Mobile games beat mindfulness apps to reduce workday stress

Mindfulness apps are trendy as a health-focused way to relieve stress and potentially lower blood pressure. A new study out of the University of Bath and UCL in London have found they may not be the best solution for tackling life stress, however, with digital games taking that crown. Unlike participants given either a fidget spinner or mindfulness app, the team found that people who played a mobile game after doing something stressful had more energy afterward.

A huge number of mobile games can be found on the Android and iOS app stores, some that are quite complex, others that are simple, enabling the player to zone out and focus their attention on a repetitive task. One example of that type of game is 'Block! Hexa Puzzle,' an offering that tasks players with fitting differently shaped pieces into a puzzle form. This game was used by the researchers as part of their study.

Study participants were given a 15-minute math test and then split into three groups: those who played the aforementioned mobile game, those who used a mindfulness app, and the rest who were simply given a fidget spinner to play with. As well, a separate study had participants play the mobile game after getting home from work for five days in a row.

In the first study, the participants who played the mobile game reported feeling more energized afterward compared to participants in the other two groups, both of whom reported feeling a decline in energy levels. Participants in the second group reported feeling more relaxed at the end of the workweek compared to participants who used a mindfulness app.

The reasons for these positive benefits may be due to mobile games' combination of offering relaxation, the chance to master a new skill, the ability to feel in control, and offering an immersive distraction from life. In contrast, the researchers found that participants who used a mindfulness app daily after work experienced diminishing effects when it came to taking one's mind off work.