Computer games have gained quite a bad reputation over the years, how they are addictive, make you aggressive, anti-social and even to blame for people doing horrific things. Video games have been blamed in the past for being a culprit of unbalanced people acting in violent ways but now science has provided evidence that computer game can lift your spirits and in this blog post I will try to unveil why video games can be a great tool for shifting low moods of depression.
What happens in your brain when you play a video game
When someone suffers with depression it is said that either the left or right side of the brain has a chemical imbalance. When we play a computer game we must use both the left and right sides of our brain thus helping to activate the unused core, helping to alleviate the depressive feelings that are occurring in our minds.
The right computer game can help you win back good mood
When we play a game we don’t play it just to pass the time, we play games because we want to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
A video game not only enhances our feeling of well being but also reduces stress and lifts our mood whilst also quickly releasing ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brain called endorphins. These chemicals are released when we complete levels, upgrade a character or overcome a most maddening level.
It is instant power of reward to make us feel better and can change our mood from being low to feeling a smile starting to rise inside.
Gaming, unlike real life, allows us to feel a sense of achievement by starting a level, confronting challenges, sometimes making mistakes along the way, learning from the bad decisions and finally arriving at the final level to complete the game with a nice animated outro or movie scene.
Many Video games help people to relax in the same way well written novels do. By providing a world with believable characters, a gripping story, and an interesting setting, both video games and novels attempt immerse the reader/players in the story, allowing them to temporarily forget the troubles barraging their lives on a daily basis.
Living is challenging at the best of times for a lot of us and we get so stressed and bogged down by the reality of what we are living with. We all need that little bit of escapism from our problem now and again, where as some people use drink, drugs, exercising, dancing or another activity to alleviate their living problems and escape from their reality, gaming can be a more positive way of doing the same thing whilst also increasing your brain power.
A video game allows us that opportunity to leave our problems behind for a moment in time to be in control of a place that cannot harm us, is enjoyable to be in, gives us the ability to learn to solve problems quickly and efficiently and offers quick reward in the form of points ,prizes and happiness.
Games such as The sims, World of WarCraft and GuildWars are like visual and interactive novels that allow us to mould how our characters look, how their personalities are formed and play out our wildest dreams of building a dream home or making ourselves knowledgeable and powerful characters in a virtual world ,bonding together with others to fight large dragons and monsters.
All this sense of control, reward and storytelling helps in alleviating feelings of sadness and hopelessness that our living lives may incur and can lift feelings of depression for a moment in time.
WARNING : Like all things it is important not to have too much of a good thing. Gaming for too long every day can have a negative impact as well as positive one on your mental state. Gaming can become an avoidance tactic of dealing with a problem and thus why they can become addictive. Although there are many health benefits to why games are good for you and also in healing depression try to restrict the amount of time you spend gaming to no more than 2 hours a day. For information on why video games are good for you please visit this website (video games are good for us)
Wii Fix & Xbox Kinect
Not only do games help rebalance the chemicals in your brain but they can also help your fitness levels, another way of making you feel better. When the founder was suffering with bad depression and anxiety he used to play Wii Fit & lost 2 stone in the process of 4 months along side regular walks with his dog.
If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising and eventually happy.
Not only did playing a game give motivation and rewards for loosing weight and having to return each day to achieve higher goals but exercising also made me feel more confident and happier in myself. This game was one of the key tools I used to lift my feelings of depression and anxiety through rebalancing my mood and increasing the endorphin levels whilst improving my physicality.
Gaming can help with problem solving & being creative
Not only can video gaming be a great tool to alleviate stress, strain and feelings of depression but it is also evident that using games can also increase your brain power as described by qmul.
Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved using fun learning tools like gaming.
By playing games it naturally makes you ‘think outside the box’, the more you play them the more you need to find alternative ways of solving a particular level or obstacle which then moulds your brain to having an alternative way of thinking when it comes to problems than those who don’t play games. Basically, gaming can make you more creative and also more adaptable towards difficulties and objectives in normal life.
Be careful with the game you choose & time spent playing
When selecting a game to play you should select a game that is conducive to positive story telling and light heartedness.
The likes of Mario and co are a good example of a good game to play because of their light hearted nature and positive story.
Playing violent video games such as call of duty or other games that drive your adrenaline up and make you angry will likely have an adverse effect on the way you feel becoming frustrated and easily adjagitated especially if you are already in a negative state of mind.
To start gaming I recommend puzzle, strategy, racing and games that promote teamwork such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Minecraft and such like.
Computer games can help lift feelings of depression?
The research for video gaming helping to lift feelings of depression is mixed. Some scientists do say that it can have negative effects on your health where as many would argue otherwise. I personally have used video gaming as one way to help lift myself out of depression mainly with games such as Wii Fit, Mario Kart and FIFA, games really were one tool that helped me to lift my spirits and gain some respite from the feelings of depression fora moment in time.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences with video gaming? Do you find yourself getting happier as you play a game and does the effect remain once you have finished playing? Please comment in the box below.