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Improve Mental Health with Gaming


Today is the start of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Mental disorders are more common that you think. Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the world suffer from some form of mental health issues? With over 450 million affected people worldwide, it is one of the leading causes of ill-health and it needs more attention!


A report¹ from Mental Health Organisation suggests that over 65% of us have had mental health issues at some point in our lives and only 13% have high levels of positive mental health. With such figures, it is very likely that you or someone close to you is suffering from some sort of mental health issue. Have a look around you and can you identify any family or friend having it? It's very difficult. Why? The silent and invisible nature of it makes it incredibly hard to diagnose and address. Recognising that one may have mental ill health and seeking help is the hardest part. You cannot fight what you can't see, so let's start opening our eyes...


The main types of #MentalHealth problems (in order of worldwide predominance) are: Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia & Bipolar Disorder. #Depression is more common than you think and signs of suffering are: loss of interest or pleasure, having feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and having poor concentration. This is closely followed by #Anxiety, where there were 8.2 billion cases in the UK (2013).


I myself have suffered from anxiety, which required me to recognise, learn and pro-actively challenge myself to fight it. The best piece of advice I got was "If something is worrying you, identify what it is and do something about it. If nothing can be done, then don't worry about it!". Sounds a bit oversimplified but it did actually help me manage my internal thoughts. The key thing here was to initially open up and get some support starting from family and friends to help deal with this – so it’s important to recognise that you are not alone and there is also professional diagnosis and treatment out there.


In addition to changing my internal habits of thinking, I found that when I started to walk and run more, it completely changed my outlook and realised over time - the anxiety was much more manageable. One of the key things people can do to actually stimulate and improve their mental health state, is to be physically more active. The main benefits includes:

  • Increase mental alert, calmness and higher energy levels

  • Better positive mood & self-esteem

  • Reduce stress and anxiety to cope better

  • Better sleeping quality for better rest and improved memory too

Target an average of 75-150 minutes of exercise a week and feel the difference! Getting friends involved too is critical as it becomes much more fun and engaging. This being National Walking Month too - I've been power-walking recently with my 3 year old (who keeps asking me "why aren't we taking the car daddy?!" with a bemused face!) has made me feel much more positive and energetic too!


One of the drivers behind our Afitar® fitness game, is to make people feel good about themselves. We understand that it can take time to see improvements from lifestyle changes and it’s not always easy to actually see the results you want from physical activities in real life too. Afitar® features different avatar fitness states and is designed to visually show that even a small bit of exercise is making a difference allowing you to look and feel like a superhero (but especially where it matters inside - getting your heart healthy!). This positive visual outlook on what is really important with exercising, is one of our key #fitnessgaming design towards the battle against mental health illness giving a sense of instant gratification & reward!


Interestingly, casual gaming is actually reported (by a Study in East Carolina University in 2011)² as a way to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. By playing games, it can offer sufferers a chance to escape their current state of mind through diverting their attention to engaging activity where they can get into a more content mindset. Puzzle games in particular are seen as one of the most helpful too.


Combining Fitness and Gaming is a great way to fight and improve both physical and mental health – and that is our core mission with #RocketImpact.


Finally, it is really important that you realise that your mental health needs to be protected consistently. Here's a top 10 checklist from the Mental Health Org³ to help:

  1. Talk to friends about your feelings

  2. Keep active

  3. Eat well

  4. Drink Sensibly

  5. Keep in touch with friends

  6. Ask for help

  7. Take a break to de-stress

  8. Do something you enjoy or good at

  9. Accept who you are - you are unique!

  10. Care for others - be there for your friends & family

Now that you are more aware of how #MentalHealthMatters, make a commitment to start a daily habit of the above. Remember, no one is immune. Time to open your eyes wide and look after each other! For more information and support, visit: www.mentalhealth.org.uk


Phil Tsang 



Sources

¹https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health

²http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/newsstory.cfm?id=1906

³https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise

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