Why playing an old-school phone game could help boost your mood


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There’s an old (scientifically proven!) trick for quelling your anxiety: Become totally immersed in something tedious that requires full concentration—a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, the New York Times crossword, some tricky embroidery. Now, new research adds an old-school arcade game to that list of centering activities: Yep, your phone—AKA a major cause of anxiety—can actually help make you feel better…if you’re using it to play Tetris.

A review of three studies, published in the journal Emotion, found that adults who were anxiously awaiting news (in one study, Bar exam results; in another, a job offer) experienced greater well-being during this nerve-wracking time after entering a flow state. (The concept of flow was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD, who describes it as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”)

In the third study, 309 undergraduates were tasked with playing Tetris while they waited for their peers to rate their physical attractiveness (uhh, worst nightmare?). The game was shown to help the students to enter a state of flow and, just like in the first two studies, participants reported an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions.

While you might be rejoicing in a new justification for your Two Dots addiction (just me?), you do want to remain mindful of your screen time, which can have a negative impact on your health, including your sleep quality. So, switch up your flow-inducing activities by unplugging and playing a game of Jenga, chess, or Scrabble. It might just be the perfect way to get through the family-filled holiday season.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, here’s what you should do instead of taking deep breaths and why it seems to get worse at night.

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