Popular Pokémon GO game may boost mental health

July 21, 2016 | by Amit Thaker, MBA, MPH
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Mental health practitioners have consistently promoted exercise as a method for improving mental health. When people exercise, they feel like they are making a lasting change. They feel good about themselves and, if they interact with others, even better.

When the makers of Pokémon GO created their game, they certainly did not mean to develop a system that improved mental health. More likely, they wanted to generate a hit, a great money-maker and a solid paycheck. Their hit turned out to be the greatest thing since positive affirmations.

Previous apps have attempted behavioral improvement techniques such as mood tracking and changing negative thoughts into positive ones. These rarely caught on, and users quit after a few days to a week.

Pokémon GO makes all the difference. It’s catching on everywhere. And people are enjoying it.

The game bridges the real world and the virtual world. It works by encouraging players to search for the title character on a device, such as their phone. Players identify the character in specific places in the real world (by viewing the character on their device).

All the while, players are interacting with other people who are also playing the game, walking far more than they realize without counting their steps or feeling the burn, and even getting some big laughs!

People who are not into playing video games can join in on the fun too by searching for Pokémon users. Gamers are fun to watch as they run around playing on their phones. People who search for gamers report having just as much fun as they interact with their search partners. The inside jokes make for a bonding connectedness.

Behavioral health professionals often try to get their clients to improve their motivation, increase their engagement with others, and implement exercise in their daily lives as a way to improve mental health. Pokémon GO encompasses all three of these objectives in a way that does not feel forced, is not expensive and incorporates laughter.

And what else could be better for social anxiety? The social nature of the game, and its ability to get players out and moving, has the potential to reduce depression and anxiety. In addition to being a great bonding activity, Pokémon GO can improve focus and concentration. It’s a fun tool that is bringing out lots of enjoyment and laughter.

With all of its pros, Pokémon GO has stirred up some controversy too, with reports of inattentive driving, trespassing and accidents related to playing the game. Also, in some cases criminals are using the game to target victims. Players need be aware of their surroundings and always keep safety in mind when playing (this means never playing Pokémon GO while driving!). Learn how to avoid Pokémon GO dangers.

What do you think of Pokémon GO? Share with us in the below comments!

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