5 Ways Playing Games Can Improve Neural and Physical Health
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Oxford, playing games has a positive correlation with your overall well-being and happiness. Who would have thought?
Now, this may come as a surprise to you, considering the fact that most people have long assumed that gaming is harmful to your health and may cause a variety of issues, such as motivation loss, relationship strain, and even mental health disorders. However, there is a growing body of evidence that contradicts this notion, suggesting that games may in fact provide various benefits that help to promote healthy function in both our brains and bodies.
Problem-solving skills are some of the most valuable and important skills that one can possess, especially when it comes to securing employment. Competencies such as logic, creativity, resilience, imagination, lateral thinking, and determination are all highly sought after across many facets in life. As it turns out, games are a great way to develop these skills.
Interestingly, a long-term study published in 2013 found that students who played strategy-based games, managed to significantly improve their problem-solving skills in the next school year. As a result, they’re more likely to obtain better grades.
It’s believed that these types of games encourage players to think on their feet and strategize their way to victory. Most of the time, players are doing this under a high-pressure, time-based scenario, which of course, lends itself to many real-world applications. An affordable and great way to improve problem-solving skills is by playing free, online versions of Solitaire and other card games.
A recent report published in the journal JMIR Serious Games found that video games can positively affect mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. The research suggested that gaming can help suppress negative emotions while offering an enjoyable recreational activity that can help to ease feelings of tension and stress. On top of this, playing games can also help release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are known to combat symptoms of depression.
While more research is needed before any concrete conclusions can be drawn about gaming and its ties to mental health, it certainly shows plenty of promise, especially as a tool for individuals who cannot typically obtain mental health therapy due to cost or location.
Researchers have discovered that establishing a practice of playing games regularly can enhance a person’s grey matter volume and promote new network connections in specific areas of the brain. For those unfamiliar with their neuroanatomy, gray matter is the part of the brain designed to process information where it enables individuals to control movement, memory, and emotions. As a result, gray matter plays a significant role in all aspects of human life, and the fact that it’s been proven that gaming can boost gray matter levels is rather astonishing.
Gray matter is developed through consistent stimulation and learning, and when you think about it, gaming is nothing more than a mental workout disguised as fun. Whether you are exploring new worlds, figuring out the next best move in a strategy game, or putting yourself into a combat situation in an FPS (first-person shooter), your brain is continually being forced to adapt and learn new ways to improve, which as it turns out, is incredibly beneficial to your brain function.
Long gone are the days where gamers were seen as social recluses who dared not venture out of their bedroom. Gaming has now broken through to the mainstream, becoming the most popular and highest-grossing form of entertainment on the planet. As a result, there are countless new communities that people can take part in and interact with like-minded people. Streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch have opened the door to a whole new aspect of gaming via video streaming, vastly increasing the capacity for human interaction while playing games.
To back this point up, a study involving children found that those who played more games were more likely to have better social skills, perform to a higher level academically, and to have built better relationships with other students.
As it turns out, many games played with controllers can be beneficial to your manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. In a 2008 study, researchers discovered that surgeons who played video games were faster at completing complex surgeries and made 37% fewer errors than those who didn’t. In addition to this, specialist games have been developed that are designed to be used as a form of physical therapy to assist stroke sufferers regain control of their hands and wrists, which is an excellent illustration of the medicinal advantages of gaming.
Last but not least, games have been reported to help individuals curb their cravings and overcome addictions. A 2015 study observed that those who spent just three minutes playing the game Tetris found a reduction from cravings between 70% to 56%. Moreover, the same study discovered that short daily exposure to games could also help those suffering from severe addictions to alcohol and tobacco, which could have a profound impact on how we look to treat these conditions in the future.
More people are coming to recognize the significant advantages that playing games can have on both your brain and your body as we continue to fight the old-fashioned stereotype that games are harmful to your health. With each passing year, it becomes evident that gaming may assist in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression and provide a range of other advantages such as improved problem-solving abilities, increased physical dexterity, and even the capacity to help combat addiction.