It feels like there are a million different websites and blogs out there claiming to help cure depression. I’m not out here to be one of those, because honestly I don’t believe that making certain changes can “cure” the chemical imbalance in our brains.
I adhere to more of a coping or battling mindset than a curing one. Recently I’ve adopted this viewpoint that every day is a battle with my depression. Sometimes I win; sometimes my depression does. But so long as my K/D ratio is greater than 1, I’m still the champion.
Battling depression? How lame is that?
But hey, it’s what works for me! I’ve spent countless hours looking into the science of depression and how to live with it and I’ve come out with a few great strategies. It’s just like a game: the more you play and learn from your failures, the more you improve. By the time you get to the final boss, you’ve learned a lot about the game and about yourself (your character.) Well, I’ve found that depression is my final boss. And these are the abilities I’ve cultivated to help with that battle.
So, a little background:
I’ve basically found that all of my strategies fall into one of two categories:
1 – changes in behavior
2 – changes in thought
Obviously, it’s exactly what it sounds like: instead of doing one thing, I do something else; instead of thinking one thing, I think something else.
Sound confusing? Hell yeah it does, even to me most of the time. Let me break it down for you.
Here are my top 4 strategies to battle depression using video games:
1 – Behavior Strategy: Exercise
Ugh, not this one. But for real. Exercise is super-fucking-important for me to manage my depression. When I don’t do some sort of activity (even if it’s just taking my dog on a long walk) I can feel my thoughts weighing down on me more and more.
It’s like Elle Woods says:
Well, let’s pretend “shoot their husbands” actually says “let their stupid brain make them feel like shit” okay? Okay.
“But Brittany,” you’re asking me, “how the fuck can I exercise if I’m playing video games???”
That’s what I’m here for, young padawan.
a – Switch it up
Something that I’ve started doing recently is packing up my Nintendo Switch and heading to a local park. I’ll make a lap or two around the park, then find a nice shady bench or table and BOOM video game time. Basically it’s a way to get myself out of the house, enjoy some fresh air, and enjoy a game while tricking myself into exercising. Sometimes I’ll even get distracted by how beautiful the park is I’ll walk a lot longer than I intended!
b – Just GO!
Don’t have a Switch? No problem! (Those lil bitches are expensive.)
I’ve recently gotten back into Pokemon GO! and DAMN has it forced me to walk around a lot. I’ll find myself searching for a particular Pokemon, but it’s 3 blocks away — better start walking!
And I can’t tell you how many fucking times I’ve run out of poke-balls, so I bounce back and forth between two or three poke-stops. This is something easy I can do on my lunch at work or if I’m bored at home. It’s definitely gotten me out and about more than I used to be.
2 – Behavior Strategy: Socialize
Not only am I telling you to exercise, but now I’m telling you to talk to people? Wow, I’m the fucking worst.
But hear me out.
We all need human interaction in our lives to remain stable; even you introverts out there.
I’ve been a fairly extroverted person since college, so talking to others hasn’t been a struggle for me for a while. But when my depression takes hold, talking to people is one of the hardest things in the world.
Wanna know who I’ve never struggled communicating with? Other gamers. When I’m surrounded by people I know are like me, it’s so easy to fall into place. What are my top recommendations for socializing using gaming?
a – Voice chat
When your win is on the line, you’d be surprised how easy it is to let go and talk to people. It’s a reminder that the avatar you see on the screen is, in fact, a real person, and it can be an amazing way to make new friends.
I can’t tell you how many randos I’ve run into using voice chat that end up being some of my favorite people to play with. These people become a confidant of sorts; they don’t have much personal stake in my experiences, so they’re willing to listen and kill some pixel bitches with me.
b – Game shop events
Holy shit guys. I fucking love midnight releases. An entire game store filled with people just as hyped about something as you are? That’s my kind of shit.
Throw in some free pizza, energy drinks, and giveaways? Now we’re talking. Literally.
These events really force me out of my shell and introduce me to tons of interesting new people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Bonus? Get their gamer-tag so you can play that new game you just got together!!
c – Facebook groups
Sometimes talking to other people in person can be really fucking hard, especially if your brain is telling you something horrible like no one likes you.
Facebook groups are usually what helps me the most in times like these. I don’t have to put myself out there in front of others and feel like I’m being judged. But I can still communicate with people who have the same interests as me!
I’m a member of so many gaming Facebook groups ranging from Overwatch casual players, PS4 gamer girls, to Pokemon GO! If I can’t force myself to turn on voice chat or go out and meet new people, this is always a good option so I can still socialize.
d – Twitch chat
Okay, this one is sort of hit or miss sometimes. Twitch chat can be toxic af and that is definitely not good for depression.
But sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes you’re in a truly supportive stream with other viewers who can become some of your closest friends.
I mean, think about it. You already know you have something in common: you like this game or the streamer at the very least. Reach out, make a connection!
I strive to keep my Twitch chat a positive and supportive place and I love seeing people find new friends, so come over and join us sometime!
3 – Thinking Strategy: – Reframe your thought process
Reframe your thought process? What the fuck does that mean?
Honestly, it’s just a ridiculously convoluted way I’ve found to tell myself “let it go.”
Something bad happen at work? Let it go. Focus on something else.
The best way I’ve found to do this is hop into a game with achievements that are hella easy to get.
Brain trying to convince you you’ll never amount to anything? Open up Minecraft and find some fucking coal. Look, you accomplished something! Take that, brain.
This is one super easy way that I’ve been working to sort of take back control and tell my depression “not today.”
4 – Thinking Strategy: Turn a negative into a positive
Sounds easy, right?
This is the hardest fucking thing to accomplish and I am still working on this every single day. Because how can a bad thing possibly be good?
Well, the way I’ve been getting to it is accepting that the bad thing is still bad, but it can lead to something good. Overwatch and Destiny honestly help me the most with this.
Like oh shit, I just got sniped from across the map and now I’m dead.
No way around it — dying is a bad thing, even in video games.
But what happens when you die in a video game?
You respawn. You get another chance.
And that chance is a great thing. It’s an opportunity to learn.
Now I know I should avoid that part of the map. Or maybe I should try a strategy to take the sniper down.
So yeah, I got sniped by the enemy and I died, which sucks. But now I’ve learned from it. And that’s awesome.
Each and every one of these strategies has taken me time to develop and incorporate into my life. Do I still fail and my depression takes hold? Of course. But there’s more than one match in this fight. Just because I’ve lost one doesn’t mean I’ve lost the war. And let me tell you; I’m fucking winning. You can too.
It’s going to take hard work and it’s going to take time. But we can all overcome and cope with our depression.
Once you know what you need to do to move forward, the hardest part is taking that first step.
An important part of that is going to be having a strong support system. And I am here for you.
If you just want someone to talk to, just email me. firstname.lastname@example.org. I check my email at least once a day, so I’ll make sure I get back to you.
Need a fast response? DM me on twitter. I’ll get that message instantly to my phone and I’ll be able to respond.
I know how much it sucks to suffer from depression and I don’t want anyone to go into the downward spiral that I got sucked into recently.
Our fights with depression don’t have to each be their own 1v1 battles. We can work together.
So let’s make a change; let’s armor up; together we can win this.