Can Gaming Help You Unwind?
6 min read
Last Modified 14 December 2022 First Added 12 August 2022
Gaming is no longer the realm of teenage boys. These days gaming is truly diverse. Adult and female gamers are on the rise. The world is waking up to the realisation that gaming is bigger than the music and film industries combined. Yes, it’s a big deal. So perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to throw that console into storage – you’ll find there are stacks of really useful benefits to gaming when it comes to winding down after a long day’s work!
We hear much about how gaming makes people angry and irritable, but that’s usually more down to the individual than the game itself. In fact, there’s a lot of research that shows gaming has great benefits for kids as they grow up, and for adults in their spare time. So much so that you’ll find major publications like The Metro talking about how much they can help us learn and improve our minds.
Through games, people build meaningful relationships that they may not have found elsewhere in life. They develop cognitive skills through problem-solving puzzles, improve their quick time reactions through online gaming, and also find a way to unwind that improves their mental health.
Oftentimes, playing a game can serve as a good way to direct emotions and energy that could otherwise hang negatively over you for the rest of the day. There are even research papers discussing the use of video games as therapy, with one quote from the paper saying: “The structural characteristics of games may provide unique affordances that traditional therapies do not offer”.
There are other studies too. One from the National Library of Medicine about the role of video games in improving health-related outcomes (wordy title, right?) discusses how gaming can help across the board. The kicker? Out of 195 health outcomes, gaming improved 69% of psychological therapy outcomes. There were other impressive results too from the study, with an even 50% of physical health outcomes also seeing improvement, which is amazing.
So how do we use gaming to help us unwind at the end of a long day? We often try to sleep with a busy and distracted mind, only to stare up at the ceiling for hours on end. This is another area gaming may help with. Another study found that, while there is no change to sleep efficiency (how long we’re asleep in bed) there is a difference in the sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) time. It’s shorter! Plus, there’s the added bonus of increased REM sleep, which you can read more about in our Sleep Encyclopedia.
Gaming has many therapeutic benefits and cutting it out of your life entirely would mean missing out on all these good boosts it can give to your wellbeing. Plus, the added benefit of gaming helping you get a good night’s sleep can’t be overlooked!
Now that we’ve seen a bit more about the research, let’s go over the three key reasons why and how gaming helps us unwind after a long day. Understanding these and how they work can help us to achieve the rest that we need to fully recharge our batteries and improve our wellbeing.
The flow state is something that is often talked about in gaming psychology. It is the state of mind we reach when fully immersed in something; when other things seem distant and we are 100% focused on a task. Gaming is near purpose designed to bring this state into play, helping to clear our minds of other thoughts and keep us focused. If you’re into meditation and think this sounds similar, you’re not wrong! The flow state is often compared to meditation in studies, and while it is not exactly the same, many of the benefits are shared.
Gratification is something we don’t get enough of in life. We work hard, study hard, develop ourselves, and often the results of this only appear far in the future. These long-term periods without gratification can lead to frustration. Gaming, meanwhile, offers a quick way to get gratification, and when handled properly can make a healthy way to get a quick dopamine rise to get through those waiting periods in other areas of your life.
Finally, there’s the part of the brain that activates to reward us for engagement. This psychological pattern, named the Triumph circuit, makes us feel great once we overcome challenges that present themselves in life. While big achievements outside of games do this too, conquering a raid boss or beating your personal best can activate this part of our minds, helping to lift our moods.
So, gaming has a lot of benefits. And our UK Sleep Survey revealed that 12% of the nation spends on average 00:12:35 gaming before bed. But how do we unplug after an intense raid or a long night of farming sims? Everyone will find different things work for them, but here are three key points that generally work well for most:
Keeping up a regular sleep schedule is important, as your body learns the best times to rest and be active. It can be tempting to play a little longer, and on occasion, it’s fine to do so, but don’t let it become a habit. Alongside this, avoiding the classic gamer drinks that are high in caffeine can help your mind relax after the focus you’ve had during your games. Plus, it stops you from blocking off a natural tired state when your normal bedtime approaches.
Finally, giving yourself an hour or so after games to reset your mind and prepare for bed is a good way to reground yourself. Whether this involves having a gaming setup that can tuck away fully, or simply giving yourself some well-deserved pampering, that’s up to you.
Video games are an important part of many people’s lives, and being a professional doesn’t mean you need to give it up. With the right setup and schedule, you can keep gaming throughout your life to reap the benefits, all without sacrificing a well-deserved rest afterwards. So go on, keep raiding, keep shooting, keep fighting. Just make sure to keep well-rested through it all!