SuperBetter to the Rescue!

Writer
School of Medicine

Do you smell that? That panic-inducing pheromone that permeates the air of every school campus, sports competition and office building on the planet? Yes, that is the oppressive stench of stress in the air. The herald that tells you that summer vacation (if you were lucky enough to get one) is truly over, and that school is officially in session.

But fear not, you are not alone in your struggle to keep from drowning in the anxieties that have been added to your life by the start of a new academic year. There’s help in the form of a free online game named SuperBetter that is designed to help you defeat any darkness in your life.

And even if you’re not a student facing the stress of school life, you can still benefit from playing SuperBetter by selecting a “Power Pack” that applies to the problems in your life, whatever they may be.

SuperBetter was featured in a fairly recent TEDTalk given by the game’s creator, Jane McGonigal. The talk is available to watch on Netflix under the umbrella of “TEDTalks: Life Hack.”

In her presentation, McGonigal describes how the effects of a traumatic brain injury pushed her into a deep depression.  The pain was so debilitating that she was completely confined to her room for three months, unable to engage in any of the everyday activities we take for granted, because they might set off her symptoms.

It was when she began to consider suicide a viable option for escape that she came up with a way to turn her post-traumatic stress into “post-traumatic growth.” She decided to turn her recovery into a game.

The game is simple: Choose a secret identity, recruit some awesome allies, battle bad guys and activate power ups.

When you first create your account, there is a short introduction (if you’ve watched the TEDTalk, you can breeze through it) that explains the science behind the game and the four types of resilience the game helps you to build, to give you the strength to handle anything life throws at you. 

They’re pretty straightforward. Physical resilience is amped up by completing power ups that keep you from being sedentary all day. Mental resilience is increased via power ups that engage your brain.

Emotional resilience is created when you use power ups to follow the 3:1 positive emotion ratio, that is, you experience three positive emotions for every negative one over the course of a certain period of time. And the last, social resilience, is earned by activating power ups that encourage you to reach out to others. [NC1]

After the intro, you choose one problem to focus on. You can pick from an extensive list that includes chronic pain, depression, stress reduction and weight loss.

From there you choose whether to create your own adventure or to get help choosing the proper “Power Pack.” This is designed with the quests, bad guys and power ups you will need to neutralize or utilize on your SuperBetter journey, in order to vanquish your chosen villain.

Of course, to get the most from the game, you actually have to use it. I’m the type of person that gets into having a secret identity. I like having concrete quests to accomplish each day that rack up points.

Quests that involve engaging in activities that I have thought about doing but never quite had the motivation for, such as meditating daily, which helps to boost my mood and reduce my stress levels when I actually take the time to do it. I encourage everyone to try it, but your success will depend on how seriously you decide to take your adventure.

So take a nice big whiff of that stress-filled atmosphere and decide: Are you ready to become my SuperBetter ally?