You may think you are just passing time playing simple online games like Solitaire, but in reality you are sharpening your memory, strategy skills and even calming your mind. When I’m feeling stressed, I often stop and take a “mental break” by playing games. It helps me stop thinking about other things and come back to what I was working on in a fresh state of mind. This also goes beyond just Solitaire and includes many different types of games available online.
A Bit of Game History
Did you know Solitaire has been around for hundreds of years? It was invented sometime in the 1700s, with its first mention in recorded history in 1746. But while people have been playing the game with cards for that long, it become incredibly popular as a computer game in the 1990s, when Microsoft added it to personal computers as a unique way to teach people how to use the computer’s mouse. Now there’s even a National Solitaire Day on May 22 every year.
The Solitaire game you are probably most familiar with is actually called Klondike (shown in the photo above), where the objective is to uncover four aces and build sequential foundations from those cards. This is the game that got me through many long boring days when I worked at the school library! The game can be both stimulating and soothing as you move the cards to their spaces.
More than Just Solitaire
Once you’ve mastered Klondike, there are actually tons of different Solitaire-type games to play. I couldn’t even count all the different types of Solitaire listed on Solitaire.org! There’s everything from showing a different number of cards, using a different pattern and holiday themed games like the Christmas Solitaire in the photo below.
You can also choose to play puzzle games, hidden object games and more. All these types of games are considered “soft mental activities,” meaning you enter an almost meditative state while playing them. They require mental activity, but not at the level something like an adventure video game might need.
With each game you play, your skills at recognizing the cards (or other attributes in your chosen game) get sharper without you even thinking about it. Each game gets a little better, a little faster. You are also sharpening your decision-making skills and learning to take a moment to consider the outcome before jumping ahead with your move. This can be applied in everyday life to control impulsive decisions.
Using Games to Help Anxiety
In a state of anxiety, your brain is busy focusing on things that worry you and you can get stuck in an anxious loop that drowns out everything else. Taking a little break to stop and play a game is a great way to break that cycle of anxiety and give your mind something to focus on. At the same time, a simple game of cards or hidden object searching provides a low level of stimulation while not adding extra stress by being an unbeatable challenge. It provides you with small victories that can give you a little self-satisfied mental boost.
Permission to Play
We live in an ever-increasing state of being busy all the time. Work, home life, social life, parenting… it’s hard to get a break! This is your permission to remember to stop and play. Give your busy brain a reprieve from the struggle of dealing with your daily duties and just chill out while playing a simple game. Even just 20 minutes is enough to calm your mind a bit, which translates into better focus and less anxiety in your daily life.
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