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Pause: Daily Mindfulness

Pause: Daily Mindfulness is a free self-help app that provides many mindfulness techniques that are best suited to the user.

Pause teaches techniques such as:

  • Finger Tai Chi helps you rest and recharge with mindful finger movements.
  • Mindful Walking, use walking to help with your mental health.
  • Breath will teach the user some breathing techniques using “belly breathing”.
  • Flow Timer, a mindful timer for meditation and work
  • Sleep, drift off to sleep with a mindful tapping exercise.
  • Lets Go discover your inner freedom
  • Resonance lets you play with singing bowls and create sand mandalas.

We believe this app can be really helpful to aid those who may need to learn mindfulness or practice mindfulness to relax and destress, the app is easy to download, simple to use and provides a very unique design to help aid the relaxation with its excellent sound, music and look.

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Unpacking Is An Unexpected Delight That Makes Me Feel At Home by Richard Breslin

Shortly before its release on Xbox Game Pass, I had seen the thumbnail for a game called “Unpacking.” The name of the game didn’t draw me much too it, but I remember having a feeling of warmth appreciating the artwork. Then I thought to myself, can a game called “Unpacking” really have much to it? Surely there must be more than just unpacking, right? 

Well, I was wrong. Kind of. Sure, the main emphasis in Unpacking is to unpack. Yet in this simple concept, I discovered there’s far more to this game, at least on a personal level. Unpacking, as you can guess, is about unpacking (shocking, I know). Upon reaching the main menu, I already had a sense of calmness. The ease of the 16-bit era soundtrack and the equally nostalgic pixel art. Instantly I felt a level of comfort before the game had really begun. 

 

The game has a subtle story, which progresses moving from house to house in various stages of life. It also has a visual form of storytelling instigated by your yearbook which is essentially chapters split into generations. You’ll also notice little pop culture references that might spark a personal heart-warming memory of yesteryear. 

Once you begin the story of Unpacking, you start in a small bedroom. Unpacking a few simple boxes and placing them in the relevant places of your room. There is also no time limit to Unpacking, so you play the game at your own pace in what is one of the most pressure-free games I’ve ever played. You’ll casually unpack box after box and before you know it, you’ll be laying out the bedroom just how you want it. A teddy on the bed, a picture frame on the wall and a handheld gaming device on your bedside desk. 

I didn’t realise it initially, but I had unknowingly become immersed in this simple, yet wonderful and charming puzzle game. I felt intrigued to progress to the next page in the yearbook, wondering what delights I would have to unpack and furnish my digital home. I had a constant feeling of warmness, ease, and satisfaction that I’ve never really felt in any other video game before. 

But what was it about Unpacking that made me feel so at home? Was it the charming, pixelated visuals and soundtrack? Was it the calming approach to puzzle-solving? Perhaps it was that inner satisfaction of placing items in my digital home exactly where I wanted them to be? In truth, it was all the above and then some. There’s something special about Unpacking that I can’t quite pinpoint, but I can’t stop thinking about it. 

As well as being on Xbox, Unpacking is also available on PC and Nintendo Switch. Living with autism, there are so many things that can make me feel instantly overwhelmed and sometimes things can get unexpectedly too much. I often take my Nintendo Switch on my travels, just in case I feel overly anxious. When feeling overwhelmed, the Switch is a device that can help calm me down. 

Should you ever choose to play this delightful indie game, you’ll find your own reasoning as to why you’ve fallen for this wonderful experience. And in an odd kind of what, Unpacking is just that, it’s a wonderful experience. Whatever it may be, if you want a game to chill out to and just relax doing the simple things, Unpacking might just be the game for you. So, if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, please check out this simple, yet unique indie darling. Because Unpacking just might be the perfect game to make me feel at home. 

Skills utilised:
News

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 allows players to fly some of the most notable aircraft from around the world in a complete photo-realistic representation of Earth. Whether you’re a casual flyer who is looking for some time in the clouds to find your own home, or a hardcore simulator player who wants that true to life pilot experience, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has you covered.

This game might just be one of the most relaxing games up there (no pun intended). With the ability to fly to absolutely any location around the world, you can visit the Pyramids, explore some of the most tropical beaches in the world, or visit famous city landmarks. You can really turn this game into your experience and with live traffic and a live weather mode, you can experience what’s going on in the world right from your own home.

You can truly lose yourself in just flying from point A to B. We recommend sticking Spotify on in the background with our Safe In Our World playlists for an extra surreal experience.

Features:

  • Whether you want a casual fly or the true pilot experience, you choose your path
  • Fly to absolutely anywhere in the world, even your own home
  • Relax and watch the world go by, chase storms or just admire the forces of nature

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Mindfulness and Gaming: Unlikely but Wonderful Companions by Ben Huxley

Mindfulness isn’t synonymous with meditation; with sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath, or chanting a mantra. They are good ways to practice, but mindfulness as a whole is more than that.

It is a means of living all aspects of your life with more clarity and awareness. According to the NHS website, mindfulness means “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.” This awareness can transform our relationship with our daily activities quite profoundly; from washing the dishes, to the long commute to work, to the time we spend playing video games.

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness – our lives set to autopilot, going through the motions (or lack thereof) while we worry about tomorrow or ruminate on yesterday’s embarrassing conversation. In this state, we give little attention to what is in front of us. The following scenario may sound familiar: you arrive home, head swimming with worries and regrets. You decide to play a game, and sit down with the aim of having a distracting, fun, challenging, or satisfying time. Yet none of those words describe your experience. Perhaps you keep losing, over and over again, in the same way, as your teeth grit. Or maybe you find yourself on a long and boring side quest, becoming restless and bored at the lack of stimulation. There’s even a chance that you’ll finish gaming, get into bed, and have very little memory of what just occurred.

The blank in your memory can be explained quite easily. It’s because you weren’t really there; you were in your head the entire time, captured by thought. It happens in other activities too. How often do you read a page (or three) of a book, before realising that you haven’t actually been reading at all? Or put on a song, hoping to be soothed by the lyrics, rhythm, and melody – only to realise the song has finished and you weren’t listening? This isn’t to shame my fellow daydreamers (if it’s any consolation, I’m sure I read somewhere that it’s a sign of intelligence), but to let you know that with mindfulness we can avoid being hijacked against our will, and only have a good long think when we want to – on our terms.

It’s hard to express this without sounding hackneyed, but for many of us gaming is more than a hobby. It’s time with our favourite characters, in our favourite worlds, with stories, music, and art that touch the heart. It’s also friendship, community, escape, distraction, challenge, and fulfilment. Are there any better reasons to be more present and mindful as we game?

There are, in fact, some games that encourage us to be mindful. 2018’s Celeste is one such game. Celeste actively encourages us to fail in order to learn. It differs from the norm, where dying feels like punishment. In a meta sort of way, the game encourages us to take deep breaths and visualise a feather floating on our exhalations when the pressure gets too much. This is because the protagonist – Madeline – suffers from panic attacks, and a side character teaches her this technique to deal with them. It encourages us to stop, think, and evaluate the situation, rather than diving in for the hundredth time to do exactly the same thing. Celeste is a tricky game, too, so playing mindlessly isn’t an option. The gameplay is simple; run, jump, dash, climb – but timing and precision are everything.

We shouldn’t reserve our presence of mind for tricky games like Celeste, however. If we want to truly appreciate the game in front of us – be it a battle royale or a visual novel – we should always aim to be present. When we’re on autopilot, we’ll find ourselves making the same mistakes again and again. We also find ourselves missing out on the potential beauty in front of us.

Much like missing a song or skipping the pages of a book, it’s easy to zone out during a particularly easy, or “boring”, part of a game. Perhaps you’re grinding in an RPG, hacking away at unchallenging monsters as a means to an end – telling yourself you’ll enjoy this game as soon as you’ve reached level fifty. Or maybe you’re partaking in a side quest in which you have to walk for an hour to, say, deliver a package to the next town. You grow impatient waiting for the fun to return, and eventually zone out and return to autopilot. The game doesn’t require your full attention, anyway.

In zoning out, however – be that daydreaming or having one eye on social media – we’re arguably missing the best parts of the game. Isn’t the whole point of an RPG to increase and develop the stats of your character? If you find yourself grinding in a laborious and repetitive manner, ask yourself if there’s a more interesting way to do this. Are there tougher enemies that, realistically, you could face? Or are you focusing solely on strength, when there may be a more interesting stat to work on? When we stop and think, better options become available – the easy choice is rarely the most fulfilling.

There is a lot to be said for “boring side quests”, too. Hideo Kojima’s mind-bending Death Stranding has been branded a “walking simulator” by players and critics alike. The protagonist is a deliveryman in a post-apocalyptic America, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s little action and an abundance of travel – but this isn’t a bad thing. Walking or driving from A to B in Death Stranding can be an exhilarating experience if we remain focused, aware, and appreciative. The developers have done a fantastic job of creating such a world, and with this in mind as we play, so much more beauty and awe is revealed to us. I noticed that a lot of the game’s scenery reminded me of the Snowdonia mountains in North Wales, where I often walked in my youth. I know that this nostalgic revelation wouldn’t have come to me if I hadn’t been fully immersed in the game.

Boredom is an emotion that we have to catch first, however, before we realise it’s colouring our experience. The same can be said of stress and frustration. There will be times in which we have these emotions before we boot up a game, and our session is negatively affected. Mindfulness can help with this, too. If we realise that we’re bored or restless before we start a long and eventless walk in a game, we can note and acknowledge this – we can ask ourselves if the game is truly boring, or are we projecting our boredom? The same can be said of stress and frustration. Is it really such a straining game, or was there already a build-up of pressure in your chest?

When we train ourselves to be mindful, it flows into every aspect of our lives. Not only does it bring clarity to experiencing games, but also to our reading habits, appreciating music, commuting to work, washing the dishes, conversing with loved ones, managing your money, studying, exercising. When we’re more mindful – when we’re out of our heads and experiencing the present as fully as possible – we find beauty and joy in the most unexpected of places. It can be a challenging enterprise, but there are few things more worthwhile.


Ben’s Muckrack

Ben is a freelance writer based in North Wales. He believes games are one of the most important and undervalued art forms, and aims to share their value to as many people as possible.

 

Skills utilised:
News

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