Pokémon Go is sweeping the world. And the game’s positive influence on our physical and mental health is an unexpected benefit.
Some people cite the reward-style game for helping them overcome their anxiety or depression. The game has been a positive influence, encouraging people to socialise and undertake activities they struggle to achieve.
Pokémon Go has also received praise for its unique gameplay. After less than a week the 'augmented reality' game is more popular than Twitter. The Pokémon Go fad is so big it’s now normal to see people using the game’s anime-map while walking.
If you’ve been playing Pokémon Go has it inspired you to be social and active? Did it get you out of your world and help you engage with the world outside?
But what happens when the fun ends? What happens if you run out of data, battery life, or you grow tired of the game? If the shelf-life of the game is short – some reviews have been critical – and the fad passes, how do you maintain the good habits you’ve developed?
Take a moment to ‘check-in’ with yourself and evaluate the positive habits you’ve adopted while playing the game. Were you walking more than normal? Leaving the house regularly? Connecting with other people? Looking forward to the day? Feeling emotions such as satisfaction and excitement? Write a list of all the good things you achieved or experienced while playing Pokémon – it may surprise you!
If you’ve connected with other people while playing Pokémon, try to find interests you share. Stay connected by setting-up a group discussion on Facebook Messenger. What you have in common may surprise you!
Alternatively if you want to connected with people who understand the daily challenges associated with mental illness, try the SANE Forums. The forums are anonymous, moderated 24/7, and there are thousands of members who understand and relate to your experiences.
Exercise is an important way to improve your mental health. Research shows that regular exercise boosts your overall mood, helping you feel in control.
If you’ve been walking further than normal while playing Pokémon, try to maintain this positive habit by rewarding your physical activity. Similar to how Pokémon Go offers rewards, you can reward your exercise with an hour of guilt-free TV, a lollipop or an iTunes song. You can use apps like Nexercise, MapMyRun or RunKeeper to set and measure these goals.
If you live with mental illness you may struggle to find the motivation to undertake some activities. Yet, Pokémon Go has provided an indirect incentive – without knowing it the game has motivated you.
Using this logic, try replacing Pokémon Go with another game that encourages activity. Geocaching is a treasure hunt that pre-dates Pokémon Go by 16 years, alternatively Zombies, Run or Superhero Workout are fun exercise alternatives.
A hobby, no matter how big or small, will give you a sense of purpose and help you deal with stress. You’ll feel in the ‘present’ and have a great sense of pride once you’ve completed a task – you know this feeling, you’ve felt it playing Pokémon!
Depending on where you live there will be art studios, writing groups, creative therapy projects, or a Men’s Shed available in your community.
There are stories of people walking the streets late at night hunting Pokémon. This is certainly a bad habit if you’re losing sleep.
Sleep can be difficult for people affected by mental illness, as symptoms or the side-effects of medication can interfere with sleep-patterns. If you’re having troubles sleeping, try these ten tips. Or if you feel like you’re being 'pulled' towards the game we recommend using apps like Moment and Offtime that limit your smartphone use.
What we love most about Pokémon Go is the sense of community, the connectivity and the exercise people get from the game. But if you’re tiring of it, or you’ve exceeded your data limit, remember you can still maintain these good habits. Pokémon Go was your inspiration, but you were responsible for making the change.
Image courtsey of Robert Couse-Baker.