Digital games may be more effective for stress recovery than mindfulness apps, according to study results published in JMIR Mental Health.
“Although it is possible that the use of mindfulness apps has positive outcomes in terms of well-being or positive affect, this study suggests no benefits in relation to recovery,” Emily Collins, PhD, of the University of Bath, England, and colleagues wrote.
Collins and colleagues conducted two studies to evaluate a digital game and mindfulness app. In study 1, a laboratory experiment, 45 students aged between 19 and 36 years completed 10 arithmetic problems to create a need for recovery. They were then randomly assigned to 10 minutes of an activity: a digital puzzle game, an exercise on a mindfulness app or a playing with a fidget spinner toy (nonmedia control group). Before and after the activity, each participant completed a survey to measure energetic arousal as a proxy for recovery.
Researchers found that the digital game significantly increased energetic arousal while the mindfulness app and fidget spinner decreased energetic arousal (P = .03). There was no difference between the groups in recovery experience (P = .99).
Study 2 was a field study with 20 working professionals aged 19 to 58 years. For 5 consecutive days, participants were asked to play a digital game or use a mindfulness app for 10 minutes after arriving home from work. They also took a survey before and after their assigned activity to measure energetic arousal.
The second study found that neither activity had a significant impact on energy level. However, participants who played the digital game reported increased recovery experience throughout the 5 days, while recovery in the mindfulness group decreased (P = .01).
Researchers concluded that the positive effect of digital games on post-work recovery may be cumulative. They also noted a clear relationship between recovery and level of enjoyment for the assigned activity. Study 2 showed that enjoyment correlated with both recovery experience score and the degree of change in energetic arousal.
“To protect our long-term health and well-being, we need to be able to unwind and recuperate after work. Our study suggests playing digital games can be an effective way to do this,” Collins said in a press release. – by Julia Lowndes
Disclosures: One author reports grant support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. No other authors report relevant financial disclosures.