Lock Yourself In, Lock Reality Out
Written by: The Bat
The door locks behind you, trapping you in! The world will end unless you can escape and save it! And you cannot escape unless you can focus and solve a series of puzzles, getting harder and harder as you go! Does that sound like a stress-relieving escape from reality?
Dragon: Kinda sounds like a video game with exercise…
Actually, it can be! While I have talked about how horror-themed activities can help you escape reality and let off steam, escape rooms have some of the same qualities. Their immersive nature combined with challenging puzzles for you to triumph over can make for the perfect escape while escaping (forgive the play on words, it was too good to miss). They also have the benefit of being timed, allowing you to remember that you are safe and can return to your regularly scheduled reality when the timer runs out.
Escape to Another World
Every escape room website brags about how immersive they are. And, if they build with enough detail and remove all distractions, most escape rooms can deliver. The props and set, as well as a decent storyline, can put you in a situation different from your current reality.
Of course, it does help them out a bit if you choose a theme that is different from any you may currently find yourself in. An overstressed office worker, for example, may not want to choose an escape room that takes place in an office, even if that office is besieged by government agents. The coffee cups and copiers may still remind you too much of work.
Dragon: Just make sure there’s a red Swingline!
But pick an escape from a pirate ship, for example, or an insane asylum, and you will be transported to a completely different world for an hour or more.
Dragon: If only I was allowed to bring my cutlass… It even works as an insane person!
Escape Rooms are Good for the Mind
Now I am not only talking about making you smarter. Of course, solving puzzles is a good mind exercise, but playing just one escape room will not inherently make you smarter. That is like living on pizza and video games, and then saying working out once makes you healthy. Now if you play a lot of escape rooms, it could eventually help out. Your mind will become accustomed to searching, remembering and solving, all good things.
There is a more short-term benefit to escape rooms, however, and that is in the mental health aspect. Each time you complete a challenge or solve a puzzle, a small amount of dopamine is released into the brain. This is a chemical that makes you feel satisfaction, motivation, and pleasure. So an entire hour full of little infusions of dopamine will make you leave feeling happy and motivated to face your life with a new outlook.
There is also the feeling of triumph you feel when conquering an escape room. If you have the right outlook, you can even feel this when you lose. Just remember the puzzles you did solve, the discoveries you made, and the contributions you gave to the group. You can be proud of your brain!
You did something you don’t normally do today, and you shone! Now you can handle anything!
Escape Rooms are Safe Places to Handle Stress
The premise of an escape room is a bit stressful, and the storyline is made to enhance the feeling of urgency. This can pump people up, make them excited to get started and succeed! It releases endorphins, which can make you happy during and after the experience.
Stress isn’t usually pleasurable. The difference here is that you are experiencing stress in a safe, consequence-free situation. The timer can be seen as being there not to make your stress worse, but to remind you that it is all entirely temporary. The world is not really going to explode if you don’t disarm the fake bomb in under an hour, but the host will come let you out of the room.
Dragon: Those M&Ms seem to insist that is what happens… Hmm, I wonder if there’s an escape room based on that.
How much or how little stress you want to feel is entirely determined by how seriously you want to take the experience. You have to find your own happy place where you can care about solving the room because you want to win. You can allow yourself to feel a small amount of stress, but much less than your real stresses because this one will only be there for a small amount of time. And while feeling the tension, realize the most important lesson. You can handle it! You can do this! Then take that feeling with you when the hour is up!
Dragon: I am disappointed there wasn’t a stress-free pun… I mean come on! You say Escape Rooms cause stress and the goal is to go free… stress-free!