Welcome to part 2, in this video we’ll be taking a look at how gaming can positively influence your mental health and social connection.
In Part 1, we laid out the focus of this three part series and began with the negative aspects of gaming; looking at what the available literature tells us and whether the claims are supported by evidence. The link to Part 1 is in the description.
Mental health problems have increased in prevalence and severity over the last few years. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people would have experienced a common mental health problem in the past week (mentalhealth.org). Mental health issues are also one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide, meaning it’s one of the biggest impactors of health and wellbeing on the global population.
Recent research has shown that gaming can have a positive effect on wellbeing. A study conducted at the University of Oxford found playing video games is positively correlated with overall wellbeing. (https://psyarxiv.com/qrjza). Policy makers around the world have been contemplating the regulation of video game playing time and its overall influence on wellbeing, even though there isn’t enough adequate data to justify these notions, and the findings revealed so far support the idea that gaming may actually facilitate positive mental health.
So here’s a few benefits that video gaming can have on your mental health:
Video games lead to healthy brain stimulation- Most games promote the stimulation and use of many different areas in the brain, such as problem solving, decision-making, pattern recognition, and many more. It also provokes multiple dimensions of critical thinking and improves analytical skills. In part 3 of the series, we’ll be going into much more detail regarding these aspects.
Playing games can help relieve stress- Immersing yourself into an RPG, working through an action-adventure franchise, or battling against others online are excellent ways to relinquish stress. Gaming is an interactive and diverse tool for unwinding, and promotes ‘positive escapism’- taking a break from reality in order to decompress from a rough day or week, and providing an opportunity to gain some perspective on the daily stresses of life.
Video games can help you develop coping strategies- When faced with a difficult life situation, people tend to use coping mechanisms in order to deal with the obstacles they’re facing. While some of these mechanisms can be negative, such as abusing drugs and alcohol, gaming incites opportunities to learn how to effectively cope with real-life difficulties by overcoming virtual adversities, invoking perseverance and promoting a sense of achievement.
Intertwining with mental health is ‘social connection’, which is defined as: “The relationships you have with the people around you”. They may be close by such as family, friends and co-workers, or far away, meaning you only connect with them over the phone or online.
Having social connections with others in any form are important for a variety of reasons. One of the main outcomes is the development of ‘Resilience’ which is the ability to bounce back after stressful situations, this is strengthened when you give and receive social support. Support from your social connections can also contribute to feelings of purpose and meaning in life. Being there for others, and having people you can turn to when in need are pivotal for improving and maintaining wellbeing.
In light of recent years, social connection has become more important than ever before. Video games are arguably the best platform for socialising and maintaining relationships. Communication is a constant when gaming online, and creates an almost perfect environment for different capacities of conversations to be shared among friends or new people.
Gaming and livestreaming are effective ways to combat loneliness. Loneliness is the perceived feeling of being alone or isolated, regardless of what social connections you have. This modern way of socialising with people who share similar interests and affinities can help overcome the feeling of being alone, while becoming part of a genuinely supportive community.
There are many different ways to create social connections through gaming, this could be something like joining an esports team or league, playing MMORPGS and other games that involve teamwork and large-scale interaction, or playing online games in general where matchmaking connects you to thousands of people across the World. The possibilities of meeting new people, and staying connected with old friends are endless, and video games make it effortless and enjoyable.
In summary, playing games in moderation can be an effective way to improve and maintain positive mental wellbeing. The empirical research being conducted supports the idea that video games are actually a useful tool for mental health, going against the baseless statements of policy makers and government officials. Forming and maintaining social connection with others has never been easier through gaming, meeting like minded people at the touch of a key or button promotes the generation of new relationships through fun and enjoyable experiences that bring people together from across the World.
In part 3, we’re going to discuss how video games can help your personal, academic and career development, as well as nurturing other mental skills that transfer into real-life situations. Make sure you hit that subscribe button to stay notified, and check out our website for more information.