How Pokémon Go Helped Me With My Mental Illness

How Pokémon Go Helped Me With My Mental Illness

Maybe it can help you, too.

Pokémon was a huge part of my childhood. My brother and I watched the anime and it was one of our favorite shows, if not our absolute favorite. We played Pokémon on our little Gameboys and collected these stuffed creatures. I would scream if I couldn't find my stuffed Pikachu or thought I lost it at the mall.

I stopped playing Pokémon in middle school, trading games and Pokemon cards for clothes and library books, basically becoming a book geek instead of a game geek. However, I recently started playing Pokémon Go, admittedly because everyone else is playing it. Part of it is nostalgia and part of it is for a geeky, scientific reason, which is that it might be good for my mental health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 43.8 million adults in the U.S. experience mental illness every year. I suffer from anxiety disorder and I used to suffer from depression in middle school and high school, so obviously I am a part of this community. People like me enjoy video games when we play them because, according to studies, the video game community is a magnet for people with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

So what are the benefits of PokémonGo on mental health? For starters, you get exercise, which isn't just good for getting toned legs and losing some belly fat. Exercise also stimulates the brain. In addition to burning fat, you get sunlight, which regulates sleeping patterns and calms you down. We college students could use better sleeping patterns for sure. Most of all, in the words of Elle Woods, "exercise increases endorphins, endorphins make you happy."

I suffer from social anxiety and I have gotten better, though I am not cured. People with social anxiety treasure any connections they make with people, strangers or familiar, and Pokémon gives us that opportunity. If you bump into someone on the street or in the park who is playing PokémonGo, you easily have something to talk about. Also, we are constantly worried people are staring at us or talking about us but since a lot of people are playing Pokémon Go, they probably aren't even aware of other people, let alone care. People also will be less likely to think you're weird for looking for Pokemon.

I said I used to suffer depression. That meant getting out of bed was hard and doing anything was hard because I was embarrassed just to exist and was afraid I would do something wrong. However, certain things, like Pokémon Go, can motivate you to do small, difficult tasks that make you feel better. Something as enjoyable as Pokémon Go is definitely motivating and fun, definitely worth leaving the house or bedroom.

Another disturbing aspect of depression is apathy. You're more apathetic than sad, meaning you just don't care, which is scary. Pokémon Go can pull you out of the fog by enticing you to catch cute or cool Pokémon, hatch them from eggs, defeat trainers in battles, etc.

Another benefit Pokémon Go might have is social interaction, which, frankly, is a little disturbing nowadays due to technology and social norms. People have become bad at face-to-face interactions and Pokémon Go encourages players to interact with each other. The game has also motivated people to create Facebook groups. Team enthusiasts are meeting and conversing daily on how to catch Pokémon, dominate the gym, etc.

Cognitive mapping is another important skill people are lacking in. Cognitive mapping means the mind makes mental maps of landmarks and geography to gain a full perspective on your environment. Searching for Pokémon helps build cognitive maps and also helps maintain a higher level of mental agility.

Feeling out of control is a problem for mentally ill people like me, who often feel others have to take care of us. Pokémon Go as well as video games in general give us a sense of control, whether we are a trainer, gladiator, dragon, whatever.

Everybody, even "normal" people, face stress, especially in a world where terrorism and attacks on police are increasing every day. Silly, cute things like Pokémon Go distract us from these problems. More importantly, they remind us not to dwell on bad things and to enjoy the little things. It makes a big difference. Take it from me.

Okay, mental healthy isn't entirely the reason I started playing Pokemon Go. But it is a good reason nonetheless. Whatever the reason, you should play it.

Go and catch 'em all. Just don't get stuck in trees, enter a lion's den, walk onto a highway, or other crazy crap. That's crazy even for people with issues.

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A Letter To My Best Friend On Graduation Day

What are you suppose to say to your best friend on graduation day?

Have you ever heard of a fairy tale? Where two people meet and then everything else seems to fall into place. Well here’s how this one started: two little girls in preschool, sitting in a little room, with other little people. The teacher comes over and starts to hand out frosted cookies and bunny coloring pages for us all. Somehow, somewhere in here, the two little girls became best friends.

Now, I don’t want to tell you some fairy tale story, because fairy tales aren’t really true, right? So here’s what I really want to tell you.

What do you say? I mean really, what are you supposed to say to someone whom you’ve known for almost 15 years? And this someone isn’t just anyone. This someone is your best friend. Someone you’ve gotten used to seeing every day during the week. Someone you looked forward to seeing every day. What do you say?

Well, I guess I can start off by saying thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed someone to just listen. It doesn’t matter where we are in this world or in our lives, I know you will always be there to listen. As I will always be the same for you. Thank you for always being my best supporter. Thank you for not judging me for my sometimes poor decision-making skills. Thank you for late-night conversations. Thank you for remembering every inside joke we have ever created. And I mean every joke! Even if I don’t always remember them. Thank you for being brutally honest with me when I am being ridiculous.

Thank you for respecting my values and opinions, even if you disagree. Thank you for loving my family like you love your own. Thank you for fighting all of life’s battles by my side. Thank you for celebrating all of the exciting moments of my life with me and the many more to come. Thank you for forgiving me every time I might not have been the best friend in the entire world. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, even if you didn’t realize it at times. Thank you for always sharing your crazy stories with me. Thank you for being there through all of the significant others that I have mistakenly chosen. Thank you for listening to my long stories as though you haven’t already heard them a million times. Thank you for being strong when I was weak. Thank you for sharing your secrets with me, and for keeping mine. Thank you for sharing the past fourteen and a half years of your life with me. Thank you.

I honestly cannot believe that high school is over and soon we will both be going our separate ways in life. It’s hard to fathom that we won’t live a few houses down from each other anymore. Only on weekends when we are home from college. It’s going to be tough, but it’s OK. Because I know that no matter where we go in life, whether it’s a quarter mile away from each other or halfway across the world, you’ll always be my best friend. I’ll never come across someone who will be able to take your spot as my best friend. We’ve just got to remember that even though we change and we are both finding our own places in this world, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we’re not still best friends. Later on in life I know I’m going to be able to look back and remember that you were the one who lifted my head when I was losing faith in myself. I know I’m going to remember how you were that one person who knew who I really was. Most importantly, I know I’m going to remember that you were that one person who made the biggest difference in my life.

There really aren't enough words to even begin to describe how much you mean to me. We have the highest expectations for each other and I know that you will be successful in anything you choose to do. Writing this to you is hard, because honestly, I’m scared to admit how truly sad I am to know this will be the end of school with you. There are so many things that I will miss about you next year, from how much of an angel you were to your contagious smile. There’s no one else who can make me laugh so hard that my sides actually begin to kill with pain. I’m going to miss the countless hours we would spend playing Mario Kart and Wii Fit. I’m going to miss you sitting in my kitchen eating cookie after cookie. While you may be one of the craziest individuals that I have ever met in the last 14-and-a-half years of my life, I know you will always be making others laugh if you’re not there making me laugh.You always manage to light up a room. You’ll forever be the life of the party and you never fail at making everything interesting.

It’s going to be hard not being able to run up to each other every day and share our crazy stories or rant about something that just happened during the previous class. I know there will be times after a long day of classes or work when I wish I could just head over to your house, plop down on your bed in your room and play Mario Kart while we talk about our day. I want you to know that whatever happens, whoever you become and whoever the future shapes you to be, I will always be here for you. Whether a drive or a phone call away, I will always be here. We may not be able to spend the next few years seeing each other every day, but I know that you will make a huge impact on those who meet you in the time to come.

The past 14-and-a-half years of my life have been fantastic. I want to thank you for simply being the person you are and for letting me have the honor of being your best friend. I will see you up on that stage when we sit there in the gym at Carrabec High School for the last time together. As soon as we march out that door, you can bet that I will be the first one to run up to you and hug you, and probably cry, and tell you that we made it. Here’s to an amazing future and to a lifelong friendship.

Back to the fairy tale thing for a moment. Now that I think of it, I don’t see why I called our friendship in the beginning a fairy tale. Fairy tales have happy endings, right? Well, our friendship may be a happy one, but it will never have an ending.

Cover Image Credit: Jeff Pouland

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I Broke Up With My iPhone Because The 'Smartphone 5' Is Scarier Than The 'Freshman 15'

Smartphones vs reality.

According to the Taking Stock With Teens survey, 82% of teens in the United States use an iPhone. With the growing popularity of Apple products, teens can only be expected to continue to follow trends.

I'm guilty.

I desired to follow this trend just because everyone else is. But when you follow the herd on every life choice, negativity haunts you around every corner.

Leaving it behind could be the only way to save yourself from the downward spiral dragging you away from reality.

I deleted my social media

Back in high school, I chose to give up social media for Lent. The first week was the hardest and my friends that decided to do it with me fell through the cracks quickly. I started to realize how often I reached for my phone just as a cure for an awkward situation. But as I stopped reaching for my iPhone, I started to feel better about myself and how communicating with people may just not be as scary as you think. Because of this, I became more aware of my surroundings.

My productivity improved and I started to understand the difference between what was actually important in my life and what wasn't. I suddenly had more time to enjoy life and explore the world around me. I didn't scroll before bed and end up staying up an hour later than intended.

I also realized that the iPhone is a space filler for how boring life could be. People have always found ways to pass time, but today the most convenient way is in your back pocket. Without the burden, I was happy.

Probably happier than I had been in any recent moments in my life.

I am someone who is typically stubborn with strong willpower. I tend to avoid desserts and sometimes I eat healthier than my college counterparts. I was always afraid of the "freshman 15," but I really should've been scared of the "smartphone five" — the five hours American teens spend on their mobile devices on average every single day.

We have become so afraid of missing out and not living our lives to the fullest when all we do is sit with a screen in front of our face. And in case you forgot: This screen is the same one that shows you a hot, smart, nice, and funny girl who looks impeccable in a bikini winning love from the perfectly jacked athlete who loves to surf in his free time.

And if that doesn't ever make you feel like you're not good enough, pretty enough, or perfect enough — Congratulations, you're winning a game where materialism and desire run your every move.

I was losing.

I was consistently disappointed by who I was. I constantly wondered if I could ever be as good as the girl on the screen. My friends were concerned about the exact same things as we sent pictures in group chats for each other's opinions before posting it.

That is why I now only have one app on my phone (besides the somewhat annoying ones you can't delete). And for those who still love the occasional scroll through Twitter or have groups on Facebook — you can just simply delete the apps from your phone to prevent the pointless scroll throughout the day.

Make an environment where your bedroom is the place where you actually sleep and Facebook is left on your laptop out in the living room. And for those of you who think it is impossible to go without the games on your phone — opt for music.

If you're so stressed, then why do you reach for the things that can only stress you out more? If you think I am wrong about games stressing you out, you should see how my friends(and probably your friends) get so heated playing "Fortnite" mobile or "Candy Crush."

In the end, I guess we can say that it isn't just social media, it's also the games and easy accessibility to a world beyond ourselves that distracts from just how great life can be. I understand that mobile news and globalizing our ideas or maybe even sharing a picture of your niece or nephew is important.

You can still do that.

You can still explore the digital world around you. You just need to remember to remove your vulnerability and to put down your mobile device from time to time to touch reality.

For sometimes reality is the only concept that keeps us sane.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Bautz

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