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Playing Stardew Valley is the Ultimate Gaming Experience for Positive Mental Health

A year or even a few months ago, I never would have played a PC game for self-care — and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to spend my nights and weekends holed up in my home office. As a freelance writer who works from home, I already spend most of my days on a computer, and I usually cringe at the thought of spending additional time hunched over my keyboard and mouse. Until I started playing Stardew Valley, that is.

Stardew Valley: The Basics

If you’re unfamiliar with Stardew Valley or video games in general, let’s start with the basics: Stardew Valley is a farming simulation game that allows you to convert overgrown fields into your dream farmland. You can grow seasonal crops such as kale, parsnips, hops, and bok choy; raise chickens, ducks, cows, and goats; and even craft items like bee houses, preserved jars, and kegs. You’re essentially living off the land in a fictional village called Pelican Town.

For me, buying, planting, growing, and selling crops is the most fulfilling part of the game. But you can also befriend fellow townsfolk, head to the local saloon, and get married if you wish. You can fish for salmon, pike, tuna, and trout; explore the local mines; forage for berries, seeds, flowers, and shells; and live the country life you had no idea you longed for.

I play Stardew Valley on my desktop computer — the same one I work on daily — but the game is also available for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Android or iOS devices. You can even play it online with a friend.

Gaming is for Anyone and Everyone

Let me set something straight: I am not a gamer, nor have I ever identified as someone who plays a lot of video games. I grew up in the 90s watching my dad play the original Doom on his computer when I’d pretend I couldn’t sleep or had a bad dream so I could stay up with him after my mom headed to work in the evening.

My brother and I spent many hours playing Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo before upgrading to the Nintendo 64 and playing games like Beetle Adventure Racing, WWF War Zone, and Diddy Kong Racing. I played a lot of PC games in elementary school and junior high, including Travelrama USA, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and The Sims.

Once I became interested in boys, I dropped my gaming hobby and traded it in for clothing, makeup, AOL Instant Messenger, and Myspace. Of course, I now realize that as a woman, I can play video games and still enjoy wearing mascara and a floral dress — but society often finds ways of reminding us how gaming is dominated by men. For this reason, I missed out on many years of gaming: Something that could’ve done wonders for my mental health during periods of chronic stress.

Stardew Valley is the Self-Care Activity I Didn’t Know I Needed

These days, self-care is my top priority. Stress has been my biggest enemy over the past few years, ever since my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, and a year later, I was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer.

My mom and I are both healthy today, but the constant stress and worry that came along with our diagnoses took a real toll on my mental and emotional well-being. And since I identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP), stress tends to affect me more deeply than it would for someone without the HSP personality trait.

That said, I’ve been a huge proponent of self-care over the past few years, especially throughout the pandemic. I usually read psychological thrillers, watch shows like Ozark and You, complete jigsaw puzzles, and ride a stationary bike for self-care — and I occasionally play games on the Nintendo Switch or PS5 with my husband and our friends. However, the latter isn’t really my idea of self-care: It’s more of a social activity I can only handle in small doses.

As a highly sensitive introvert, some games and activities overstimulate me and leave me feeling drained, which is partly why I prefer single-player games that are calmer, quieter, and lower in action and violence. I like to play at my own pace and be alone in my thoughts, which may sound antisocial when it’s really just a part of who I am. It’s how I recharge and recover from the overstimulation of daily life. I like to think before I make decisions, and I can’t think clearly if I know other people are waiting on me to make a move.

I genuinely believe my high sensitivity kept me from playing other video games over the years (even single-player games) because I’d assumed they’d overstimulate and exhaust me — or I wouldn’t be any good at them. It turns out I was simply playing the wrong games and had no idea there were other options for those who craved something calmer and more relaxed.

Now that I’m officially hooked on Stardew Valley and have personally reaped the mental health benefits of playing the game, I’m looking forward to exploring more single-player games in the future. I know it will do wonders for my mental and emotional health.

In Conclusion

Whichever gender and personality type you identify as give video games a try if you’re looking to boost your mental health and integrate more self-care activities into your daily life. Video games like Stardew Valley can teach us quite a bit about self-care, as they give us a chance to relax our minds and bodies while still doing something that requires a bit of brain power. Stardew Valley is both peaceful and fulfilling, which is the perfect combination for HSPs who enjoy their alone time.

I installed Stardew Valley on my computer nearly a year before I finally started playing it, and I only wish I had given it a shot a lot sooner. Stardew Valley makes me feel as if I can accomplish things in life, even on the days when I’m feeling too lazy or drained to clean the house or do laundry. And it helps to remind me that I am in control of my life.


About the Author: Alexandra Beane is a Minneapolis-based freelance health writer and the owner of Well From Within, a ghostwriting and blogging boutique for health and wellness business owners. She is a proud introvert (INFJ), highly sensitive person, empath, and Lyme Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis warrior. Check out Alexandra’s blog at bewellfromwithin.com/blog.

The author has no affiliations with Stardew Valley or its developers. While playing video games can be a fun pastime with some potential benefits, there are also health risks associated with too much gaming. Some mental health professionals believe that video game addiction is a real and serious problem for many people. Resources to Recover and its sponsor Laurel House, Inc., do not endorse Stardew Valley for mental health. If you believe that you or someone you know may have an addiction to video gaming, it is best to seek advice from a qualified mental health professional.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.


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