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Pokemon Go is Helping People with their Mental Health

4 minutes to read

Pokémon Go has taken over the life of anyone who has a mobile device. It’s an augmented reality game that uses your GPS to turn your environment into an actual gaming space. Pokémon are scattered around the real world (I honestly get nothing where I live #rip) and you have to get out there and look for them through the app. That’s the catch – it makes you get out of the house and the further you venture out, the more you’re rewarded.

Now, 11pm Pokéstop sessions are the norm. Walking around the streets with your friends catching Pokémon is the dream. It’s been such a success over the past week that this mobile game is helping those who suffer with mental health issues to feel better.

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Augmented reality games particularly like Pokémon Go encourage people to go out and exercise. There are many benefits to exercise, especially the release of endorphins which stimulate the feeling of happiness, but those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems often find exercise to be a challenge.

That is the beauty of this game: it’s actually helping people who don’t have the motivation to exercise to do so and it’s rewarding them with Pokémon and a sense of happiness. Experts also seem to think this mainstream game is beneficial to its players in regards to exercise and helping beat social anxiety.

“I think this is a wonderful demonstration of the unintentional but beneficial consequences of gaming and producing a game that encourages healthy exercise,” says psychologist John M. Grohol at PsychCentral.

“If you’re outside the state library and 10 other people are all catching Pokemon, you’ve got something to talk about,” says Dr Greg Wadley, a lecturer in computer science at University of Melbourne who specialises in technology for mental health and well being.

Speaking of making new friends, the game has also inspired meetups in major cities, some with thousands of RSVPs. Thousands. It’s incredible how universal love for this game is bringing people together.

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As a sign of how amazing this game is, BuzzFeed News interviewed Tumblr user Ari, an 18-year-old who suffers from anxiety and depression and for the past three years has not left the house unless it is necessary.

“But as soon as I got Pokemon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it. I had the instant rush of dopamine whenever I caught a Pokémon, and I wanted to keep going. Then today and yesterday I purposely put myself in social situations, going to the mall, just to play. And best of all I enjoyed it.” – Ari.

While the developers had not intended this to be a mental health gaming app, Grohol says, “They’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive.”

Keep going, fellow Pokémon trainers! Gotta catch ’em all to help beat your mental health battle.

Oh, it can also help you get laid. Just sayin’.