Five Ways to Help You Stop Gaming?
Firstly, having the self-awareness to admit there may be an issue is commendable, and the first step toward addressing the influence and impact gaming has on you. Video games are a tool, they contain no positive or negative elements, like everything, it is the way they are used by the individual that causes the outcome, good or bad.
You have already identified the ‘what’ in this paradigm, video games are causing a negative effect. Whether gaming is affecting your lifestyle, wellbeing, behaviours or emotions, knowing these outcomes will not be of any benefit unless revelations are sought. Understanding the ‘why factor’ behind your urges or obligation to game in spite of the detrimental effects it is having- can lead you onto a path of regaining control.
Becoming the ‘watcher’ of your own mind essentially means becoming more self aware, present and taking a second to reflect on the reasons why you behave and react to situations, especially the negative ones. Is there a particular scenario or mindstate you experience that leads you to game excessively? Are there certain triggers, such as environmental stressors (work, school), interactions or exchanges with others that result in negative emotions or attack your self worth (relationships, friends, people of influence), or any other impactors that cause you to seek escapism and refuge in the form of immersing yourself in a virtual world?
Identifying these potential triggers will help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself, and those negative automatic responses- have now been brought to the forefront of your mind.
This practice of becoming ‘the watcher’ doesn’t need to start and end with video games, it’s a valuable practice that can be applied to any aspect of your life. Reflective practice can be difficult at first, try writing down your thoughts and revelations, or talk about them outloud- to yourself, or with someone supportive.
Quit game - are you sure? Yes/No
Now you’re on the pathway of identifying the cause(s) behind the effect, you may be wondering about the severity of your situation, and what steps you should take next. Let’s begin with the idea of quitting, if you find yourself experiencing the following difficulties, it may be time to log-off for good:
Lack of or no self-control over your game time, and attempts to reduce gaming in the past have failed.
Excessive gaming has impacted your physical health, such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and sleep hygiene.
Gaming has negatively affected your mental health and wellbeing, experiences of increased anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, and a reliance on relieving negative emotions such as hopelessness or guilt through playing.
Gaming has negatively impacted your social connections and activities. You spend a significantly reduced amount of time interacting with friends/family and have given up your other hobbies altogether.
If you find yourself displaying these behaviours, going cold turkey is only one viable solution. However, if you don’t want to lose your favourite hobby, there are many other things you can do to regain control over your gaming habits and more importantly your life, without resorting to the nuclear option.
Monitoring and regulating- Structure and routine are integral when attempting to change your behaviour. Allocate a time window for playing, I would suggest 2-3 hours initially, then you can attempt to reduce this time or even go a whole day without gaming. I would also suggest prioritising your essential activities before your game time slot. Completing your work, homework, and chores such as cooking and cleaning. Once all the necessities of life are complete, you’ll find yourself enjoying your gaming hours even more, guilt-free.
Explore other hobbies- The aspects of gaming that attract users, such as a sense of achievement, problem solving, acknowledgement of skill, progression and many others, are also the foundations of numerous recreational activities. Finding a new hobby can give you that satisfaction you get from playing, while also potentially increasing your physical activity, social interactions and skill development, depending on the activity you’ve chosen of course.
Dopamine detox- Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain that regulates feelings of pleasure. Excessive video gaming can cause you to develop a tolerance. This is the same with any activity that invokes pleasure, hence the saying ‘too much of a good thing’. To detox, you will need to remove gaming, gambling, social media and other contexts that stimulate a feeling of anticipating positive or negative feedback. Activities such as reading a book, painting or crafts more broadly can be good alternatives. It usually takes around 2 weeks to normalise your dopamine levels. But, why stop at 2 weeks? If you’re feeling a lot better, see how long you can go.
Changing your own behaviour can be a lonely and exhausting process. The motivation to do it needs to come from within, attempting to change yourself because of external influencers usually results in a relapse.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t include people in the process, you could encourage a friend or relative to also walk this path with you, or ask them to help you monitor your own behaviour. Dopamine detoxes are also much more effective and successful if you do them with others. If you’re quitting video games altogether, having an extra set of eyes to keep tabs on you could help, especially if you are experiencing withdrawal from gaming.
Realising the premise of your relationship with video games is the first stage to making a positive change. Understanding the reasons why you’ve become reliant on games is the second. Once you understand the ‘why factor’, the next course of action- will be entirely up to you.
Changing your life can be a challenging experience. If you’re looking for more information about how to stop gaming or would like FREE help and support, our network of psychological first aiders are here to help.