Thanks to a global pandemic, an uncertain future, and growing pressures at work, millions of people around the world are suffering from stress and anxiety disorders that negatively impact their lives. In fact, stress, anxiety, and depression disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the USA, affecting 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) each year, according to ADAA.
Fortunately, if you are feeling stressed or anxious, there are plenty of things you can do to curb these unwelcomed feelings and regain control of your life. Of course, things like meditation, exercise, and healthy eating are all extremely effective ways to help curb feelings of stress and anxiety. Still, you may be surprised that playing games can also have a similar effect.
In fact, studies have found that casual gaming can reduce physiological and psychological stress and anxiety, which is great news for those of you looking for a more accessible way to bring some calm back into your life. On that note, here are four of the best games to play to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Sudoku and other brain-teasers are excellent ways to relieve stress and anxiety. For those of you unfamiliar with how the game works, Sudoku presents players with a 9×9 grid and requires them to fill in the blank cells with the appropriate number. In essence, Sudoku is a simple game, but can increase complexity rather quickly.
As a result, one of the advantages of Sudoku is that it requires players to focus on the grid and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to find the proper solution for each cell. While doing so, gamers are usually completely focused on the activity at hand rather than the tensions or anxiety-inducing sources in their lives. Furthermore, the problem-solving abilities and clarity that Sudoku provides may help players deal with obstacles in their daily lives more effectively, perhaps leading to significant stress reduction.
Jigsaw puzzles can deliver various cognitive benefits, including improved memory, problem-solving abilities, and visual-spatial reasoning. One study even discovered that doing jigsaw puzzles regularly can help guard against cognitive aging and age-related brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Sitting down and completing a jigsaw puzzle has also been shown to be an excellent way to reduce tension, since it can put the mind into a meditation-like state, creating a sense of calm and tranquility. With our attention being constantly demanded from various sources and an array of distractions disrupting our focus, doing a jigsaw puzzle can sometimes allow the brain to recenter and achieve a sense of serenity. Figuring out where each jigsaw piece belongs, categorising, organising, and searching for pieces can help focus your attention and keep you diverted from the things that are stressing you out.
Chess is one of the most widely played games in the world and can be traced back nearly 1500 years. These days, this incredibly simple yet complex game is still as mainstream as ever, and thanks to the internet, there are now plenty of tools out there that can help you become a better, more strategic player.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a chess player, you will be pleased to know that research has shown that playing chess can help reduce stress and anxiety and bring a sense of balance to the mind. Once again, focusing on the game and carefully pondering your next move can help train your brain to relax while contemplating complex challenges.
Surprisingly, some counsellors and therapists play chess with clients to help them become more self-aware and develop more effective therapeutic connections. This can help therapy become more effective as you strengthen your ability to observe your reactions to stressful situations and the challenges that arise throughout a match.
For a long time now, there has been an overarching narrative in our society that video games are bad for your health. Whether it be from too much screen time, overexposure to violent content, or encouraging a life of solitude, it is safe to say that video games have gotten quite the bad rap over the years. Whatever your stance is on this popular pastime, there have been plenty of studies that have shown their potential for relieving stress and easing anxiety.
For example, a study that surveyed 1,614 video game players found that video games are effective when used as a coping tool after exposure to stressful situations. Another study found that cooperative video gameplay can relieve stress and create positive feelings among players. With this in mind, hopping on to your favourite gaming console may prove to be a smart move the next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.
Gaming offers a simple and fun way to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and bring a sense of calm back into your life. So, the next time you are feeling tense, overworked, or mentally drained, try to take some time for yourself to focus on one of those games. Remember, to feel the full benefit of the stress-relieving effects of these games; it’s important that you shut down all other distractions so you can fully focus on the game at hand. Yep, that means shutting down your phone and turning off the telly.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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