Is Playing Video Games Good for Your Mental Health?

Lisa_Shettle
edited February 15 in Gaming

With more than 3 billion players worldwide, video games are an extremely popular activity for people of all ages. Yet, they often get a bad rap. Frequently associated with screen addiction, violence, and declining mental health, some people think we should do away with them altogether. However, a growing body of research points to video games being beneficial when used responsibly and in moderation. In fact, video games have been shown to improve focus, mood, and emotional regulation in both children and adults. In some cases, they have even been prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress, and cognitive decline.   

Benefits of Video Games 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways video games can be beneficial for mental health: 

Gaming may help form social connections. 

Interactive video games offer opportunities for social interaction, especially among people who might otherwise be isolated. Increased social connectedness has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving well-being and overall quality of life.  

Gaming promotes mindfulness. 

Research indicates that gaming may promote mindfulness, which is a state of being fully present in the moment. Benefits of mindfulness include reduced stress, cognitive improvements, and better sleep. Gaming can also provide a temporary distraction from overwhelming feelings of anxiety or depression. 

Gaming may strengthen cognitive function. 

A recent study suggests that playing video games can improve cognitive performance and executive functioning skills, such as attention, memory, impulse control, task initiation, and flexible thinking. Video games can also increase both information-processing and decision-making speed

Gaming encourages playfulness. 

Video games offer a way for adults to add more play to their day-to-day lives. Research shows that playfulness in adulthood can have many of the same benefits as exercise or meditation, including lower stress levels and elevated mood. 

Gaming may combat age-related mental decline. 

Research indicates that video games can help older adults develop new skills and improve brain function. This slows age-related cognitive degeneration, while also improving memory and overall outlook on life.  

Tips for Playing Video Games Responsibly 

To reap the benefits of video games, it’s important to create a routine that balances gaming and daily life. Here are some tips for gaming responsibly: 

Set limits. 

Limit gaming to a predetermined amount of time per day. Experts recommend that adults should aim to spend less than two hours a day on screens of any kind, excluding work.  

Choose games carefully. 

Look for games that create an immersive, engaging experience, as these have been shown to improve cognitive skills and memory. Avoid games that have bright, flashing lights or content that you may find distressing. 

Play with others. 

Choose multiplayer games that allow you to interact with others, either in person or online. This can be especially important for players who are socially isolated or live alone, as lack of engagement with others can be detrimental to mental health. 

Mix in physical activity. 

Make sure to take breaks from gaming for physical activity, such as walking or stretching. Regularly movement and fresh air can elevate mood and help prevent gaming-related injuries.  

Get enough sleep. 

Take precautions to ensure that your gaming habits don’t lead to sleep deprivation, as this can negatively affect both your physical and mental health. If you tend to play at night, consider setting an alarm to remind yourself to log off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. 

Optimize your setup. 

Invest in technology that supports comfortable and enhanced game-play, such as Acer’s Predator Helios 16 laptop and Nitro Gaming Controller

Conclusion 

Research continues to show that video games have many benefits when used responsibly and in moderation. By offering cognitive challenges, social interaction, and opportunities for mindfulness, video games can be a valuable tool for improving your mental health and overall well-being. That said, gaming does come with some inherent risks, and it may not be a healthy outlet for everyone.  

Here are a few things to look out for that may signal a need to reevaluate the role gaming plays in your life:  

  • Regularly choosing gaming over other interests, responsibilities, or daily activities 
  • Feeling little pleasure in doing anything other than gaming 
  • Relying on video games to cope with negative emotions or life problems 
  • Feeling anxious, sad, or irritable when video games are not accessible 
  • Needing to spend more and more time gaming to feel satisfied 

Ultimately, everybody will respond differently to video games based on their own unique circumstances and personality. By using the information and tools available, you can make an informed decision about what works best for you. 

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About Lisa Shettle: Lisa is a writer, editor, and content product manager with over 15 years of experience. She has a special interest in travel and tech writing, marketing, and AI. She is based in the United States. 

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