Anxious? Play a game!

What?  Really?  I know, it sounds counter intuitive but it works.  For example, a few nights ago I needed to calm my over crowded brain before going to bed.  Candy Crush Saga to the rescue!  Two other evenings this week, hubby and I got out a board game – Scrabble of all things!

So what is it about gaming that quiets mind and spirit?  According to Jane McGonigal, author of SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully, playing a game activates a “psychological phenomenon: the spotlight theory of attention” (31).  That’s right!  It’s all about what you give your attention to; what you focus on.  Negative thoughts about a hard day at work or fear about an upcoming medical procedure can be diminished through immersing oneself in a game.

Any game?  Yes, pretty much, any game: virtual/video games, board games, outdoor games, card games.  Here’s the point: an activity, such as a game, that engages the mind completely has the power to refocus or redirect our thinking.  Absorb yourself in a game of Tetris to recover from a horrid experience.  Believe it or not, researchers have developed the virtual reality game, Snow World, as a way for patients to experience relief from post surgery pain as well as control pre-surgery anxiety (McGonigal, 30).  Amazing!

It all comes down to realizing we have more control over our brains than we think we do.  We can choose what to think about (McGonigal, 32).  We really can manage thoughts!  Intentionally replacing negative thinking with upbeat, pleasant ideas promotes a positive shift in feelings as well.  Becoming engrossed in a appropriately challenging game transforms focus and clears the mind of it’s negative indulgences which stymie creativity and greater pain free living.

How long does it take to experience a shift in focus?  Try it out to see what works for you.  Certainly, the amount of time needed will vary from person to person.  McGonigal asserts that “Thirty minutes of a ‘deep focus’ activity – such as casual game play or meditation – three times a week can improve your mood, decrease stress, and help reduce symptoms of depression” (51).

Recently I reached level 1,146 on Candy Crush Saga.  What does that tell you about my state of mind? LOL!  Just so you know, it’s taken a couple of years to get to this point so I’m also having success using other ways of managing negativity.  Not all the time, mind you, but frequently enough to know, that over time, I’m learning to live more peacefully.

Send me a text or email.  We can discuss various ways of managing stress and negativity.

Jane McGonigal, Super Better: The Power of Living Gamefully, New York: Penguin Books, 2015.