Unless you’ve bet money on your opponents, I don’t think anyone enters a game looking to lose. We all want to come out on top. Winning just feels good! Well, it turns out that winning is also actually good for your health. Listen, we’re always taught to be a good loser, and that’s definitely true. Take your wins and losses in stride. But next time you win, realize you might actually be doing something beneficial for your health.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we’re taking a look at the benefits of coming out on top.
We all know the positive effects of playing analog games. They give us face-to-face time with other people, make us think in creative and strategic ways, teach us to wait for our turn, and sometimes to work cooperatively. We extoll the virtues of being able to learn something from losing, to take a defeat graciously, and strive to do better next time. But we rarely talk about how good it can be to actually win a game.
There are the obvious benefits, such as the satisfaction of executing a plan well, the relief that you had the lucky rolls, and the pure giddiness of coming out on top. However, scientists think that winning can have an even deeper effect than that. ‘The Winner Effect’ is an idea in biology that states when a living creature (human, bear, snake, and so on) wins some sort of competition, a certain amount of testosterone and dopamine are released. Over time, this can result in an increase in overall intelligence.
Scientists tested the levels of testosterone in athletes before and after winning matches and found that they had an increased level of the chemical in their bodies. However, those are relatively physical sports and could result in increased levels based on the activity itself. They also tested Chess players in a tournament setting. Again, the results supported that a victory resulted in an increase in testosterone.
Dopamine is a natural chemical that is often most associated with pleasure. When we’re doing something we love, like eating our favorite food, listening to a great song, or laughing at a hilarious joke, chances are we have an increase in dopamine flowing through our body. The same can be said when we win a game. You’ve heard of the term ‘The Thrill of Victory.’ That is mainly attributed to extra dopamine and testosterone in the system. Likewise, scientists have found a decreased level of dopamine and testosterone in people when they experience a loss, or in other words: ‘The agony of defeat.’
One of the major effects of competition on the brain is an internal evaluation. For better or worse, we can perceive ourselves and our value based on that evaluation. The better we perceive we’ve done in a competition, the better the esteem we are likely to have. That is not to say that losing has to have a negative effect on esteem (I lose all the time, but it doesn’t make me feel bad about myself), but it can certainly be beneficial to our own self-perception to win.
Too much of anything, of course, can be a bad thing. If we start to perceive we can’t lose, it will make those inevitable losses that much harder to take. Still, when you need a boost to your self-esteem, there’s nothing like winning a tight strategy game.
Winning a game should never be the reason we play. Play for the company, the experience, and/or the strategic puzzle you’re trying to solve. More than anything, you should play for the fun. If you approach a game with the goal of enjoying the experience for what it is rather than the prospect of winning, you’ll have a lot more fun. All that being said, you can recognize the positive health benefits that come from winning a game and enjoy them on a slightly different level next time you take home a victory.
We want to hear from you. Reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday and tell us the stories of your glorious victories and crushing defeats!