animal crossing games mindfulness

I’ve always found comfort in video games. When I’m having a particularly stressful day, not feeling too great mentally or just need to de stress for a little while, I always know there’s a game I can boot up to make me feel a little better.

One thing I have realised though, over the course of my extensive history as a gamer, is that I’ve started to use certain video games as a way of practicing mindfulness. I know mindfulness isn’t often the first word people associate with gaming, but I promise you won’t have to do much digging to find games that can assist with relaxation, and coping with mental health in general.

So here are just a few ways that video games can show us how to take five and use them as a tool to de-stress!

Practicing the Every Day

Whilst getting to shoot every enemy in sight and experience more intense gameplay can be a lot of fun, it’s also really nice to see the more mundane activities represented as well.

Take Animal Crossing for example, a game that encourages a strong sense of routine and familiarity within your town. The idea of doing what are essentially chores in the game, such as collecting fossils, paying off a home loan bit by bit and selling everything that isn’t bolted to the floor can sound a little boring, but there’s a sense of comfort in doing those chores that can feel really nice. It’s a go-to game of mine for when I’m feeling especially anxious as I know nothing will happen in my town that will be particularly jarring to my mood.

animal crossing new leaf mindfulness
‘Animal Crossing: New Leaf’ (2012)

Stardew Valley is another great game to play mindfully. Similar to Animal Crossing it’s one that allows you to focus on the task at hand and space your time out throughout the days on your farm. There’s also a lot of much larger goals in Stardew Valley that can take a lot of time and effort to achieve, but it just means that it’s all the more rewarding when you do eventually complete them.

There’s really no wrong way to do things in games like this and that sense of urgency that’s experienced in other games isn’t always present, which can be a nice contrast.

stardew valley mindfulness
‘Stardew Valley’ (2016)

Being able to focus on simple errands in these kinds of games and clear my head of any real life worries is super helpful, especially on more stressful days. That feeling of accomplishment I get in doing those tasks can genuinely make me feel a lot better.

Finding Games That Work For You

While Animal Crossing may be my favourite game for calming down, it might not be the same for everyone else. Finding games to use mindfully is a very individual experience. As a rule of thumb, my choices are usually ones that help me focus as well as relax, but again it’s all about personal taste.

It’s also a good idea to take into account what kind of gameplay mechanics you prefer. There are heaps of games that make use of motion controls and can assist with relaxation.  Being able to literally control the movement that’s happening on screen is often a great way to practice mindfulness and immerse yourself in the game even further.

flower mindfulness
‘Flower’ (2009)

If motion controls aren’t your thing though don’t stress, there’s plenty of games that utilise other gameplay elements, such as problem solving and strategising, which are proven to assist in cognitive function. Have some fun figuring out what works for you!

Knowing Your Patterns

Recognising what games you gravitate towards when in need of relaxation is also super important. It can help you to better understand what issues you may be having that might need addressing. Trying out different titles and taking a mental note of any changes in your mood afterwards can also be really helpful, aiding you in choosing how to best improve your mental state using video games

Also knowing what genre of games you prefer can help with playing mindfully. Whether you’re someone who leans more towards side scrolling adventures, open world RPG’s or anything else in between, there’s something out there for everyone!

Even keeping a list of games reserved for those times when you do need to wind down can be really useful too. I know I have plenty of mindful games on the back burner just in case!

Thanks so much for reading!