Opinion: Gaming – The Unexpected Ally of Mindfulness and Meditation

Ever since the ancient times, we humans have always been fascinated with the concept of mindfulness and meditation. This fascination gave rise to practices that hinged on focusing on the present, a state of being that’s both timeless and empowering. However, our understanding of mindfulness has expanded leaps and bounds with modern scientific research and personal experiences, including my own.

For me, mindfulness wasn’t just a simple fascination. It was an elixir, a healing balm that I discovered at a crucial juncture in my life. When anxiety was my frequent companion, making my heart race and my thoughts spiral, mindfulness served as a lifeline. It helped me to detach myself from the catastrophic narratives my anxiety was spinning about the past and the future, anchoring me firmly in the comforting solidity of the present.

This discovery was a revelation. It was like being in the eye of a storm – everything outside was chaos, but inside, there was just pure calm. I was finally able to exist without judgement or foreboding. However, like many people, I struggled with the traditional, monk-like meditation practices. Sitting cross-legged for hours on end was not my cup of tea.

My journey of self-discovery took an unexpected turn when I realized that video games could serve as an unorthodox yet effective tool for mindfulness meditation. Just like switching to the right character in a game can change your entire strategy, this shift in perception altered the game for me completely.

Discovering Games as a Mindfulness Tool

Gaming is often seen as an escapist fantasy, a medium for living out our wildest dreams. But for me, it became a tool for grounding myself in reality. The virtual worlds within these games became my mindfulness landscapes, the characters my meditation guides.

Slowing down was the first, crucial step in this process. It was like switching from a first-person shooter mode to a more strategic, observational mode. I went from sprinting through levels to strolling, from missing the minor details to taking everything in. And when I set a timer for 10 minutes of mindful gaming, it became my meditative retreat.

Gaming served as an interactive canvas, where I could practice the core tenets of mindfulness. I could be present, observe without judgment, and react without emotional turmoil. The on-screen action helped me stay anchored in the moment, much like focusing on your breath during traditional meditation. Gaming and mindfulness, seemingly worlds apart, began to blend together seamlessly for me.

The Art of Mindful Gaming: A Short Guide

So, how can you incorporate mindfulness into your gaming routine? Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Choose Your Game Mindfully: Games that offer quiet moments or slower-paced gameplay can work wonders for mindful gaming. Think exploration games, or even certain sections of more action-packed games. I’ve found the Assassins Creed Odyssey and Assassins Creed Origins particularly good for this. Especially each game’s Discovery Tour mode.
  2. Set a Timer: This can be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, based on your comfort. This is your dedicated time to practice mindfulness.
  3. Slow Down: Walk instead of run. Look around, observe the details, the color palette, the sound design. Become a virtual tourist in the game’s world.
  4. Observe Without Judgment: Like in mindfulness practice, the goal here is not to analyze, but simply to witness. Don’t judge the game mechanics or plot, just experience them.
  5. Focus on the Present: Keep bringing your attention back to the game whenever it wanders. Let the game’s environment be your guide to the present moment.

The Potential of Gaming: A New Perspective

The common narrative surrounding video games is that they’re distracting, attention-destroying tools. They are blamed for reduced productivity, poor attention spans, and even fostering aggression. However, I believe that this narrative is unidimensional and lacks nuance. Just like a game character, every tool has its strengths and weaknesses – it’s how we leverage them that matters.

I like to see the positive in all things, including video games. For me, they have been a means to tame my anxiety, a medium to practice being present. These games, once seen as distractions, are now a part of my mindfulness toolbox. They have an untapped potential to serve as a unique meditation landscape, helping us stay rooted in the present moment, even when the world around us is in constant flux.

Gaming, for many of us, is a passion, a hobby, a retreat. If we can use this passion as a means to enhance our well-being, then it’s not just a game anymore – it’s a tool for a better, healthier life. We can fight back anxiety and carve out moments of peace and presence amidst the chaos, one game at a time.

Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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