There’s something magical about your best childhood memories coming back to life. The Fall Out Boy reunion, The Lizzie McGuire Movie on Netflix, and now: Pokémon Go. I was one of those kids who collected Pokémon cards in photo albums, and nearly cried in the theater when Ash died.
So when I saw the ad for Pokémon Go, I got goosebumps – but I also didn’t expect it to be real. Like, you’re telling me there’s going to be a game where you can catch Pokémon in real life? Stop.
But then it launched – in the US. So being in Canada, I, of course, downloaded it with internet ways. Then I experienced the tragedy of servers crashing as the app was released in more countries.
But, despite that, the kid in me got excited again. And then slightly obsessed. I read dozens of articles in the first week of the release (did you know you can force Evee into any evolution you want?!) For the first time in a long time I was genuinely excited about something not work related. Like, really, really excited.
Okay, maybe that’s sad.
But it’s true.
I get my motivation from my work. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But self-care is hugely important to me, and this app – this nostalgic, addicting app – turned out very quickly to be a surprising form of self-care.
In fact, downloading Pokémon Go is probably the best thing I’ve done for my mental health all summer. The funny thing is that while I’m generally a pretty sarcastic person (like, really), I am both joking and so serious about that statement, and this entire blog post. Here’s why:
1. It’s the best form of nostalgia.
Sometimes nostalgia is a shitty feeling where you’re left wishing you could recreate a happier time. If you live with a mood disorder, it can be really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of sadness and longing when you’re remembering good times. But this is the best form of nostalgia because it’s almost better than your original memories. Imagine riding a roller coaster and having that memory in your mind as being amazing, but then going back to Disneyland and the roller coaster is faster, higher, more intense, and shoots fireworks at the end: that’s Pokémon Go. *Disclaimer: I may be slightly overhyping this, so take it with a grain of salt and understand it is still an app and not an otherworldly out-of-body experience. But it’s stupid cool.
2. It’s a reason to be excited about something.
When you’re stuck in the midst of a depressive episode, or super stressed out from work, it can be pretty hard to find reasons to actually be excited about something. Catching new Pokémon is a pretty awesome thing to be excited about. You caught a Jigglypuff?! Go you! You levelled up? Sick. You won a gym battle?! High five. It’s the little things, right?
3. You have to leave your house if you wanna catch ’em all.
You can’t play Pokémon Go from your living room. It’s not something you can hide from the world with; it actually does the opposite. Want to collect Pokéballs? You need to walk to the nearest stop (usually a popular Google Maps location). Want to hatch that egg you just found? You need to walk 5km before it will hatch. Want to catch that one Pokémon? You need to track it outside using the app. It’s not just a video game on your phone, it’s actually brilliantly designed into the real world. When I’m in a bad mood all I want to do is curl up on the couch and watch Netflix – but maybe Pokémon Go will change that. Speaking of which…
4. It’s surprisingly good physical activity.
Okay, if you’re one of those people who goes to the gym every morning and drinks protein shakes you’re probably scoffing at this one but I’m not about that life, so hear me out.
As someone who literally is one of the least active people I know – for either lack of time or laziness – Pokémon Go is a surprisingly good way to squeeze some physical activity into your day. When I was battling my eating disorder, physical activity was one of the trickiest things for me – there was a fine line between dreading the gym (because I was so self-conscious) and wanting to work out a lot to stay “healthy” while my diet was changing. But, I’ve never been one of those people that got excited to work out – or actually ever wanted to because it made me happy. I only did it because I thought I should. And doctors will tell you, especially if you live with mental illness, physical activity can be one of the best things to improve and maintain your mental well-being. The other day I literally went for a 1.5-hour walk just to hit up all the Pokéstops downtown and catch new Pokémon. It’s not overly athletic (duh), but it’s something.
5. It’s something to bond over.
If you have social anxiety, or you’re generally an introvert, starting conversations with people can be a nightmare. I’m usually on the quiet side when I meet people, and I’m terrible at making plans with friends because I get anxious about what we would “do” (like, what does hang out even mean? What will we talk about? What will I say? Ugh, I’m overthinking this.) It’s one of the things I like least about myself.
Because Pokémon Go is so trendy right now, it’s a great conversation starter. But it’s also just a cool thing that people get excited about. I was just on family vacation, and my younger teenage brother and I actually had something in common! When you play Pokémon Go, you feel like you’re a part of something. And that feeling is the greatest weapon against mental illness – which, by contrast, makes you feel isolated and alone.
Sometimes you want to zone out and just do you – the app is great for that. But it’s also really fun to play with friends, and it’s a non-anxiety-provoking way to hang out and not worry about what you’re going to “do.” (Also, Pokémon hunting is like the cutest date idea ever, you can thank me later….)
Kayley Reed is the co-founder of Wear Your Label, a brand dedicated to eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness. This post was originally featured on kayleyreed.com and wearyourlabel.com.