In the book SuperBetter, author Jane McGonigal advocates the use of game theories to reduce depression and increase resilience. There is substantial scientific evidence that it works – in part by redirecting your attention and strengthening willpower.
In the book, McGonigal outlines numerous “quests” – tools to build emotional, social and mental resilience – and these challenges help develop the power to take control of your thoughts, and then in turn, your feelings and reactions. She makes a persuasive case that games, and the brainpower we use when we play them, really can make us mentally stronger.
An example of one quest: First, do not think of a pink elephant for the next 10 seconds. Did it work? Of course not. Just the mention of a pink elephant made you think of one. But the real quest – the one that does redirect your brain from seeing the rosy pachyderm – is to use the letters P(ink) and E(lephant) to think of as many words as you can that contain both P and E (in any order). Examples: empty, pie, except, plane.
Most people will come up with a list of between 10-20 words – and, more importantly, completely forget about the elephant. You can apply this technique (using any two letters) to redirect your thoughts away from something that is painful or upsetting, allowing you to take control of your emotions and re-center.
SuperBetter is a fascinating read with applications for trauma, illness, pain management and stress reduction. Use the pink elephant as a starting point on your gaming journey.
Source: SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal, 2015