Grow up and act your age. That’s what it means to be an adult, right? Games are for kids, and putting away your toys is the first sign that you’ve finally become a real grownup. But what if we told you that just because you’re a mature adult, living your productive adult life — working, paying bills, raising a family — doesn’t mean you have to stop playing? In fact, science is increasingly proving the benefits of play at every age. So whether you’re a kid or just a kid at heart, you should read on to learn how to improve your life by having more fun!

Making Connections

Human beings are social animals. We crave connection. We hunger for acceptance and understanding. But it’s not always easy to build those nourishing kinds of relationships, especially for the estimated 15 million Americans who experience some form of social anxiety disorder. And it’s not only anxiety that can lead to social isolation — persons with disabilities, for example, may find it difficult to get out and fully engage with their communities. Even when health and access are not an issue, it may be difficult to connect with others who also live with a disability. 

Through social media, online gaming, and other digital platforms, persons with disabilities no longer have to worry about physical accessibility or geographic proximity. There are a plethora of online communities dedicated to persons with disabilities, allowing users to build friendships and have fun with peers who share similar experiences of living, overcoming, and thriving in the face of injury or illness.

Discovering the World Through New Eyes

Whether you’re gaming, exploring social media, or finding other ways to interact, both on and offline, games and media can be an awesome way to build relationships with people who share similar interests or experiences. But it gets even better. Media and games, especially role-playing games (RPGs) allow you to symbolically shed your skin step into someone else’s for a while. 

This is not only fantastic for learning empathy, but it can also help you shed your inhibitions.. You may even find yourself discovering talents, ambition, and confidence you never knew you had.You might yourself unleashing your inner storyteller or cultivating your internal gamemaster. And once you’ve found that creative, confident leadership ability inside yourself, you never know where it may take you — both in and outside of the game!

Not Just Fun and Games

In addition to making connections with others and discovering your own hidden potential, games and media can also help you confront some pretty significant challenges in your life. Consider the issue of addiction. It’s estimated that more than 2 million people in the United States have an opioid use disorder (OUD) and that 130 will die every day in the US of an opioid overdose. 

Yet, despite its prevalence, addiction continues to be highly stigmatized, which only further discourages suffers from getting help. But the beloved children’s program, Sesame Street, is looking to change that, introducing characters and storylines that introduce the topic of substance abuse to children to help end the shame, promote compassion and empathy, and support the millions of children in the US and around the world whose home lives are touched by addiction.

Gaming media are also being increasingly used to help people battling a range of challenges, from addiction to mental illness, to physical illnesses and injury. Games can help in the development or recovery of fine motor skills. They can provide people with anxiety or addiction disorders with a more productive outlet for the harmful thoughts and emotions that fuel the disorder. They can even help children and adults develop essential social and cognitive skills they need to succeed in their personal and professional lives, such as perseverance and delayed gratification.

The Takeaway

Enjoying games and media, both on and offline, aren’t just an unproductive waste of time. Having fun doesn’t mean you have to turn in your grownup card, either. In fact, when you play, you’re building skills that will benefit you throughout all areas of your life, from making connections with like-minded people who support and understand you to find inner strengths and passions you never knew you had. 

Media can help audiences of any age learn compassion and understanding, even in the most difficult of circumstances. And games can even be used to support physical, psychological, and emotional health, allowing you to purge potentially harmful emotions, enabling you to exercise your mind and body while having fun, and even teaching you valuable life lessons about risk, reward, and stick-to-itiveness. So the next time you have to choose between catching up on office paperwork or playing a game, be sure to do the grownup thing: play the game.