BY SEAN ATKINS
World Mental Health Day (10th October) is an opportunity for us all to take a breath and think about improving our own emotional health, and that of those around us. And while it’s a day to discover and explore new wellbeing methods, it can also be an opportunity to re-evaluate the everyday (especially when our everydays have been pretty far from normal for the last 18 months).
As an agency filled wall-to-wall by gamers, we take the mental health of our team very seriously. World Mental Health Day feels like the perfect opportunity to put right some misconceptions about gaming and how it impacts people’s mental health.
The truth is that gaming and streaming can have many emotional benefits, such as developing complex problem-solving skills and promoting social interaction that can essentially upgrade our brains.
But there is one caveat that we should apply to EVERY. THING. IN. LIFE. Do it in moderation. Too much of anything is, well, too much – that’s why they call it too much.
So with moderation in mind, here are 9 ways that gaming and streaming can be good for your mental health.
1. …RELIEVE STRESS
Immersing yourself in a game can, for many, be a rapid way of winding down and gaining some much-needed perspective on the stresses of everyday life. The mental sense of escape that true immersion brings can help with anxiety and even depression.
2. …COMBAT LONELINESS
Online games and the rise of Twitch have combined to give players new communities that can help overcome loneliness. Group problem solving, competing or cooperating with other players can foster new relationships around the world; this ‘virtual’ social interaction has been a lifeline to many during the pandemic. In a recent Microsoft study, 71% of respondents said gaming helped them feel less isolated.
3. …HELP YOU COPE
Learning ways to overcome in-game challenges can better equip gamers to deal with real-life obstacles and difficulties, adding increased confidence into the bargain that is playing games from the comfort of your own home.
4. …REVEAL YOUR TRUE SELF
Streaming platforms like Twitch can be a safe space for gamers to share who they really are, and express themselves in a supportive, community environment.
5. …SHARPEN YOUR REFLEXES
A study by scientists from the University of Rochester found that fast-paced games helped people to make the right decisions quicker, with increased reaction speeds. Thereby, boosting confidence and providing a heightened awareness of surroundings.
6. …GIVE YOU A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT
Every game has goals and objectives to achieve and many reward you with trophies or badges. Earning these achievements can bring immense satisfaction, helping us to feel that our decisions matter, and that we have power over the world around us – all improving our overall wellbeing.
7. …BOOST THE BRAIN
The concentration, problem-solving, quick decision-making, and hand-eye coordination skills needed to progress while playing any game combine as a workout for the brain – helping you achieve higher-level thinking and improving focus as well as critical thinking skills.
8. …SATISFY WANDERLUST
Experiencing new environments has become more important to us than ever before in the last 18 months, and the virtual exploration within the likes of Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Zelda and FireWatch has transported many away from their overfamiliar lockdown surroundings.
9. …MAKE YOU MORE RESILIENT
When you fail in a game, it can be just as frustrating as in real life – but easier to do over. Gaming helps people learn how to cope with failure in real life and shows the value of trying to succeed.
For more on how playing games is positively correlated with wellbeing, see the recent Oxford University study here.