One of my guilty pleasures is a game on my iPad called Wooden Block Puzzle. It’s a lot like Tetris, only instead of the pieces falling, I get three at a time and I have to place them where I think they best fit. When the house is quiet, playing the game can be soothing and relaxing. Even better, when I really focus on the game, I can sometimes feel the must-dos and the should-dos slipping away, allowing my mind to wander and even brainstorm.
Last year I subscribed to a meditation app. I really liked it, but paying for a subscription didn’t have the impact I’d hoped for — I was using it more often simply because I’d spent money on it. It was interesting for me to discover that playing my wooden puzzle game slowly and thoughtfully could have a similarly relaxing effect.
In some ways, I like it better. Though the meditation app encouraged me to notice what I was thinking, the objective was to avoid lingering on any one thought. With the game, as I investigate options with respect to where each piece should go, my mind is free to roam, making brainstorming — whether a blog topic, a problem that needs solving, the creation of a to do list or something else entirely — a surprising and welcome side-effect.
Screen shot by Lisa Hess. All rights reserved.
Thanks to technology, I can dictate those thoughts even as I’m playing the game. By the time I set my iPad aside one morning last week, I had a rough draft of several blog posts, each dictated into my phone while I was putting the puzzle pieces into place. I also managed to come up with some article ideas that had previously eluded me completely.
Although our devices can both add to and subtract from our productivity, it’s a bit strange when they do both simultaneously. While my laptop is for both work and play, I’ll admit that my iPad is more about the games. At the end of the day when I’m ready to crash, I enjoy sitting down to play Words with Friends or move puzzle pieces into place, whether in my virtual wooden puzzle or an online Jigsaw puzzle (which I love because I can’t lose any of the pieces).
It’s a rare thing when technology actually relaxes us and inspires creative, divergent thinking instead of stress. Recognizing this side benefit of my games not only makes me feel less guilty about playing them, but also gives me a tool to use when I need to slow down my thoughts and perhaps turn them to the kind of thinking where there are no right answers and anything is possible. Thinking of my game strategically rather than simply recreationally has actually increased my interest in playing it.
Even better, it’s decreased my guilt about taking some time to myself to do something unproductive because, as it turns out, it can be productive if I want it to be.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Hess