Here’s How Looking After Your Mental Health Can Make You A Better Gamer

"Gaming is an inherently mental activity."


Megan Flemmit |

“People get into gaming for different reasons,” says Stephan Vermaas. The avid gamer started playing his first games when he was still a kid.  Back then the games that occupied his time were simple ones like tetris, pinball and The Lion King. As he grew older he started dabbling into competitive gaming. “For me gaming has always been about the social aspect. I like playing individually and going on adventures and doing cool stories, but nothing beats playing in a team, with the shared moments and laughing together at how events unfold.”

Related: The Best Online Games To Play With Friends Right Now

The 28-year-old is currently completing his honours in Psychology at Wits University while working as a mentor and mental coach for Goliath Gaming. Having gamed for almost 20 years, Stephan knows firsthand the impact gaming can have on your mental health, and why it’s important to take of it.

“Gaming is an inherently mental activity and so it’s important we take care of our mental health,” he explains. “We often don’t realise just how entertaining it can be and it has this ability to suck you in.”

It’s especially important for those looking to excel in gaming. “To reach the top of any field you need to have mental fortitude and resilience to take on challenges,” he says. Taking care of your mental health not only helps you feel better, but it can make you a better player.”

Related: Here’s How This Physio Overcame His Struggles With Mental Health

Whether you’re a competitive gamer or just game to unwind, here are three things you can do to improve your mental health:

Regulate Your Playing

Gamers should always be cognisant of how long they’re playing for, says Stephan. “If you’re playing for five hours daily, it means that that’s five hours you’re not spending with your friends or family.”

Of course five hours for a competitive gamer is different to five hours for someone who is doing it after working a full day. But even competitive gamers should look closely at how much time they dedicate to honing their craft.

Related: Beat Gaming Disorder: This is How To Game Safely

And while Stephan won’t dictate how many hours a day you can spend gaming, he does advocate for living a balanced lifestyle. “I find that when gamers are living a well-rounded lifestyle, hanging out with their friends, taking their dogs for a walk, setting goals for themselves, it makes such a difference when they’re in front of their screens.  You can almost see that they’re in a better space.”

However, according to thegamer.com many studies seem to state that ‘five is the magic number’ and that there is only cause for concern once you surpass the 50-hour per week mark.

Exercise

People who game for hours end up sitting on chairs for hours at a time. “Counter that by including more physical activity,” Stephan suggests. “Get up and stretch or take a walk to the park.”

But physical activity isn’t just good for your body. Studies show that short bursts of exercise can improve your focus and attention span , while also allowing you to manipulate and retain more information. All of which can be useful to gamers.

 Try this 15-minute session designed by Brendon Hill to stretch out your spine: 

Meditate

Whether you’re doing yoga or using some breathing techniques, meditation can help you be more mindful of your actions. “If you’re able to be fully present and mindful of your own thoughts, you can assess whether you are gaming too much or not,” he says. “You can also determine whether your gaming habits are having a detrimental effect on your mental health.”

Three weeks is enough for you to enjoy the most potent benefits that meditation can offer. When you are able to again, go on an intensive retreat; research claims the enzyme telomerase will flood your system. This helps rebuild and lengthen the telomeres of your immune system to slow ageing and stave off illness from the inside out. You’ll emerge feeling younger, healthier, and maybe – just maybe – wearing a bangle or two.

Related: 3 Ways Gamers Can Reap The Benefits Of Yoga

During his bootcamps with the Goliath Gaming team, Stephan has them attend several yoga sessions throughout the week. It allows them to calm their thoughts and make better decisions.

READ MORE ON: brain health Gamer gaming mental health mindfulness

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