SuperBetter: Why it’s important to stay in the Game during recovery!

Game developer and researcher Jane McGonigal is among 155 million Americans who plays video games, but for her it’s more than a hobby. In her new book, “SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient–Powered by the Science of Games,” McGonigal uses what she learned about the psychology of games to tackle life’s challenges.

How might this apply to that of Physical Therapy? Well, she took a page out of her own “game” book, and did was part of a speaker series on TED talks that I recently listened to and thought, wow! this really applies to how we focus on our patient’s recovery here at Carousel. The page goes something like this:

While at her home office, Jane said she stood up from her desk hit her head on an opened drawer from file cabinet and sustained a concussion.  It did not heal properly, causing her to have a myriad of symptoms including vertigo, and depression. She ended up spending 3-months in bed with strict orders to help stop the triggers/symptoms such as no reading, writing, video games, work (or e-mails), or running; in essence remaining still in her bed.

As you can imagine there was fall out causing doubt, fear, and isolation. How could she eliminate the fog of depression so that the anxiety she suffered from went away (which can make you turn on your inner most worst thoughts that you can’t achieve your goals)?  She turned her injury a game.

Now because she is a gamer; she likes to have goals like special missions and secret objectives. And, in her studies, she’s been researching the science behind gaming for a decade, and has a Ph,D. in this. She took what she learned, how the power of gaming the psychology of games help to tackle life’s challenges, and created SuperBetter. She explained that studies show that what we feel when we play video games is:

Being able to tackle tough challenges:

  • Creativity
  • Optimism
  • Determination
  • Resilience in the face of setbacks
  • It’s easier to Ask for help

Why? The brain is taking a challenge seeking puzzle pieces, and overcoming obstacles that gets the neurochemistry of the brain excited, motivated, goal oriented. Resilience is your ability to stay motivated, curious and optimistic even in the face of a challenge….

  • Physical resilience: Your body can withstand stress and heal itself.
  • Mental resilience:  Focus, determination, and grit.
  • Emotional resilience: You activate positive emotions when you need them most: Your Happy Place or seeing a picture of a baby animal.
  • Social resilience: Your friends and family make you stronger (the power of touch helps you to release oxytocin (the trust hormone).

The SuperBetter method brings those real life psychological strengths to real life challenges; Rules to the game are:

  • Challenge yourself – Make the decision to get help from your physician!
  • Find and Battle the bad guys – Your Diagnosis.
  • Seek out and complete quests – Friends & Family (to help you along your road to recovery)
  • Recruit your allies – US!
  • Adopt a secret identity – Create an alter-ego name (or go to your Happy Place).
  • Go for an Epic Win – Successful Discharge from Treatment: becoming YOUR own Success Story!

The great news? We have all of the components to this game! And, better yet, we are always willing to play the game with you at any time. Even though we understand that this may not necessarily be the game you would like to play in tackling a challenge, as well as becoming the hiccup in your ever-so-busy agenda.

The best part of this game? You guessed it- it’s a win-win outcome! The end result is Post Traumatic Growth – learning how to overcome the doom that causes us to suffer, and be stronger, braver and happier……………SuperBetter!