There is a huge difference between active relaxation and passive relaxation. When we play video games, play computer games, play cards, work in the garden, walk the dog, go into a chat room, or play chess, we are interacting with the unexpected, and our minds are responding. All of these activities increase personal creativity and intellectual motivation. They are all active pursuits.
Active relaxation refreshes and restores the mind. It keeps it flexible and toned for thinking. Great thinkers have known this secret for a longtime. Winston Churchill used to paint to relax. Albert Einstein played the violin. They could relax one part of the brain while stimulating another. When they returned to workday pursuits they were fresher and sharper than ever.
Most of us try to deaden the mind in order to relax. We rent mindless videos, read pulp fiction, drink, smoke, and eat until we’re foggy and bloated. The problem with this form of relaxation is that it dulls our spirit and makes it hard to come back to consciousness.
I accidentally discovered the restorative powers of video and computer games when I played some with my then-9-year-old son Bobby. What began as a way to make him happy and spend time with him became a brain-challenging pursuit. The complexity of computer football, basketball, and hockey games now rivals chess and The New YorkTimes Sunday crossword puzzle. It requires stimulating recreational thinking.
“Thinking is the hardest work we do,” said Henry Ford, “which is why so few people ever do it.” But when we find ways to link thinking to recreation, our lives get richer. We become players in the game of life and not just spectators.