Therapists have often wondered whether the video games their patients play may actually aggravate feelings of anxiety and stress. We’ll set that question aside in favor of another: can video games also be used to relieve stress or to enhance mood?

There does seem to be research to support that notion. Not a whole lot, and it’s far from conclusive, but here are two links on the subject:

The Link Between Video Games and Stress Relief

What brought this to my attention: a recent visit from a clinical social worker who himself makes use of a popular “Match 3” style ball-dropping game to induce a feeling of calm. He claims the benefits extend beyond a short session of game play. He’s learned to employ it several times during the course of a day, as a break from other activities. That set me wondering if there might be benefits for patients in treatment — another tool for managing negative emotional states. It would have to be the right sort of game, of course. Still, my reading suggests those do exist, with more on the way.

It reminded me the old 12 Step practice of carrying around hard candies to substitute for a drink in the face of an unexpected craving. Most cravings are time-limited, provided the person doesn’t do something to sustain them — such as having a drink. Same for most negative moods in early recovery. Provided you manage them properly, and don’t reinforce the negativity. Which one patient described as “diving down into the same old rathole.” Very picturesque.

We’re always on the lookout for things that someone can use to manage uncomfortable emotions and alleviate stress. After all, most of us carry already carry our phones around with us. Each phone is in itself an access point to a whole world of gaming.

Why couldn’t some of those games be good for you?

Besides, who’s more creative than game developers? Let’s hope at least a few of them are busy coming up with something better than Grand Theft Auto version 2,483♠.

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