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Next Time You’re Feeling Particularly Stressed or Anxious, This Study Says You Should Play Tetris

It can be easy to let yourself become overwhelmed by stress or anxiety during these turbulent times of social restrictions and coronavirus concerns—but this new study says that there is a very simple (and fun) way to ease your worried mind.

Research from the University of California shows that playing Tetris has a remarkable effect on a person’s mental health and performance.

Psychologist Kate Sweeny led the research by studying the game’s effects on the welfare of the university’s student population. During times of immense stress, such as undergoing final exams and considering future careers, Sweeny instructed the students to play the arcade game before measuring their relative levels of perceived anxiety.

Her research shows that by playing Tetris, overworked individuals often experienced a significant reduction in stress and anxiety and an influx in positive emotions.

While most video games offer similar kinds of distraction, Tetris offers the perfect balance of challenge and accessibility; it’s difficult enough to keep players engaged, but simple and intuitive enough to allow players to stay relaxed and enjoy the experience. This specific mental state is referred to as “flow”—or “being in the zone”.

“Flow requires a delicate balance,” Sweeny said. “Flow is most readily achieved with activities that challenge the person somewhat, but not too much; have clear, achievable goals; and that provide the person with feedback about how they’re doing along the way.”

This is not the first study that has shown the benefits of Tetris, either—a 2009 study showed that people who practiced the arcade game over time experienced improved mental performance. This makes it a perfect activity for distraction, and a fantastic way to improve your mental wellbeing in a short amount of time.

It has also been used to help addicts cope with their withdrawals and curb food cravings.

“The Tetris study is key because it experimentally manipulates flow and shows effects of that manipulation, which provides convincing evidence that flow actually causes well-being during waiting periods, not that it just happens to coincide with well-being,” Sweeny said.