As October 10th was the WHO’s World Mental Health Awareness day I was prompted to shine a light on the positive aspects of Pokémon GO with respect to peoples general well-being and more specifically their mental health.
Any article on mental health, and health in general for that matter, will be a difficult one to write as these are thorny topics which are tough to talk openly about, even today with an increased focus on mental well-being. There is also the issue that articles like this can never, and should never, replace proper diagnosis and treatment from health care professionals.
With all that in mind, and with a view that what follows might not be for everyone, I spent some time investigating what general steps can be taken by individuals to potentially improve both their physical and mental well-being, and in turn may alleviate some of the mild, non clinical issues they may have.
In all the medical and health and well-being sites I visited there seemed to be a core set of symptom reducing actions people can take, and a number of them could be related directly to game-play aspects of Pokémon GO. While we of course are not medical professionals here at GOHub, I have collated them here and how they relate specifically to the game.
Playing The Game
Trying something new can uplift you mood. Picking up Pokémon GO for the first time and diving into this virtual world overlaid on the real one gives you so many new things to explore and learn. Doing new things can give a sense of achievement and feel rewarding, improving your overall well-being.
Doing something you enjoy, like playing a mobile game, and engaging in activities that you find meaningful can lift your mood or energy which can start a positive feedback loop. If you remember playing the main line Pokémon games, entering the world of Pokémon GO can also re-engage those memories and bring out that joy you had.
Playing games, be it on a mobile phone or even traditional physical puzzle games, engage the players creativity and exercises their problem solving skills. Even casual mobile gaming can stimulate and refocus the mind. Picking up Pokémon GO and completing a skill task, like 3 Great Throws in a Row, will employ those skills and bring a sense of achievement.
Routines, Goals And Rewards
With the daily incense, the daily catch, spin and task streaks, the weekly spotlight and raid hours there is plenty that can be planned for and in turn can become a routine. Creating a reasonable, loosely structured routine can be of benefit, bringing order where there might not be and a sense of control.
With the routine comes a way to set attainable goals. Setting small easily achieved goals and accomplishing them provides a sense of control which in turn can help with motivation. With Pokémon GO there are many aspects of the game with which you can focus on, traveling a set distance (be it walking or other method depending on your abilities) to hatch some eggs is one example, there are many others.
With those goals, give yourself a reward for your efforts. It can be as fancy or as mundane as you like, from buying a celebratory cake through to a self pat on the back. The memories of achievement can help against negativity you may feel.
Getting Some Exercise
Whether its a long trek or a more manageable walk around the block, exercise has been shown time after time to improve your mental health. With Pokémon GO promoting getting out and moving about the health improvement benefits of playing the game, even just as a casual player, can contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
Spending time outside in a natural environment, near plants and trees, enjoying the flora and fauna has also been shown to reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression. Again as with getting some exercise Pokémon GO promotes getting out and about, exploring parks as they are nests, finding Points Of Interest to add content to the game. Hunting in different biomes, raiding and gym battling all need you to be out and about in varying degrees. So picking areas near you where there are more natural features can further contribute to your overall well-being.
Community And Service
Finding ways, big or small, to be of service to others and finding personal meaning in those acts, providing help and reaching out to others may improve your own mental health and those you are interacting with. Pokémon GO has many aspects to it that encourage involvement with others, helping out with a raid boss especially if you find newer players who are struggling, combining forces to battle a gym or even directing another player to a rare spawn are all acts of service that can be encouraged by the game. These can reap not just positive rewards for yourself but also for those you interact with.
One of the best ways to engage with others in this manner is to find a community of like minded people. There are many communities online that use Pokémon GO to help focus on mental health awareness and joining one will bring you into a group who are there to, collectively, lift up all who join. Whilst its OK to have some alone time, making sure you have a balance and do not isolate yourself by joining a group or groups that are full of positivity and understanding can interrupt negative cycles, improve your mood and motivate you further.
To Sum Up
Pokémon GO, and games like it, offer an opportunity for the players to connect and interact with each other and as such, somewhat inevitably, explore the issue of mental health and well-being in all its forms. It also provides an opportunity to build healthy habits, which can be tools in everyone’s arsenal to combat those times you might need them. For mild, non clinical issues these tools will go a long way in tackling the challenges faced by many people on a day to day basis.
Know this though, you are not alone in your struggles in whatever form they take for you. Try to talk to someone you trust, find a community that hears you, maybe try some of the tips listed above and, if you are able and feel up to it, seek out local professional help. You may not feel up to going but having the details of a local health professional in your phone or wallet, that you researched when you were feeling up to doing so, will certainly help in those times when you need it but can’t see how to find it. You are not alone. You are worthy and deserving. You matter.