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First Look: Mind Habits, stress relief game

updated 10:20 pm EDT, Tue October 28, 2008

Mind Habits game

Most people play video games for fun or to relieve stress or boredom in their life. While shooting radioactive mutants or driving a car through animated city streets at top speed may take your mind off your problems, the moment you're done playing, reality smacks you in the face all over again. If you want to play a video game that can boost your self-esteem and improve your self-confidence both during and after you stop playing it, take a look at a unique stress relieving video game called Mind Habits.

Based on more than a decade of research by Dr. Mark Baldwin at McGill University in Montreal, the game trains you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. D. Baldwin's studies claim that specially designed video games, like Mind Habits, can help people train themselves to develop more positive mental habits, reducing stress hormone cortisol by up to 17 percent in as little as playing just five minutes a day.

The game works by training yourself to focus on the positive and avoiding the distraction of anything negative. To do this, the game uses either pictures or words.

One game involves looking at a series of faces and trying to spot the smiling face out of each group. The faster you can spot this smiling face, the higher your ultimate score. By training yourself to look for the smiling face among a sea of frowning or indifferent faces, you should generally feel more positive as a result.

Another game involves picking out positive words such as "valued", "helpful", or "kind" buried in a matrix of seemingly random letters. This constant reinforcement of searching for smiling faces and uplifting words can gradually train you to look for the positive aspects in your own life even when you're away from this video game.

To keep the game interesting, you can play several variations. In one version, faces drift across the screen in cartoon clouds at random intervals where you have to click on the smiling face before it disappears off the side of the screen.

Since many people are easily distracted by negative images, another variation displays a single face through different tints of color. Now it's up to you to identify the color tint without letting the frowning face distract you in the process.

If the studies at McGill University are correct, a game like Mind Habits should increase a player's happiness while encouraging a more optimistic outlook. If decapitating zombies with a chainsaw or mowing down space aliens with a laser rifle in a traditional video game isn't helping you feel better about yourself, perhaps you might want to invest $19.99 for a copy of Mind Habits available for both Mac OS X and Windows. Mind Habits may not help you overcome severe depression, but steady and consistent use can certainly help train your brain to look at the brighter side of life.

by MacNN Staff



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