The Zen of Solitaire

Can gaming really have the same relaxing effect as yoga?
September 14, 2011

The shavasana pose that I assume at the end of yoga class is intended to still my type-A mind, reduce stress and tension, rejuvenate my body and spirit, and hopefully, give me a chance to nourish my creative juices.

Usually it works. For the few minutes that I lie on my back, I think only of breathing cool air in and warm air out. On particularly bad hair days, I often have to pull myself back to the moment several times, but even then, by the time I recite my final om, I’m feeling calmer and more focused than when I started. Dim lights, soft music, and rhythmic breaths are powerful meds. So it was rather surprising for me to realize that I get a similar “un-buzz” when I play bright-lights-and-sound solitaire on my iPad.

I hate to admit I play as often as I do (honestly, game #913!), but 15 minutes before bed seems to clear my head a lot better than the 11 o’clock news, and on more than one occasion has given me inspiration for a current project.

Research and presentations at Sandbox Summit@MIT in May supported claims that gaming is actually good for kids (of all ages). Well-designed games help with learning (Technology, Do kids Need More or Less; Design for Fun); video games should be in schools (Learning 3.0; The Future of Learning); even how playing video games is a techno equivalent to hiding grated carrots in cookies (Vanished; A Look Ahead). But being both a skeptic and a hands-on learner, I needed to play it to prove it. Are games really good for ME?

So every night I start off with a simple game of Free Cell. An average hand takes under four minutes to play, and I win more often than lose. One win leads to two…or best in three…or just one more. In each game, I zone out a little farther. My fingers do the walking while my mind goes along for the ride. If I find myself seriously starting to care about winning, I switch to Klondike for a few more rounds. The switch in screens acts like a reminder to breathe. It brings me back to Shangri-La. By the time I’m ready to turn out the light, I’m thoroughly relaxed and my mind is cleared of the day’s debris. King on the queen. Namaste.

What games do you play to leave the day behind? And, more importantly, who can explain why technology can have the same relaxing effect as yoga? Email me at

One thing’s for sure. You can’t cheat at online solitaire.


About The Author


Brand Menu