[Today’s post is brought to us by guest bloggers, Edwina Picon and Clare Lochary, two of the people involved in the Sheridan Libraries student wellness initiatives. To reach them, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org].
Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic affected operations at Johns Hopkins, the Sheridan Libraries inaugurated a Wellness Station in the Brody Learning Commons (BLC) atrium to support student wellness. Designed to complement and to highlight other university resources, the games and web pages displayed our efforts to support your mental and physical wellness. The “Rainbow Nimbus” cloud, an art installation that responds to sound, was installed above the Wellness Station to coincide with the launch of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) application SilverCloud.
Since we’re all doing our part to flatten the curve, which means staying off campus and out of gathering places like the BLC, it’s impossible for students to interact with the physical Wellness Station or the Rainbow Nimbus in the way we originally imagined. So we’re trying to do the next best thing: we’ve compiled a list of online versions of the games and resources that are normally available at the Wellness Station.
Many of you are facing significant challenges right now that cannot be addressed by a webpage, a video game, or an online resource. There are many serious issues going on in our world right now and we do not wish to claim that the virtual Wellness Station described in this blog post can even begin to address these challenges or their repercussions. However, the Wellness Station was designed with small interventions in mind: little breaks from stress, moments of calm connection, and short-term relief.
Our hope is that these virtual resources may be helpful or useful to you as you cope with the current situation. Many of the games listed below have positive mood benefits after only a few minutes of play and can help reduce rumination and anxiety.
These aren’t solutions or short-cuts for the difficult journey you are on, but we hope that they might provide some solace and comfort along the way. If you need more than a small intervention, please check out the mental health resources at wellness.jhu.edu or reach out to someone on this emergency contact list.
Edwina Picon, A&S ‘16, Sheridan Libraries Digital Research and Curation Center
Clare Lochary, Johns Hopkins Office of Student Health and Well-Being
Games with Research Evidence
You might be familiar with the game Sushi Cat, but did you know that playing this pachinko-style puzzle game for just a few minutes can decrease worry and increase mood and your level of engagement in other tasks? You can learn more about the positive effects of this sushi-eating feline game by reading the research evidence.
Here are some other wellness resources and games that can help you to destress or reduce anxiety. Bejeweled is clinically shown to reduce stress and decrease withdrawal and depressive type behaviors.
Russoniello, C. V., O’Brien, K., & Parks, J. M. (2009). The effectiveness of casual video games in improving mood and decreasing stress. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 2(1), 53-66.
Do you have writer’s block? Wish you could take a walk around the block to stop thinking about your worries? Or just feel blocked up staying inside all day? Maybe you should give Tetris a play! According to researchers, Tetris was found to weaken cravings for a wide range of addictive and everyday substances and activities. It was also found to block the development of distressing intrusive images.
Need to calm your breathing? Flowy is a simple game in which you steer a ship through obstacles to collect coins while practicing controlled breathing with a cute cloud to fill the sails. According to researchers, Flowy produced measurable decreases in anxiety and panic symptoms. After only 90 seconds of play, you can feel relaxed and more centred, ready to take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
Building resilience—the ability to stay optimistic, curious, motivated, and connected to others even in the face of an extreme challenge—improves health outcomes of all kinds. According to research, SuperBetter is an app that helps you build social, mental, and emotional resilience.
Wellness Station Games
Based on anonymous usage statistics from the first days of its installation, we’ve ranked the games from the Wellness Station based on their popularity with JHU students:
Blek – A simple, entertaining, open-ended experience with singular game mechanics and deep, bauhaus-informed design.
Mini Metro – A strategy simulation game about designing a subway map for a growing city.
Mekorama – A puzzle game where you help a tiny robot stumble home.
Frost – “A tender salute to life. An emotional journey through a dreamlike space.”
Shadowmatic – An imagination stirring puzzle where you rotate abstract objects in a spotlight to find recognizable silhouettes in projected shadows, relevant to the surrounding environment.
Fluid – A beautiful and mesmerizing fluid simulator that can be modified however you please!
12 Orbits is the featured multiplayer game on the Wellness Station, allowing up to 12 people to play at once. Rounds take about 5 minutes each. Friendly, competitive and a little chaotic. Simple enough to quickly teach a group how to play it, but varied and deep enough to keep them entertained for a long time.
Olo – Similar to shuffleboard, get as many of your OLOs into your target zone. If you overshoot, the opponent steals your OLO.Simple, minimalist multiplayer game with a beautiful soundscape. Great balance of strategy and fun.
Circle Soiree – Everyone gathers around the tablet, and places their finger in a circle. When the circles start to move, the game is on! Everyone needs to keep their finger in their circle as long as possible! Players must keep their fingers in the circles as long as possible, this means they have to climb over and under each other, as well as keep moving all the way around the tablet. (Fun fact: this game was made by graduates of MICA!)
In the virtual cloud, there are other games you can play with your friends and even through meetups.
Kindness, Empathy, and Meditation Games
Kind Words – If you are interested in practicing or receiving random acts of kindness, consider this game about writing nice letters to real people. In Kind Words, players anonymously write out their concerns and sorrows by making short requests for letters.Then, anyone can respond to the requests with letters of comfort, sympathy or gentle advice. Kind Words is a positive context; a warm, cozy mood. A place to feel centered and focused on the opportunity presented: use your words to lift others and be lifted in return. Sometimes all you need are a few kind words.
Empathy Bottles – This experience allows people to throw and catch bottles filled with humanity. Read strange and beautiful human thoughts, personal histories, and share all things that you keep deep in your heart.This app was inspired by the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) methodology.
Playne – Playne is designed to help reduce stress, increase well-being and to promote personal growth by helping you build a habit of mindfulness. Designed to encourage you to meditate daily, your consistency powers the gameplay. It is a gentle game world which responds to your mindfulness practice.
Meditation Game – Meditation Game is an interactive experience that helps you relax and get into a more meditative state. It introduces meditation to those who haven’t tried it before and helps those who want to practice meditation but at times find it too hard to close their eyes and just sit quiet. More experienced meditators can use it as another form of walking meditation, where you use the experience of walking as your focus.The game is completely free and always will be.
Wysa – Looking for a cute penguin buddy to help you self-care and regulate your mood? Try Wysa: stress, depression & anxiety therapy chatbot! Imagine a mood tracker, mindfulness coach, anxiety helper, and mood-boosting buddy, all rolled into one. Wysa is packed with daily spiritual meditation and is always there for you when you need someone to talk to. Wysa helps you keep track of your mood with friendly chats and check-ins and helps fight stress and anxiety with its proven techniques and calming meditation and mindfulness audios.
Okay? – Clear the screen by launching a small ball, simple physics make for a very interesting game. The instruments, the layout, and the planning is what makes this game unique to the others. It is calm yet engaging.
Walden, A Game – is a first-person simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. Players follow in Thoreau’s virtual footsteps, balancing their basic survival needs with a search for the sublime in the small beauties of the woods. Each season holds its own challenges for survival, but with them, possibilities for inspiration.
Counseling Center Workshops
The counselling center is offering Zoom workshops to all Hopkins students (not just Homewood!) on a variety of mental health topics, including mindfulness, stress management and healthy wellness topics. The list of workshops and days/times can be found on their social media and here’s a direct link to their post. More information about their workshops can be found on their website (www.jhu.edu/counselingcenter) or students can go directly here to register.
Counseling Center Virtual Discussion Spaces
In this time of physical distancing, it can feel isolating to be removed from our typical school, work and social environments. n an effort to build community and connection, the Counseling Center will be hosting several online spaces to allow students to gather, share emotions and feelings, and discuss tips for coping. These virtual discussion spaces will take place through Zoom and there will be space for approximately 15 participants so that everyone can feel heard and supported. Check out the current schedule here.
* NOTE ABOUT ELIGIBILITY: Students do not need to be clients of the Counseling Center to join these virtual discussion spaces. These discussions are open to students on the Homewood and Peabody campus. Students living anywhere, whether in Maryland, in the US or in another country, may join the discussion.
These discussion spaces are not a substitute for mental health treatment; anyone seeking treatment or referrals, please call the Counseling Center at 410-516-8278 and leave a message.
Rainbow Nimbus Clouds
Finally, we have created a video clip of the rainbow nimbus clouds hanging in the BLC. Feel free to look at it whenever you’re feeling a little cloudy or like you need some rainbow in your life.
Please feel free to download the cloud video and add/remix your own soundtrack! If you’re willing to share we’d love to showcase your creativity – please email email@example.com to be featured on the next blog post.