not bad.