Gaming, like many activities, takes a toll on your psyche, on your mental health. But unlike physical injuries, proper care may not be taken of your mind like you would take care of a strain or broken bone.
With that said, here are six exercises you can do daily to maintain a healthy mental state.
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One of the simplest exercises you can and should do daily is simple deep breathing, which will work wonders to calm the body and mind. Ideal after a loss, a stressful gaming scenario, or after you’ve been playing for a while, the simple act of breathing can almost reset the clock when it comes to stress.
Start by putting all your gaming apparatus down, and moving away from your equipment. Breathe in deep through your nose, almost until you cannot take in any more air. Hold it for a couple of seconds, then breathe out through your mouth. Then repeat. Focus entirely on the action of breathing – closing your eyes may help you with this. Repeat as long as necessary until you start to feel calmer but you should be breathing at least ten times in and ten times out.
The simple act of deep breathing has multiple physiological benefits, including;
- Tension reduction in your muscles by improving blood flow and oxygen intake.
- Improvement of posture as your body naturally straightens while deep breathing.
- Increased energy through the intake of more oxygen into the body.
- You are taken away from the source of your stress and such, allows you to empty your mind.
This may seem similar to deep breathing, particularly because a simple method of meditation is to use the inhalation and exhalation of air as a vector for focus. Meditation can help reduce stress and improve your mental focus by directing your attention inwards and letting your mind do its thing.
But what does this mean?
Let’s use slow, deep breathing in this example. Start by closing your eyes and focusing on the act of inhaling and exhaling. Undoubtedly you will have other thoughts arise as you are breathing, possibly relating to your gaming. The goal of this form of meditation, known as Mindfulness Meditation is to observe those thoughts, let your mind/body react to them naturally then let them drift on. Essentially, you want to be present in the current moment.
Drifting thoughts may be replaced by new ones, or you may become aware of your breathing again, don’t react to anything, and just let your mind wander where it will. This simple process can help foster inner peace, improved focus, and a reduction in tension that tends to come with stress.
There are many forms of meditation that can be explored, each with different benefits, which can help you reduce stress, improve your concentration and eliminate tension in your body. You just have to try them, finding the best one for you.
Unplugging is the simple act of reducing stimulation from your electrical devices and games by turning them off or stepping away from them. This means no PlayStation, no PC, no Xbox, no Switch, or any form of technological entertainment.
The time spent away from your devices will help reset your brain, undertake much-needed personal care, and essentially cleanse your system. Unplugging doesn’t mean that you sit and stare at a blank wall for an hour or two while you wait until you can use your tech again. It means doing something, anything, that doesn’t revolve around an artificially-lit screen and the chaos of online life.
Whether it’s going to the gym or otherwise exercising, reading, cooking, cleaning, washing your car, or spending time with your family and friends, unplugging allows you to focus on self-care, building stronger relationships, and so much more.
Then when you come back to your game, whatever type of game it may be, you may feel more refreshed and calm, allowing you to tackle a new series of challenges.
Able to work hand-in-hand with unplugging, exercise is an incredibly effective form of stress-relief and mental-health-bolstering activity one can do. Obviously, exercise isn’t something you should be doing just on those days where you have been gaming for long periods of time but the effects can be quite pronounced for gamers.
Able to combat feelings of depression and anxiety that may arise while gaming or being potentially isolated, exercise has been shown to be of significant benefit. According to statistics by Beyond Blue, one in six Australians is currently affected by anxiety, depression, or both.
The simple act of exercising, whether it’s lifting heavy weights or walking around your neighborhood, has been found to release endorphins into your brain, as well as create new activity patterns and promote the growth of neurons. This leads to a boost in mental and physical energy, which is fantastic for jumping back into your games with a fresh, focused mind.
But exercise isn’t just for those suffering from mental illness; the endorphins that are released, foster improved concentration, allowing you to perform better at tasks requiring complex or rapid thought. Endorphins can also increase your resilience and reaction to challenges, both mental and emotional, allowing you to embrace and tackle them more effectively.
One more game. One more win. One more level. All justifications to forgo sleep and continue playing your favorite games. But let me tell you now, sleep is one of the, if not THE, most important things you can do to improve your mental health.
Sleep comprises three stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) and one REM stage per cycle, which can last between 90 and 110 minutes. During these cycles, your body undertakes restorative processes, repairing your body, cleansing the mind, and basically resetting you to the optimal level for the next day. This is why you feel so terrible after missing sleep, or not sleeping enough.
Aside from the physical benefits of sleep, it can reduce the prevalence of stress and improve your memory. Lack of sleep can result in a build-up of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prevents your body from fully relaxing. This takes a toll on your health, both mental and physical, and it basically affects your functionality as a human being.
In terms of memory, your brain prioritizes and sorts information learned or updated throughout the day. Lack of sleep disrupts this process, leading to poorer information retention, focus, and memory. This, as you may have guessed, results in slower reactions to stimuli, including changes in gameplay. No matter how focused you may be at the start, if you’re tired, your reaction time and cognitive processing will suffer as time draws on.
Reflect On Positivity
It’s all about those silver linings.
Positive thinking does wonders for our minds by allowing us to cope with stressful situations, adverse scenarios, and complex challenges. Rather than dwelling on the problem itself, positive thinkers start to look for a solution or something they can do to make the best of that scenario.
Thinking positive doesn’t mean you won’t, or shouldn’t have negative thoughts, it means that you assess what’s in your control and find the good things or the benefits.
Lost an important game? It’s okay, it happens. Focus on what you learned about your play or your teamwork. Congratulate yourself and your team for playing as well or as hard as they did. Don’t let pessimism and negativity be the ruling force, as that can breed resentment, lack of motivation, and stress.
Thinking positively can also facilitate the drive to achieve your goals, no matter if they are to become the best player in the country, the best player in the world, or to beat your personal best.
The six exercises mentioned above that gamers can (and should) do are simple and easy to put into practice, which is why you should start doing them as soon as possible. They will help improve mental health, strengthen resolve, and drive one to be their very best- so it’s worth giving these a try!