Video games can be a great stress reliever, and many of us need all the help we can get, especially during the holiday season. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for mental health, so it’s important to have more options available to combat stress before it becomes a chronic problem. A new program from Xbox launching today could provide gamers with an additional tool in their stress kit.
In an Xbox Wire blog post today, Xbox announced a partnership with sleep and meditation app Calm. The collaboration brings soundscapes from two Xbox games to the Calm app. From today you can listen to the sound of waves and seabirds from sea of thieves or the ambient background noise of Infinite Haloof Zeta Halo with a Calm Premium subscription.
Neither Infinite Halo neither sea of thieves is necessarily the most relaxing experience, but listening to the sounds of nature has been shown to improve mood and promote sleep. A study found that water and bird sounds are among the most useful.
If you’re not already a Calm Premium subscriber, you can get three months free if you’re an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate member. Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can also take half off a one-year Calm Premium subscription through the program.
While natural soundscapes have been shown to benefit overall mental health, it’s important to note that the apps are not a substitute for actual mental health care. A meta-review of studies on mental health apps published in 2022 found that studies supporting their effectiveness are generally flawed, and concluded that apps provide “low to moderate benefits over none”. The evidence supporting the benefits of meditation is much more compelling, so integrating meditation apps into your life could be beneficial – as long as you’re not using them as a replacement for other mental health interventions.
Xbox’s new mental health initiatives offer more than a trial of Calm. Also starting today, Xbox players can donate Microsoft Rewards points to Crisis Text Line, The Games and Online Harassment Hotline, and mental health advocacy organization Take This. Microsoft also donates all proceeds from the sale of its armament of war “Never Fight Alone” t-shirt at Crisis Text Line, plus one percent of everyone’s earnings armament of war merchandising and games.
Throughout December, Xbox has already hosted two Twitch Takeovers – inviting guest streamers to play on the Xbox Twitch channel – and has another planned. On December 14 at 6 p.m. EST, streamer emme will play Stardew Valleyone of the most relaxing games of the moment.
Stardew Valley is also featured in a Game Pass collection highlighting games that encourage relaxation or shed light on mental health issues. Stardew Valley will be joined by other relaxing games Disney Valley of Dreams, Unpacking, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrificeand personas 5the complete opposite of chill, are included in the new collection to showcase their portrayals of mental health.
To highlight how stress and other mental health issues affect real people, the Xbox Community Blog shares stories from Xbox Ambassadors discussing their own mental health. These articles focus both on the consequences of stress and burnout and on how people have used gambling to promote their own well-being.
Kicking off Xbox’s new mental health awareness program, 343 Industries Quality of Life Program Manager Ron Brown is featured in an Xbox Wire blog post. In the post, Brown delves into her story of burnout, receives her first mental health diagnosis, and works to treat her depression. Along with highlighting how the game has helped him deal with stress and connect with other people, Brown talks about taking medication and seeing a therapist.
As tempting as it may be to look for simple solutions like playing games to relieve stress, the harder work of reaching out to professionals should also be part of the conversation. By highlighting both stress-relieving practices and the experiences of people who have dealt with deeper mental health issues, Xbox’s new effort could help at least some gamers become more open to taking their health mental more seriously.
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