Play Video Games… to Combat Your Stress

April 18, 2014

Play Video Games... to Combat Your Stress

by Audrey  Hollingshead


You’re finally home and uber exhausted. Your boss has been riding you like a racing Jockey and it’s becoming rapidly harder to deal with the improbable projects he wants completed by days end. Sighing, you pick up your PS3 controller and start playing Call Of Duty-loving the sound the magazine makes as it empties. Heads explode, pixelated people die, and you can’t help but feel amazing each time.

After a while you switch to Mortal Kombat and finish each opponent with the same zeal as before. Later, while dreaming, you get the sense that this REM cycle is different then most. You think of going to Mars and BOOM! You’re ON Mars! But how? Are you…YES. You GET it now! You are in a lucid dream and can control everything and anything you like. You go on wild adventures, imagine crazy worlds, and feel so refreshed the next morning you don’t care WHAT your boss throws at you. On the way to work you think. “Today is today so come what may.”

So how did you attain this Zen-like approach? And what about last night relaxed you so well? Video games. That’s right, the same computer generated blood baths that has every mother and lawmaker worried might be the key to locking up stress and releasing relaxation.

Ever since Freud wrote his famed Interpretation of Dreams, every psychologist and their assistant have studied dreams extensively. Why DO we dream? What’s the purpose of dreams anyway? And why do we dream what we dream?  What they found out is pretty interesting. Referenced in a study that will be explained below, other studies have found that dreams help us sift through stress, solve problems, and signal us with nightmares when we’re not coping well with our recent trauma.

Mostly, we experience dreams like a movie we’re somehow part of. We do something strange (like play gulf with Spider Man) and never realize its oddity until we wake up. Other times though, we experience something called Lucid Dreaming. This type of dreaming gives us full control over events and allows us to do whatever we please! Go to prom with Brad Pit, you bet! It is a grand experience that has many devising ways to lucid dream more with some religions claiming the ability gets the dreamer that much closer to enlightenment. But what does this have to with video games? A lot more then you think.

In a study completed by Jayne Isabel Gackenbach at Grant MacEwan College in Canada, the more you play video games the more you lucid dream. The study worked like this. They asked participants (who were mostly male) to fill out surveys that asked for their basic information, video game history (when did they start playing, how long and what types games they play…etc.) and their dream history (how often they dream and what types of dreams they usually have.)

After tabulating all the survey information they found that those started playing games at a younger age AND who continued to play for long sessions today had MUCH MORE lucid dreams (and much LESS nightmares) then those who play video games sporadically. They even went on to note that if a gamer had a long gaming session (along with using other attention focusing technology) their chance of lucid dreaming went up dramatically. What’s even more amazing is that the type of game never mattered; platform, first-person-shooter, racing…if they played all day, they could lucid dream all night.

Based on earlier research, the study’s authors hypothesize that the correlation of video games and lucid dreaming may be caused by the meditative state games put gamers in-much like the meditative state enlightenment seeking people try to achieve.

But what’s even more interesting about video games as Pen and Teller’s TV show titled B.S. points out, is they may be the reason that violent crime is decreasing. Penn and Teller interview all sorts experts (both OK with and NOT OK with violent video games) and concluded that not only do violent video games give teens a harsh look at the consequences they’d face for violent actions; they also bring friends together for some fun. It’s a social activity that can bring even the shyest of people out to meet new people.

So the next time you’re feeling like you need a little relaxing break from the world just pick up your controller and press×.

And remember,

Dream Well! Dream Positive!


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