A common belief for many years that video games have serious negative effects on children and adolescents who play them. That idea has been challenged recently. Though, with studies showing that in most cases video games actually provide more benefits, including mental health benefits, than disadvantages.
Studies have shown that both serious and casual video games can help reduce anxiety, stress, and even depression. Players have reported that video games help them reduce stress and provide other mental health benefits.
There are multiple factors contributing to the effects of video games, including the time played and the type of game. The research into how video games help improve mental health – reduce anxiety and stress, effectively combat depression – is ongoing, but so far it has shown surprisingly positive results.
In this article, we look at how video games can help with anxiety based on research and personal experiences. Read on to learn more about the mental health benefits of video games. In addition, how different factors affect the positive or negative impact of video games on those who play them.
More than just a distraction or way to wind down at the end of a long day, video games can provide multiple mental health benefits. Some of these include:
- Anxiety and Stress Reduction – Casual video games, such as Angry Birds, along with other video games have been found to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Video games also cause a release of dopamine, which makes people feel good.
- Cognitive Skills Development – Video games require concentration and strategy. They help to develop mental agility, reaction speed, and problem-solving skills.
- Social Interaction – Many video games have a social aspect to them. Where you can play, talk, and interact with others in the game. This has proved to boost social skills, self-esteem, and emotional happiness.
- Attention Span – Video games have been shown to improve overall attention span. As they require continuous concentration and help players improve the ability to focus on important information.
When played in moderation, the positive effects of video games can be significant. Most video games have the overall effect of positive feelings when they are played. Example, cooperative games promote good feelings among the participants. It’s when too much time is spent on video games that problems tend to arise.
One reason video games have been known to help with anxiety is that when you are playing a video game, your focus is usually completely on that game. There is no room during that time to worry about other things in your life. This makes video games a good way to escape from the anxiety of daily life, regardless of what kind of video game.
The process of being fully present in the moment – which occurs while playing video games – is also essential to meditation. In this way, gaming actually achieves similar mindfulness in the player to that of meditation, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Research has found that playing video games for 30 minutes a day can help reduce anxiety and depression. Over time, the positive effects of video games have actually shown to work better in combating anxiety and depression than medication in some cases.
Video games are an entertaining way to pass time and relieve stress and anxiety. However, when playing video games starts to take too much of your time, it can be a sign of video game addiction. Some people reach a point where they can no longer control their video game habits. Which can lead to mental and physical health problems.
Increased anxiety can occur when a normal video game habit becomes an unhealthy addiction. Games are generally designed to make you want to keep playing. That’s why it is important to be aware of how much time is spent playing video games. Start limiting video game time if it starts to get out of control – or before it has a chance to. Click here to learn more about how to make sure of that.
There are several video games available for mobile, consoles, and computers that are designed specifically to decrease anxiety and reduce stress. Other games might not have been designed for anxiety relief, but people have found them to be effective in that sense. Some of these include:
- Tetris – The classic tile-matching game.
- Candy Crush Saga – A match-three puzzle game with different levels and challenges.
- Animal Crossing – A social simulation video game.
- The Sims – A life simulation video game.
- Minecraft – A sandbox/survival video game.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – An open-world action role-playing video game.
- Firewatch – A single-player first-person mystery video game.
The games listed above would be considered more casual video games. Which is one reason why they work so well when it comes to reducing anxiety and stress. Other, more fast-paced games with higher risks or consequences for failures might not be as relaxing. Though they do provide other mental health benefits.
In the past, it was believed by many that violent or first-person shooter video games cause increased anger in players. Studies have shown that this is not necessarily the case. In fact, when people play these kinds of video games with the intent to vent their anger, they are often successful and have less aggression after playing.
People who are experiencing work fatigue or other stressful situations have found that video games are a good recovery tool. Mobile games specifically have been useful, as they can be played anywhere and there are thousands to choose from. Whether you want to achieve a goal or just unwind for a bit, video games can be very helpful.
When determining how many hours of gaming per day is healthy, the answer can depend on age and lifestyle. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, two hours or less of screentime, including both TV and video games, is the recommendation for children.
In terms of gaming specifically, it is recommended that anyone over the age of 11 should spend no more than nine hours per week playing video games. For adults, up to a few hours a day at most gaming seems to be a good general recommendation, though it depends on the amount of free time you have.
As recent and ongoing studies show, there are many positive effects of video games – mental health benefits, improvement of cognitive ability, and anxiety and stress reduction. They can also increase social skills and provide a healthy outlet for anger.
In order to get the most benefits from video games, limiting the amount of time spent playing is key. If too many hours are being devoted to gaming, it can lead to mental and physical health problems and even gaming addiction.
The benefits of gaming are promising, particularly in the area of reducing anxiety, depression, and improving mental health. However, it’s important to find and maintain a balance when it comes to how much time is spent gaming.