Believe it or not, gaming can actually be pretty good for your brain. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that adults who frequently engage in mentally stimulating activities are 63% less likely to develop dementia. And yes, games are counted in the mentally stimulating activity category (thanks, science). Games promote mindfulness, they sharpen our attention, and they exercise our brains.
Many people still hold the view that video games are bad for us; that they turn kids into mindless zombies (despite studies proving the exact opposite). Sure, it’s not healthy to spend all day, every day watering your virtual crops or conquering virtual worlds (like in the episode of Big Bang Theory when Penny gets addicted to online gaming), but it is actually good for you to spend a bit of time gaming.
Get Your Bingo On
Studies have shown that online bingo has an extremely positive effect on the brain. Research conducted by the University of Southampton found that playing bingo requires rapid hand-eye co-ordination, resulting in regular bingo players’ minds being faster and more accurate than those who don’t play regularly. This study was conducted way back in 2002 when there will only an estimated 3 million bingo players in the UK. Through the increasing popularity of mobile bingo and online gaming (it’s more popular than ever) you now don’t have to trek down to your nearest bingo hall to have a go.
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There’s an App for That
The app store is brimming with all sorts of brain training games that will remind you of the good old Nintendo DS game Brain Training. A lot of these games have been designed by neuroscientists and enhance cognitive skills such as memory, attention span, problem-solving, and recognition of patterns. Although these apps have been designed specifically to train your brain, they’re no less fun that other games. You can track your progress and compete against your friends; simple gamification at its best.
“Apple App Store according to the New Yor” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wolf Gang
Games that promote mindfulness are also incredibly good for training your brain and enhancing mental health through activities designed to improve psychological functioning, says Nadine Kaslow Ph.D. (Professor and Vice-Chair of Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry). Mindfulness games are designed to develop awareness, calm, and compassion. They take game mechanics that we’re already familiar with, card games for example, and present them in a new, slightly different way. One that challenges the way we think about the work and trains our brain to exercise mindfulness.
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Don’t get me wrong, you can’t use these studies as an excuse to spend all day glued to a screen. You can (and should), however, allow yourself to spend a little bit of time on a regular basis playing games and know that it’s actually doing some good. The regular basis part is key, training isn’t something that will happen overnight. Little but often is the way to go.
So stop thinking of bingo as just a hobby, stop thinking of that game on your phone that you play when you’re waiting for the bus as a distraction. Think of them as a fun, relaxing way to keep your mind healthy.