Gaming for Fun and Mental Health

Reading Shakesville, a feminist internet safe-space that I eavesdrop on every once in a while, I found this fun idea for recording and rewarding healthy behaviors.  It’s designed by a gamer (i.e., at least one generation younger than I am) and the comments have lots of great ideas too.  Give the whole post a read.

I picked out five habits that I want to follow each day: drink at least 3 large glasses of water, sleep 8 hours, exercise for 30 minutes, eat at least 5 fruits and veg servings, and write down all my non-water beverages. For each one I achieve in a day, I get a point. I’m tracking everything on a big calendar, or, as I call it, “the game board.” Once I have achieved 35 points (7 days of “perfect” habits, 12 days of 60% habits), I get to spend $15 on games, books, or music.

The rewards system not only keep me motivated, it also helps me with another, larger goal: making sure to give myself small treats now and then, as I’ve a bad habit of not treating myself so long that I inevitably binge and buy ALL THE THINGS when I do finally allow myself that visit to the game shop or used bookstore. I’m letting myself “bank” each set of 35 points until I’ve achieved the next one, if I want to save for something bigger (i.e., there’s an Arkham Horror expansion for $30? Two sets of goals and it’s mine!)

But what’s a game without leveling, right? Once I’ve achieved 105 points (35 points x 3), I LEVEL UP! Woot me! This means I’m going to re-set my goals, making 1 or 2 more challenging, but also upping the rewards for achievement. So, I’ll probably increase my exercise minutes and set a specific limit on caffeinated/alcoholic beverages next time around, but also up the rewards for achieving my 35 points to $20. That means Lego LOTR in no time! Not to mention, it gives a specific framework for periodically reviewing and adjusting my goals… but “leveling up” just sounds way funner.

Finally, just to keep it fun, I thought I’d throw in achievements, or some one-time rewards for specific accomplishments. Just for keeping the game going for two weeks, I get ACHIEVEMENT: Fortnight of Fixitude (which gives me an extra $5 to spend on my next 35 point reward). And sometime in the next couple weeks, I want to unlock ACHIEVEMENT: Office of Cleanliness. I’m writing these down as I think of them (which is pretty fun, actually), and turning them into stickers I can put on my life-game calendar when I “unlock” them.  source

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