How Pokémon Go Can Help with Anxiety, Depression

Pokemon GoI have to admit it. I’m 31. Officially out of the “youthful” age group, according to some of my favorite students. “Mrs. Meg, no one uses Facebook anymore. That’s for old people.” Fair enough.  So I must venture further to confirm that I am not all too shot down with playing the new Pokémon Go. I certainly cannot speak for all my contemporaries, though, nor those in older age brackets. This app, released a mere 7 days ago, has already surpassed total number of downloads and user than the Tinder app and has been projected by a number of people in the know to exceed the number of Twitter users soon. Which means, this app is currently spanning a number of age ranges and demographics and providing a number of positive benefits to the masses.

Apart from the joy of beating your friends in chasing down imaginary figures, this game actually has some mental health implications. Think about it. In order to gain the most points, you have to go the most places, right? One must get off the couch in order to catch (I’m going to keep calling them all “Pokémon”, because we’ve already established I’m not hip enough to know all the names of the characters). Your phone alerts you to the Pokémon in your area, so you have to get up off the couch and go get them if you want the points. They don’t just come to you.

I recently read a post on the old folks’ (remember, that’s Facebook) of a dad who admitted to the benefits of the game in relation to his own daughter. After dinner, it was his daughter’s idea to leash up the pup and go for a walk with the parents in order to catch two Pokémon out in their neighborhood. A young teen actually asked her parents to go on a walk with her! Granted, she still had her phone in hand, but I say, progress. While on the hunt for these two mythical creatures, the aforementioned girl walked 1.5 miles (exercise is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety), and also stopped and talked to a brother and sister, 10 and 13 years old, respectively (having a common introductory topic can be helpful in decreasing social anxiety) who were chasing a Golding – oh look, I found out an actual name – while the dogs played (and who doesn’t love to watch lovable pups having fun in the park?).

Even if you don’t run into someone also on the hunt for a Pokéspot, having the motivation to get up and get outside (free Vitamin D and Serotonin, along with fresh air and additional steps) can be beneficial to those who have found themselves often couch-side due to negative emotional states. It can be possible for individuals to utilize the game to get on the move for health benefits, to achieve instant gratification, to enjoy playing a game with clearly defined boundaries and goals, and allows those participating to tap into our imagination and creativity.

Thoughts?

-MegAnne Duke, LCSW, LCDCi

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