Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Smartphone games are better at relieving stress than mindfulness apps, study finds

Researchers found that games helped to boost energy levels after a stressful day

Playing smartphone games was better at relieving stress than mindfulness app Headspace. Alamy
Playing smartphone games was better at relieving stress than mindfulness app Headspace. Alamy

Playing games on our smartphones is a more effective way to relieve stress than using mindfulness apps, a new study has found.

Scientists from the University of Bath and University College London in the UK looked at different activities that helped people to relax after a stressful day at work, focusing on immersive, active and engaging activities.

They then chose to compare the effects of these activities, such as playing games on smartphones, with more traditional relaxation methods such as app-aided meditation and mindfulness.

Researchers say effectively unwinding after work consist of a mixture of relaxation, psychological detachment, having control over your activities and mastering a skill separate from work. Previous studies have found that mentally engaging in leisure activities is better at relieving stress than passive activities such as mindlessly watching television.

The study was conducted by asking 45 participants to complete a maths challenge, a way of bringing on stress resembling what you might experience in the workplace, before splitting participants into three groups. One group played smartphone game Block! Hexa Puzzle, the second completed a 10-minute mindfulness exercise using the Headspace app, and a third group sat and relaxed, with the option of playing with a fidget spinner. At the end of the exercise, all groups were asked to complete a questionnaire to assess their levels of tiredness, calmness, tenseness and overall energy.

A second study asked a further 20 people to play the same phone game or use the mindfulness app after work for five days, filling out the questionnaire at the end of each session. They were then interviewed at the end of the week.

The results of both experiments showed that the participants who played phone games reported having more energy and feeling less tired than those who used mindfulness apps or relaxed.

"Far from feeling guilty about being absorbed by their phone, people who play such games after a stressful day at work should know they are likely to be gaining a real benefit," said UCL Professor Anna Cox, who was one of the authors of the study.

Updated: August 12, 2019 11:41 AM

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