A big part of having a productive day is knowing when to step back and take a break from what you’re doing.
Without taking breaks at work, we can quickly become overwhelmed, stressed, and fatigued – leading to “work burnout” which often just decreases the overall quality of our work and causes us to be more likely to make a mistake.
There are many different ways to take short breaks throughout your day: going out to lunch, taking a walk, calling a friend, or listening to music are some of the most common ways we unwind and destress.
According to a recent study published in Human Factors, playing video games might also be a valuable thing to add to your “relaxation list.”
Researchers had participants work on a difficult computer-based task that would lead to stress and cognitive fatigue. Then they let participants take a short 5 minute rest break to test how well different breaks work.
One group was asked to sit quietly in a room without a phone or computer. Another group did a guided relaxation activity. And a third group was assigned to play a casual video game called “Sushi Cat.”
After the short 5 minute break, the participants went back to working on the difficult computer-based task.
The results showed that those who played the casual video game exhibited greater work engagement, improved mood, and reduced stress after the short break when compared to the other groups.
This finding is consistent with other research that shows the beneficial effects of casual video games on stress and mood.
In another study published in the Journal of Cyber Therapy & Rehabilitation, it was also discovered that casual video games can help boost mood and decrease stress, as shown through EEG changes indicating activation of our autonomic nervous system (which is associated with the “rest and digest” function of our nervous system). And in another fascinating study published in the International Journal of Computer Studies, researchers found that amount of hours playing video games at home was positively correlated with overall work recovery.
This is just some of the new research that supports the idea of using video games as a short break. It’ll be interesting to see what new research discovers in the future.
3 Reasons Video Games Can Be a Great Short Break
There are 3 main reasons why video games can be such an effective “short break” to integrate into your daily routine. Here they are:
- Detachment from Work – Video games help you take your mind off of whatever it is you are currently focused on at work, so that when you go back to your work you can enter with a fresh new mindset and clearer perspective.
- Pleasure and Decreased Stress – Video games are fun and enjoyable to play, so most gamers report a boost in positive emotions like joy, relaxation, and contentment after a video game session.
- A Sense of Achievement – Video games can give us a sense of achievement, especially after completing a level or winning a match. This small achievement can help boost confidence and self-esteem that carries over into other activities.
Nowadays, almost everyone has access to video games on their computer or phone, so “casual gaming” is becoming more and more popular.
Since studies show just 5-10 minutes of “casual gaming” can have a huge benefit on our work day, I highly recommend that more people take advantage of the power of using games to help break up their day.
I’ve personally been using games as a short break for several years now. I find that action games, sports games, and racing games are the best genres because they can often be played in very short intervals and they are usually not very difficult or cognitively demanding.
It’s likely that different genres of games are better for you depending on what type of work you do and what your personal preferences are. So be willing to try out different types of games and see what works best.
In general, we should have a wide-range of “relaxation activities” to choose from when trying to break up our work day. Video games are just one valuable activity we can add to that list.
Of course, everything should be done in moderation. Too much gaming can definitely be a time-waster that distracts us from other aspects of life (like our health or relationships).
However, gaming by itself is not a bad habit, and it seems clear that it can have some real psychological benefits in our lives. So don’t feel bad if you take time every now and then to play some Call of Duty or Madden.
It’s also becoming more common for companies to include “gaming rooms” in their offices as a way to help workers unwind and destress during a tough and stressful day at work. Perhaps video games are going to play a key role in the future of productivity.
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