Wasting Time... The Old-Fashioned Way

Chapter 67 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan:

RESEARCHERS PUT SOME RATS in plain cages, each one alone. Then they put some rats in bigger cages with other rats and toys to play with. The ones in the "enriched environment" grew smarter (they learned mazes faster). And when the researchers cut open their brains, they found that the rats in the enriched environment had bigger and heavier brains because they had more dendrites (connections between brain cells).

Mental ability for rats as well as people doesn't depend on the number of brain cells, but on the number of connections between those brain cells. And the stimulation of play increases the number of connections.

To refine their understanding, researchers then put some rats in an enriched environment and some other rats in a position so they could watch the rats in the enriched environment. What they found is revealing: The ones who watched didn't get any smarter and their brains grew no bigger.

Preliminary studies on people are finding the same thing: Something about playing games increases brain power. But watching people play games doesn't do it.

And playing games usually gets you face to face with people, talking to them. We are social creatures, and we are healthier and happier when we have enough enjoyable social contact. Passive entertainment like television doesn't encourage much interaction. The television programmers and the people who design the commercials don't want you to turn away from your TV and talk to your spouse. You might miss a commercial. So they try to keep it as lively and appealing as possible. The end result is people can "be together" for hours on end without talking to each other. This doesn't satisfy our need for sociability.

So...playing games can increase the connections between brains cells and between people.

But we all know games are a waste of time. The problem is, we do waste our time. We watch TV and movies. We waste hours. Apparently we have a need to waste time, or at least to spend time doing something other than working, even when our work is enjoyable.

Since passive entertainment like watching TV doesn't seem to enrich our minds and playing games does, here's the bottom line: Games are a better waste of time than TV or movies.


Here are two tips for replacing some of your TV time with games:

1. Mix it up. Different games require different skills. Your partners will be good at some, lousy at others. Mix it up and you won't win or lose all the time and you'll get better in areas in which you are now weak.

2. Play games you think are fun. The games that are likely to do you the most good are the ones you think are fun. If chess isn't fun for you, regardless of its stature in the gleaming world of the sophisticated set, don't start there. Be guided by one criterion: Fun.

YOU DON'T NEED to find games that stretch your mind. You don't need to make a game "do you some good."As long as you're having fun, it is doing you some good. The benefit is in the fun. If you're concentrating too hard on trying to do something good for yourself, it won't be as much fun, so it won't be as good for you.

So relax and enjoy yourself. Replace some of your TV time with game playing, and you'll be better off.

Replace some of your TV time with game playing.


Would you like to turn your job into a spiritual discipline? Check out:
Getting Paid to Meditate

Do you feel overwhelmed with things to do? Do you constantly feel that you don't have enough time? Check out:
Having the Time

Dale Carnegie, who wrote the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, left a chapter out of his book. Find out what he meant to say but didn't about people you cannot win over:
The Bad Apples

An extremely important thing to keep in mind is that judging people will harm you. Learn here how to prevent yourself from making this all-too-human mistake:
Here Comes the Judge

The art of controlling the meanings you're making is an important skill to master. It will literally determine the quality of your life. Read more about it in:
Master the Art of Making Meaning

next: Taking Credit

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 13). Wasting Time... The Old-Fashioned Way, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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