No, we're not playing games here. Taking the time to unplug and play during your day with activities such as ping pong can result in higher quality work, and more of it. Here's how:
Play is good for our brains.
TechnologyAdvice.com conducted a study on "The Gamified Brain" found that games engage the following "happy” brain chemicals associated with positive emotions. They make us feel good when we achieve goals:
- Dopamine: The goal achieving chemical. Dopamine releases give you that sense of accomplishment when you complete a goal or a task. When you play video games, for instance, dopamine releases as you win, level up, and earn rewards.
- Endorphins: The pain-masking chemical. Our bodies naturally produce these chemicals to ward off stress and pain. They give the body a higher threshold for pain, so we can reach those hard to achieve goals.
These two chemicals are the reason why activities that trigger their production, like video games, ping pong, and exercise, are so addicting. Our bodies and brains will naturally want to feed the rush these activities provide.
Play motivates us.
As games encourage the production of dopamine, dopamine correlates with motivation. Neuroscientist John Salamone did a fascinating study where test rats were given the choice to go after two food options. One was a simple pile of food. The other was a food pile, double in size, but placed behind a small fence. To his surprise, he found that the rats with lower levels of dopamine settled for the first pile, while the rats with normal dopamine levels went for the challenge the second pile offered.
Going back to TechnologyAdvice's study, they found that "Your brain releases dopamine during challenge and achievement sequences, such as completing a level in a video game, or accomplishing a difficult task. These dopamine releases incentivize future achievement." What this means is that, in the course of play, as we "score" or complete a task, we will want to keep playing and achieve more tasks. It becomes a continuous cycle of productivity!
Play de-stresses us.
Physical play and exercise stimulate endorphin production and release. Have you ever felt a "high" after finishing a run or vigorous workout? Those are your endorphins hard at work, relieving pain and helping you push through physical challenges. Play and exercise reduce physical and emotional stress, increase your self-confidence, and fight off feelings of depression. With lower stress levels, it's easier to work through hard tasks and tap into creativity.
Play can bring us together.
Many companies who understand the importance of play are taking it a step further by setting aside dedicated time and spaces for play. Play can give employees a chance to get away from their desk - to unplug. Companies who have joined the #UnPlugNPlay movement have found that, by having a ping pong table in the office, they experience not only the psychological benefits of play, but also social and emotional benefits as well. These benefits include:
- Opportunity to interact with coworkers throughout their office that they may not normally have the opportunity to meet if they were bound to their desks all day.
- Chance to hit the "refresh" button, take a step back, and return to their desks with cleared, rested minds.
- Time to collaborate and exchange ideas within a new, relaxed environment.