We're quick to assume smartphones and videogames suck time and happiness from our lives, but a recent 2019 study completed in the UK suggest another more restorative effect. 

Researchers tested whether digital games contribute to significant post-work recovery (aka the ability to destress after leaving the office), and both a laboratory and field study found the answer to be a resounding yes.  

Digital games promote post-work recovery and overall wellbeing.  

kyle mooney dope GIF by Saturday Night Live

Before we share these cool results, it's worth noting videogame play has been scientifically linked to high levels of mental well-being and the absence of mental disorder. A flood of research published in the first decade of the 2000s looked at the positive benefits of videogame play*.   

*Videogames measured in these studies consisted of electronic/digital games played on personal computers, home consoles, tablets, the web, and devices like handheld consoles and smartphones. So go ahead and re-download Angry Birds. 

This new focus to learn the benefits of gaming came after decades of research on the negative implications of videogame use. A string of studies analyzing the good in gaming found the tipping point between positive and negative affect to be the amount of time spent playing.   

Potential problems tied to gameplay correlated to excessive time immersed.

Moderate gameplay proved to contribute to a slew of surprising benefits including emotional stability, relaxation, and stress reduction. Not just for kids but adults too. Research shows the inherent nature of videogames promotes and creates Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (The PERMA Model). 

PERMA is a theoretical model of happiness that helps us understand what is needed to maximize happiness in life. For instance, one's life must contain elements of engagement, relationships, a sense of meaning, etc. 

So it may be time to dust off the old Nintendo64 and get your Goldfinger on. Especially after a day of stressful work meetings. 

video games n64 GIF

If you lost the vintage controller, don't fret. You can unwind with a smartphone app. The new 2019 UK study mentioned above used the digital game "Block! Hexa Puzzle" when testing whether after-work stress can be reduced with videogame play.   

How it worked was...

Participants in a laboratory setting had to complete an assigned work task. Afterward, the digital game was distributed. Playing the game increased feelings of being energized- indicative of improved recovery. 

In the second phase, subjects were sourced outside the lab and the study was infused in the real lives of working professionals. Subjects played the digital game after arriving home from work and recovery was once again recorded. Outside the lab setting, it was proven that digital gaming recovery is cumulative and builds over the workweek with consecutive play.   

So we officially give you permission to count videogames as meditation. 

Instead of guilting yourself for collapsing on the couch and playing Super Mario, think of it as part of your meditate-and-recharge routine. (Of course, actual meditation is amazing for recharging as well.)

The American Psychological Association asserts one of the best ways to manage stress is taking time to recharge.  

To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires "switching off" from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work.

That's why it's critical to disconnect, and find the best way that suits your mind and lifestyle. Like Mortal Kombat over mantras. 

What's more bewildering is that switching off doesn't necessarily mean powering down a device. Many of us assume recharging is the same as unplugging, but it can be as simple as using your phone for recovery instead of email replies. Just make sure you've set notifications to 'Do Not Disturb.'  

retro video game GIF by sambmotion

Ready, player?