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Card Games Have a Positive Impact on Mental Health

It promotes happiness, encourages social interaction and gives your brain a much-needed workout.

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card games
Playing cards with friends is good for you.

We all know that card games such as Indian Rummy and poker make us feel good, but did you know that there is scientific evidence to prove it? Yes, that’s right, scientists discovered that card games are not only fun but also, have a positive impact on our mental health. It’s a fact that many of you will no doubt be delighted to hear.

But what is it about card games that’s so great? While we can win a little money at the poker or blackjack tables, there’s a little more to it than cash and the thrill of winning. Studies show that there is a link between cognitive abilities and card games and that this link could be one of the best ways to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Because of this research, there has been a change in people’s attitudes toward card games and the people that play them regularly. And for those of us who love to play, it’s a breath of fresh air to know that the games we love are indeed good for us in so many ways. Let’s take a closer look at why now that we know they’re good for us.

Casinos, card games
We’re all very familiar with gambling websites and online casinos, where you can do anything from betting on sports events. Pixabay

Mental Agility

Caregivers in retirement homes will tell you that one way to keep their patients’ minds sharp is to play card games, such as cribbage, poker, bridge and even snap. These games help exercise various parts of the brain associated with memory, reaction times and focus. They are particularly good for helping with short-term memory, as they encourage players to pay attention to the game by following other players’ moves. Perhaps that would explain why people with Alzheimer’s or dementia benefit so much from card games.

Cards also help you train your brain to deal with problems, honing your math skills in the process. And since few of us like to study math, this is an excellent hidden benefit to playing.

Happiness

When was the last time you remember playing cards? The chances are it’s a happy memory you’re having right now, and that’s because playing card games also help us emotionally. Every game that we play we learn something new, either about ourselves as a player or about the game. And as humans, we are programmed to want to learn, and when we learn, we’re happy.

This process of personal development gives us a feeling of accomplishment (more on that later) and a sense of worth. It also boosts our confidence while simultaneously improving our thinking process. And yes, you guessed it, all these things tend to make us feel wonderful about ourselves, and self-worth is, of course, a significant contributing factor for happiness.

card games
Social interaction is significant mental health benefit.

 

Social Benefits

According to a study by Oxford Economics, people who eat alone are more likely to be unhappy, which underlines the importance of social interaction whenever possible. Card games by their nature encourage social interaction. Okay, so perhaps at the poker table we may keep our thoughts to ourselves, but generally, we like to socialize when we play cards.

We can even enjoy the social benefits of card games without leaving our home or inviting friends around for a quick game. And how is this? With online poker, of course. Joining an online poker platform or becoming a member of a group or forum also allows you to socialize with new people. Did you know that people who game online are better at socializing? Yes, it’s true. Gamers even have better relationships with family, with studies showing that 82 percent of them consider spending time with family a priority.

But back to cards and socializing. Regular games give those struggling with feelings of loneliness something to look forward to or anticipate. This implementation of a social routine can indeed help control mood disorders and may also have a positive effect on those dealing with depression.

Feelings of Accomplishment

Now, what about those feelings of accomplishment we mentioned earlier. Normally, we associate winning with feeling accomplished, but the truth is that mastering the rules of games like poker and bridge is enough to give us that warm glow and understandably so. The rules of many card games are quite complicated, and when you factor in strategies and the various hands you need to memorize, even playing is an achievement.

card games
Winning isn’t everything. Pixabay

Coping with Loss

As strange as it might sound, one of the best things a card game can teach you is how to lose. Even professional poker players will only have a win percentage of about 50–60 percent, proving that losing isn’t all bad. Learning from your loss, however, makes the difference.

Regular card players know that to enjoy playing and get the most out of the game, they need to lose with composure. They ignore feelings of frustration, control their temper and try again. Those are some critical life skills right there and ones that you can easily pick up from taking up a card playing hobby.

Relaxation and Stress Relief

When you want to relax and unwind, the TV or your smartphone are probably the worst things you can turn to for relaxation. They are consistent reminders about the stressful things in your life while the news is rarely enjoyable to watch. A game of cards, on the other hand, is the perfect stress reliever.

card games
Addiction to card games like Rummy. Pixabay

The simple act of playing and focusing on the game allows you to forget your worries and enjoy yourself. Add to that your social interaction and lack of pressure, and you have the perfect stress reliever, except maybe for snap — that game is hectic.

So, as you can see, playing cards can have a significantly positive effect on your mental health. It promotes happiness, encourages social interaction and gives your brain a much-needed workout. And that’s before we even get to those feelings of accomplishment. So, the next time someone tells you that you’re wasting your time playing cards, tell them all that you learned here today. Now, we’re off for a few games of Indian Rummy to relieve a bit of stress, of course!

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Smartphones Using Artificial Intelligence Can Predict User’s Mental Well-Being

At the University of Illinois' Chicago campus, researchers are using crowdsourcing to test their experimental phone app.

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Students, smartphones
Students walk across a campus in Portland, Oregon. VOA

Could the devices being blamed for teen depression be useful in revealing it?

Studies have linked heavy smartphone use with worsening teen mental health. But as teens spend time on sites like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, they also leave digital trails that may offer signs about their mental well-being.

Experts say possible warning signs include changes in writing speed, voice quality, word choice and how often a student stays home from school.

There are more than 1,000 smartphone “biomarkers,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, which is the largest mental health research organization in the world. Insel is a leader in the smartphone psychiatry movement.

Snapchat, smartphones
An image of the Snapchat logo created with Post-it notes is seen in lower Manhattan, New York, May 18, 2016. VOA

Researchers are testing smartphone apps that use artificial intelligence, or AI, to predict depression and possible self-harm. Using smartphones as mental health detectors require permission from users to download an app, and permission could be revoked any time.

Nick Allen, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, has created an app being tested on young people who have attempted suicide. Allen says the biggest barrier is discerning the mental health crisis signals in the information on people’s phones.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States. By 2015, suicide rates among teen boys rose to 14 in every 100,000 and five in every 100,000 people, among girls. A recent study suggested a rise in smartphone use has probably worsened the crisis.

People with mental illness, Insel said, usually get treatment “when they’re in crisis and very late. … We want to have a method to identify the earliest signs.”

Smartphones
iPhones on display at an Apple store in Virginia, USA, April 4, 2016. VOA

If smartphones can become effective predictors, app developers say the goal might be to offer automated text messages and links to assistance, or digital messages to parents, doctors and first responders.

Facebook employs “proactive detection.” Last year, after a suicide was broadcast on Facebook Live, the company trained its AI systems to look for words in online posts that could predict possible self-harm. Friends’ comments expressing concern about the user’s well-being are part of that detection system.

Facebook has helped first responders quickly reach around 3,500 people in the past year. But the company did not offer followup details on those people.

Ongoing research includes a Stanford University study of about 200 teens. Many of them are at risk for depression because of bullying, family issues or other problems. Teens who have been studied since grade school get an experimental phone app that asks them questions about their mood three times a day for two weeks.

Students, smartphones
In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, a UCLA campus tour guide leads prospective college-bound high school seniors on a campus tour in Los Angeles. VOA

Laurel Foster, 15, is part of the study. Foster said she is stressed about school and friendships. Depression is common at her San Francisco high school, she said. The smartphone app felt a little like being spied on, she said, but many websites are already following users’ behaviors.

Alyssa Lizarraga, 19, is also part of the study. Lizarraga said she has had depression since high school, and worries about her heavy use of smartphones and social media. She said comparing herself with others online sometimes causes her sadness. But she believes using smartphones to identify mental health problems might help push people to seek early treatment.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers offer online counseling and an experimental phone app to students who show signs of at least minor depression on a test. It is part of a larger effort launched in 2017 by the university to battle depression in its students. About 250 UCLA students agreed to use the app during their first year.

Also Read: Depression In Girls Linked To Higher Use Of Social Media: Study

At the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus, researchers are using crowdsourcing to test their experimental phone app. Nearly 2,000 people have downloaded the app and agreed to let researchers follow typing behaviors. Alex Leow, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the university, helped develop the app.

The study is for people 18 and older, but Leow said it could also be used for children if successful.

Along with studies at universities, technology companies such as Mindstrong and Verily — the tech health division of Google — are testing their own experimental apps. (VOA)