Many of us turn to video games in times when we need to unwind from a stressful situation or when we simply want to have a relaxing, care-free day. In my case, after a long work week, my Saturdays often involve a morning cup of coffee, a cozy blanket, and plopping down in front of my console for two – or eight – hours. Gaming is one of my favorite ways to relax. Sometimes, video games can even help me in moments where I’m feeling extra anxious. Engaging gameplay usually takes my mind off whatever is causing my anxiety.
Some games are simply enough to act as a distraction from the million thoughts running through an anxious person’s mind, while others are specifically designed to reduce anxiety and promote mindfulness. Everyone’s anxiety is different, so it’s important to respond to an anxiety attack in a way that you know works for you. However, if you’re someone who benefits from a good distraction or a quick mindfulness session, these five video games are definitely worth having in your library. Most of them are even mobile games, so you can access them anywhere!
SuperBetter – iOS, Android
SuperBetter takes the concept of tackling anxiety and turns it into a game. This mobile app has been scientifically proven through a clinical trial and a randomized control trial to “build personal resilience,” according to the site. Players become a hero and complete a series of IRL quests relating to their personal goals. The game also offers power-ups to assist in quests and throws a few bad guys, or everyday obstacles, into the mix. Whenever a player does something IRL, they can record it in SuperBetter to progress through the game. Studies found that just a few minutes a day can help improve mental health in a month.
Bejeweled – PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Studies have found that casual puzzle games are great for reducing anxiety. A 2011 East Carolina University Study, underwritten by puzzle game developer PopCap Games, evaluated the mental health effects of Bejeweled and other casual mobile games. As Kotaku reported, the study evaluated players of Bejewled 2, Bookworm Adventures, and Peggle to find that these games did significantly reduce anxiety and boost moods. It’s time to become a Bejeweled tile-matching pro!
Flower – PS4, PC, iOS
Although Flower wasn’t exactly created as a treatment for depression and anxiety, it was intended to bring positive emotions. The very nature of the game is relaxing and does not pose too much of a challenge to players. The goal is simply to control wind in a way that blows a flower petal through various gardens and fields. When the petal touches other flowers, more petals join the group. Some previously dead fields come to live upon contact with the floating petals. Flower has no dialogue, only beautiful and serene nature scenes to make you feel peaceful.
Personal Zen – iOS, Android
Personal Zen is another mental health-driven app that uses brain games to “break the cycle” of stress and anxiety. Like SuperBetter, Personal Zen has been the subject of multiple clinical trials and proven to “build stress resilience” through extended use, according to the website. The game itself involves a grassy field with a sad face and a happy face. When the faces disappear, players must trace the sparkles left behind by the happy face. This is meant to train the brain to focus on the less threatening option.
_PRISM – iOS, Android
Finally, _PRISM can help distract players from the things causing their anxiety. This minimalist mobile puzzle game allows players to unfold different geometric shapes and place the pieces in the correct spots to reveal the shapes’ centers. The game has 13 levels to keep players engaged and focused on finishing the task, but also no time limits, so players can take as much time as they need. All the while, there’s a calming soundtrack to keep players relaxed and reduce anxiety.