What if I told you that you could practically justify your hobbies? That you could while away the hours exploring virtual worlds and placing pulse-pounding bets with a veneer of pragmatism? The next time someone says you’re wasting your life indulging in frivolities, you could send them to this article and give them pause for thought. And the best part about it is that every point we cover here is going to be legitimate.

After all, it’s absolutely true that gaming and gambling can improve your mind, making you better equipped to devise strategies, rapidly react to emerging events, and deal with the general demands of everyday life. Let’s take a look at five notable mental benefits of these hobbies:

They can build up leadership skills

Most people certainly wouldn’t expect this one. Here’s the thing about high-intensity video games, particularly those with multiplayer components: they require a lot of organization. Teams need to be brought together, roles need to be allocated, commands need to be issued, and morale needs to be maintained (otherwise, when you start to lose, you might see people quit).

Gambling, meanwhile, has a different kind of effect. It isn’t a team event, but when you start playing with high stakes, you’re in a position that isn’t dissimilar to that of a business owner — make the wrong decision, and you could lose everything. Leaders need to be cool, calm, and collected, and so do gamblers.

They can subdue other cravings

We all have our vices. Maybe you have a stubborn Twix addiction, or a ten-per-day energy drink habit, or something considerably darker. Regardless of the specifics, you’re stuck in a loop of craving something, getting it, and feeling ashamed. It’s tough to break that loop, but you can do it with a substitute. Enter gaming. Games work through feedback loops: you face a challenge, overcome it, ideally get a dopamine hit, and repeat the process.

The difference is that it isn’t anywhere near as harmful. Gambling is a tougher one, because it can be extremely harmful, but it’s entirely legitimate as a substitute if it’s used with certain parameters established: for instance, playing with very little money, or playing with no money at all. Simply making some bets with no money on the line can be quite satisfying, with a win still giving you that positive feeling.

They can improve your reaction times

Being pushed to make rapid-fire calculations will inevitably improve your ability to react quickly. Sure, not all video games will tax you in that way, and perhaps even fewer casino games will (if you’re going to be a gambler, you must disabuse yourself of certain irrational notions — e.g. the common myths about roulette, a game that is fundamentally unpredictable), but plenty will require you to be tactical and deploy a wide range of troubleshooting skills.

The more you play fast-twitch video games like MOBAs and pressure-laden card games like poker, the more accustomed you’ll become to making smart decisions in a pinch. Soon enough, you’ll find that you’re performing at a level you couldn’t previously have achieved, and the immense crossover with every other aspect of your life will be a delightful bonus.

They can help you see better

Yes, all those adults who told you that staring at the TV would damage your eyes weren’t quite correct. While there’s some truth to the possible damage, it’s quite overstated. More importantly, committing your attention to following and mentally parsing fast-paced action doesn’t make your eyes worse — it makes them stronger. Better at spotting small movements and subtle gradations, at least.

It’s good to be observant. It can help in almost any situation: you could spot the precursors to a bar fight and get out ahead of time, or spy that you left the oven on just before you leave the house. And depending on your job, it might help there too. So if you want to make your sight better, play some games, or spend some time looking for tells at a casino table. It’ll help.

They can boost your mood

The mind is a complex thing, with performance that fluctuates wildly for various reasons. One of them is mood. The worse your mood, the more distracted you’ll be, and the more you’ll struggle to live up to your mental potential. That’s why you need to take care of how you feel, and why it’s so often stressed that physical health is essential for mental health.

And here’s the simple truth: gaming is fun, and gambling is fun, and that’s enough to make a difference. All the elements involved — strategy, despair, hope, overcoming the odds — add up to satisfying experiences that leave you with good memories and the desire to keep coming back. Provided you can pursue these hobbies without becoming addicted, they can be extremely healthy additions to your life.

So there you have it: five reasons why gaming and gambling can improve your mind. Use them well, and you’ll feel better, see better, react faster, become a better leader, and even find it easier to put down those potato chips.