Games for Mental Health & Mindfulness

With the increasing use of technology in our everyday lives, electronic games have become accessible enough and are of enough quality that it is not uncommon to see a child walking down the street playing Pokemon Go on their phone or a working mother playing Candy Crush on her laptop after dinner. Electronic games are often designed to be stimulating, based on progressing through levels or achieving rewards, are available on phones, computers, tablets, gaming consoles etc., and are often linked to social media, which help enable them to be highly addictive. Although electronic games can have a bad reputation for being "mindless" or harmful, there are newer (and often indie) games designed to be therapeutic, mindful, or simply relaxing. 

I will mention a few here, but there are helpful lists such as this one from takethis.org which include a whole slew of therapeutic or relaxing games. 

One therapeutic game that I was particularly interested in is called Habitica. It is a free app designed to help you maintain habits and motivate you to be more productive at your daily tasks. Your daily tasks become monsters whom you must battle. Completing a task earns you rewards, failing to do so damages your health, and there are different types of avatars to customize using rewards. 

Deep is a virtual reality game which uses the player's breathing pattern and diaphragm to explore underwater worlds, teaching breathing techniques and allowing a meditative experience. 

From snowboarding across interactive, beautiful landscapes, tackling social anxiety, or to exploring a koi pond as a fish, there are a number of themes and aesthetics for any type of game player, at various prices and interfaces. 

One game that is noted to be relaxing and mindful, although it is not explicitly based on any therapeutic principles, is called Viridi. Through the game application Steam, Viridi is a free game where the player designs and grows pots of succulent plants in real-time. 

Although there is only preliminary research behind the therapeutic games (often found on their websites), and little to no research on the games meant to be relaxing, one can see the benefit of being able to experience beautiful environments or build gardens at the comfort of your personal device. For those who enjoy games, this may be a potential way to curb anxiety or low mood without spending physical energy, and could be a relaxing alternative to current casual games in the market. 

Let us know in the comment below which games are relaxing for you, and what your thoughts are about using games for therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation.