If you’re a passionate or competitive gamer, it’s understandable that you might experience negative emotions when you’re having a bad time in a game, or when you’re burnt out but keep on gaming anyway. Regardless of whether you like to play casino games, fill your time with strategy titles, or go toe to toe with other players in online shooting games, you might struggle to keep your mental state in check when you play.
This is why we’ve put together this guide to help gamers keep a healthy frame of mind and find a good balance between what’s happening on the screen and in real life. If you ever feel the need to help recenter yourself, follow these seven tips to improve your mental health.
1. Write down your feelings in a journal
If you’re struggling with negative thoughts or emotions, it may help to let your feelings out in a journal. The University of Rochester recommends you use these tips to help you start journaling in its article, “Journaling for mental health:”
- Try to write every day. Set aside a few minutes every day to write. This will help you to write in your journal regularly.
- Make it easy. Keep a pen and paper handy at all times. Then when you want to write down your thoughts, you can. You can also keep a journal on your smartphone.
- Write or draw whatever feels right. Your journal doesn't need to follow any certain structure. It's your own private place to discuss and create whatever you want to express your feelings. Let the words and ideas flow freely. Don't worry about spelling mistakes or what other people might think.
- Use your journal as you see fit. You don't have to share your journal with anyone. If you do want to share some of your thoughts with trusted friends and loved ones, you could show them parts of your journal.
By jotting down your thoughts regularly, you’ll find you can reduce stress, keep a lid on your anxiety levels, and improve how you manage depression. Of course, if you prefer to keep things in the 21st century, there are plenty of note-taking and journaling apps for your smartphone. Do some research and find one that works for you. You may also be surprised what you get out of re-reading what you’ve written. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
2. Do regular exercise
While it may be tempting to just sit on your couch or chair all day and play games, a lack of exercise can negatively affect your well-being. A study titled, “Exercise for mental health,” published in the journal, The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, discusses the benefits to mental health of aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, and walking, as well as other physical activities. It found that you were likely to see the following improvements:
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Reduced depression
- Improved mood
- Better cognitive function
Regular exercise also reduces the knock-on effects of these negative emotions, such as poor self-esteem and social withdrawal.
This is good news, but what makes it even better is you don’t need to sign up for an expensive gym membership to take advantage of these benefits – you only need to do 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week to see an uptick. This could be as easy as a single brisk walk for 30 minutes, or three shorter 10-minute walks spread over a few days. Your pace should be enough to really feel you’ve got your blood flowing! Naturally, you can do more than that to improve your overall fitness as well, as long as you’re careful and don’t overdo it.
3. Eat the right foods
Many of us have heard the phrase “healthy body, healthy mind.” While this certainly applies to exercise, it’s also important when you think about what you eat. This extract from the Harvard Health Blog article, “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food,” highlights one of the key roles that food (and your gut) play in maintaining your mental health:
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of "good" bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome.
While scientists have acknowledged the role food has in affecting a person’s mood, it’s still a fairly new field of study, so the jury’s still out on some of the finer details. The general advice that you might want to follow is to shift towards a Mediterranean-style diet. This consists predominantly of fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seafood, and olive oil, includes a moderate amount of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, and rarely any red meat. Other highly processed foods, such as sodas, processed meat, and refined grains are off the table. Try switching up what you eat and see what effect it has on you.
4. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
While it may be tempting to squeeze in one more game late at night, you should be careful if you’re sacrificing much-needed sleep. Sleep isn’t only vital for maintaining your physical health, such as reducing the risk of inflammation, heart disease, and stroke (as discussed in “How disrupted sleep may lead to heart disease,” from the National Institutes of Health,) but also your mental wellness (covered in WebMD’s article, “Surprising reasons to get more sleep.”) The latter piece shares how getting enough sleep will provide you with a better-functioning brain, and will also help improve your mood. Not only will your brain be in a better place to handle negative feelings, it’ll also improve your focus and memory – two vital tools for gaming! So if you like to play online slots or other games of chance late at night, make sure you’re not losing sleep over them!
5. Practice meditation
While this may seem a bit “out there” for some readers, there’s absolutely no doubt that meditation, or the training of attention and awareness, can improve your mental health. Healthline.com has put together an article highlighting 12 of these benefits. It is aptly titled “12 Science-based benefits of meditation.”
Here are the benefits the piece discusses:
- Reduces stress
- Controls anxiety
- Promotes emotional health
- Enhances self-awareness
- Lengthens attention span
- May reduce age-related memory loss
- Can generate kindness
- May help fight addictions
- Improves sleep
- Helps control pain
- Can decrease blood pressure
- Accessible anywhere.
If you’re unsure how to meditate, there are many resources you can find online (plus apps for your smartphone) for the many different styles of meditation – be sure to search for a method that works for you.
6. Join a mental health community
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Thankfully there are many online communities, such as HealthyGamer, as well as offline groups where one can find support. Consider looking for a group to help you through any difficult times you might be going through.
7. Take a break
One of the easiest tips that you can use is simply to take a break. If you find yourself on tilt, simply step away from whatever game you’re playing and find something else to do. This will help you calm down and clear your mind of any negative emotions, so you can return to the game at another time with a better mindset. This will hopefully improve your performance if you’re playing a skill-based game, but a relaxed mood will also help remind you that you’re playing these games to have fun!
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