How Pokemon Go Can Help Keep Anxiety Low

So perhaps you've heard of this new little game called Pokemon Go? The "augmented" reality game that gets people out and exploring their neighborhoods, towns and cities as they search for the mythical creatures known as Pokemon. (That description probably wasn't necessary, but I'll leave it there for anyone not familiar with the game). 

After only a week of playing we've learned a few things from this game: 
1. There is no age limit to those who love it. 
2. It's great for inspiring you to go for a very, very long walk. 
3. There are a few unintended side effects
4. Some players with depression and anxiety are reporting feeling less depression and anxiety!

As a therapist, I'm so happy to hear about the positive mental health aspects, even if they are all anecdotal, but it leads me to wonder -  How can we keep up the positive side effects of Pokemon Go after the excitement of the game has worn off?

I spoke to some colleagues this morning about this very question and we came up with a little plan....

Part 1 - Just Be
  • Be in the moment. 
    • Observe your surroundings. If you're outside, take a deep breath, look at the businesses, trees, houses etc. that you pass. 
  • Pay attention to how you're feeling emotionally and physically. 
    • Are you out and not feeling anxious? Perhaps just a little? How does your body feel in this moment? Strong? Weak? Tense? Pay attention to these feelings. 
  •  Acknowledge what you're doing that is out of the ordinary for you. 
    • What's different about what you're doing right now than the day/week/month before Pokemon Go came out?
  •  Take a second and soak in the positive feelings. 
    • Again, deep breath and acknowledge how you're feeling. 
  •  Pat yourself on the back for choosing to do something different.

Part 2 - Push your limits
  • Talk to someone, but not about Pokemon Go. 
    • Pokemon Go has most likely opened you up to everything from engaging with total strangers to hanging out with big groups of friends. Now it's time to talk to them about something other than the game. 
    • It doesn't have to complicated you can talk about the weather, ask if they want to hang out sometime, talk about a tv show etc. Don't worry too much about the context, the important piece is taking advantage of the opportunity. 
    • Pay attention to your self talk as you do this. What's anxiety or depression telling you? Make sure to remind yourself of the success you've already had by simply getting out and being more social. Build off of your successes. 

(Please remember you might not always feel successful when trying these steps and that's ok! Please go at your own pace and talk to a counselor if you find you're having difficulty with any of the steps.)

*The information above have not been tested specifically related to Pokemon Go, however the methods mentioned are techniques used in therapy. 

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