The increasing complexity of modern life combined with improving diagnoses and more progressive attitudes have seen mental health statistics reach new heights.
In 2017, 10% of the global population reported suffering from a mental health disorder of some description. And mental health issues now account for the highest percentage of non-communicable diseases worldwide.
With the problem as ubiquitous as it is, the search for remedies and activities that can help alleviate symptoms is significant.
It is increasingly important not to overlook or discard new research regarding leisure pursuits that can show to improve people’s wellbeing.
One area that has undergone a U-turn in public perception is the realm of video games. In recent history, video games would only hit the headlines with negative connotations as a threat to children’s cognitive development, but now global acceptance seems well underway.
In terms of adults, recent studies state poker has a wide range of positive benefits. It helps develop a person’s learning and studying ability. Improves focus, concentration and teaches discipline.
This can all be demonstrated when a person orchestrates a particular card strategy to gain a significant winning hand. For example, depending on their cards, choosing whether to bluff or fold when they know statistically, their chances of mathematically winning the hand are slim.
Of course, the need for responsible gambling is imperative.
Competitive video games, be that Esports or poker are viable and lucrative career options and there are video game titles aimed at the entire demographic spectrum. The warm reception video games have been receiving recently is also in part due to numerous scientific studies that have demonstrated the health benefits they can offer.
Analogous to the public opinion of video games collectively, is an increased participation in and acceptance of casino games, especially using personal devices and laptops.
The proliferation of the smartphone has allowed a huge and growing number of people to have access to instantaneous entertainment in the form of casual games in the palm of their hand.
Studies have shown that casino games and other video games have the potential following benefits:
- Video games can develop problem solving skills. Research shows that lifelong learning of new skills and activities correlates to an increased mental wellbeing. Research suggests it adds meaning to one’s life.
- Overall play-time returned some interesting findings. Contrary to what was previously thought, participants in the studies that played four hours per day of the Nintendo game “Animal Crossing” were found to be significantly happier than those who played less and those that did not play at all.
Formerly, ‘excessive’ video game consumption was conjecturally associated with only negative traits so this may come as a surprise to many. Of course, some more restraint should be exercised with casino games if real money is being wagered and players should only bet what they can afford.
- There is increasing evidence that game theory used to aid willpower and decision making can have positive mental health benefits. These same strategies learned in video games can be applied to other parts of life, including work life.
The extrinsic and intrinsic rewards associated with career progress can offer a sense of purpose and direction which can be a great tool to be used in maintaining a healthy sense of wellbeing.
- Games that provide a sense of community and longevity can play a role in stress management. Games where players interact with other players and share resources and collaborate or simply communicate with one another offer a less competitive alternative to the traditional video gaming paradigm.
These are games without ‘threat’ and with no ‘Game Over’ screen which gives players the freedom to explore, collect, build and progress at their leisure and the results can be quite soothing. The removal of the competitive element of the video game is relatively recent development and even has some declaring certain titles as forms of meditation.
- Slot machine simulation games are a great example of bright, energetic, feel-good escapes from reality that can help the player unwind after a stressful day at work. The games have a low barrier to entry with the rules being learned in minutes. Mastery, however, can take a lot longer.
- “Cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception” as well as the attention span required for longer strategy games is honed and improved through regular play. The flow state players can find themselves in when engrossed in an activity such as a video game can alleviate anxiety since it interrupts and distracts from negative cyclical thinking.
- Traditional casino games also have the added bonus of the chance to win real cash prizes. The exhilaration of a big win and financial comfort can be a source of joy to players whose numbers come in. There are personal limits that can be set to ensure what is being wagered doesn’t become unaffordable. There are even those that participate in casino games without betting purely as a form of entertainment, and this is always an option.
Fast access casual games such as slots or card games like poker or blackjack can improve players moods and subdue feelings of anxiety. They can also be successful in teaching players to deal with small failures (like losing a round), a skill which can be transferred to real world hurdles.
The popularity of video games continues to grow. People are consuming video game content at home, on consoles and computers, and on the go, on smartphones and tablets.
40% of the US population reported to play some kind of video game for three or more hours per week and 57% of parents reported playing video games with their kids. It goes without saying that titles being played span the full breadth of genres available.
Everyone, of course, has individual preferences and what may relax one person, might stimulate the next. The exciting thing to note is the amount of choice that is available and finding a game that could improve your mental wellbeing is now easier than ever.
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