I posted on my Twitter feed this week: Thank you, Greg Preston, for breaking your phone and therefore expediting my acquisition of the iPhone. I finally entered this world. I haven’t been pining for it, really, but it’s sleek and chic and easy and fast. And it has SuperBetter.
What is SuperBetter, you ask? And why is it two words mashed into a grammatically incorrect catchphrase? I was introduced to SuperBetter by this Ted Talk: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life. Jane McGonigal gave this talk as a way to let people know that gaming, and specifically social gaming, is not quite the time-wasting force it’s sometimes made out to be. Ms. McGonigal experienced a head trauma in which afterwards she was on strict bed rest for about 3 months; she could do nothing that would activate a specific part of her brain because it would cause immense pain and slow her healing. She is a game developer, so she was used to being creative and mobile. But after this head trauma, she became quite depressed. Thus was born: SuperBetter.
Ms. McGonigal developed this game basically to turn herself into a virtual Super Hero who would battle psychological “bad guys” that were keeping her from getting better. She breaks the game into Power-ups (meant to give energy), Bad Guys (meant to improve your state of mind), and Quests (also meant to improve your state of mind). She maintains (and backs everything up with research) that putting yourself in the mentality of being a hero battling bad guys could speed up one’s healing from any affliction, simply because of Positive Psychology. In the App, you can click into “The Science Behind” and there is a plethora of research articles explaining why she added what she added to the game. My favorite: the 3:1 ratio.
The 3:1 ratio principle states that to experience an upward spiral of positivity and success, we should maintain 3 positive emotions or thoughts for every 1 negative emotion or thought. Below this, we could tend toward a downward spiral. Due to body chemistry, when our brains are in a positive state we tend more toward brain cell growth, creativity, success, better health, less anxiety, and a longer life. Doesn’t that sound good? So basically, McGonigal believes we can be the super heroes in our own lives by staying positive.
It tied into a documentary I watched a few weeks ago: “Happy.” It was a perspective-changing film for me. I learned that we all basically have a baseline level of psychological well-being, or happiness. 50% is genetics, 10% is circumstances, 40% is our choice. Scientists talked about how when we are happy, our brains are in a better position to grow brain cells. And I’m no scientist (failed bio, barely passed chem), but growing brain cells obviously sounds a lot better than letting them die.
My point is not to encourage you to get an iPhone so that you can get SuperBetter (although I think that’s a really good idea), but it’s to share with you the 3:1 ratio. I think the trick is to just be mindful of it.
Like this weekend, I felt as though I was living at a dog park – neighborhood dogs were howling and responding to each other for hours on end. There’s my negative thought: irritated at neighborhood dogs’ incessant barking. Here’s my positive: It’s okay; at least I don’t have to live with them. I can shut my windows and focus on my quiet cat.
The positive thoughts don’t even have to directly counter the negative ones. Maybe you were faced with incredibly rude customer service or cut off in traffic and you have choice words or fingers for your aggressor. Okay. But maybe you find 3 other things in your day to counter that irritation. A delicious snack, calling a friend, watching a funny YouTube video:
Try it for one day (the 3:1 ratio) and let me know how it goes and if it makes a difference.
Go, help your brain cells grow, I dare you!
(And for the record, I do love dogs. I just wanted my nap).