The power of play and how to become SuperBetter

“The opposite of play is not work…  it’s depression.” Stuart Brown, play researcher.

We often think of play as the business of childhood. However, playfulness is not only essential for normal development (in many species, including humans), it is also an adult expression that allows for joy, creativity, bonding, problem solving, inner-healing and more.

We live in a society, where recognition of the power of play for adults is experiencing a resurgence, after a couple of centuries of decline. Thankfully, our increasing desire to listen to what science can tell us about this world and our place within it, has allowed the truth about play to re-surface.

TED talk – Play is more than fun, it’s vital – Stuart Brown

The power of play

Play is powerful, especially when we come to understand it as a process, rather than an activity. Playfulness is a way of being, the principles of which have been beautifully explored in the concept of SuperBetter.

While SuperBetter came out of the computer gaming industry and mindset, it’s core principles can be applied to any area of challenge in real life.

We set ourselves the challenge, then create a series of small quests, the completion  of which, will move us in baby step towards overcoming the challenge. But we aren’t alone, and like any great video game, we can seek out allies to support us in our quests. These are people we can share our progress with and who will support us and cheer us on.

We become the hero of our own journey, and each quest makes us stronger, building resilience that is either physical, mental, emotional or social. It might help you to give yourself a fantasy character (avatar), or to identify with a character from a book, film or video game.

the power of play
Fantasy avatar

Any quest wouldn’t be complete without baddies and power-ups. Baddies are the specific things we fight daily, as we move towards overcoming our challenge. They could be attitudes (like procrastination), self-talk (like “you never finish anything”), practical issues (like clutter), or physical limitations (like pain). They could even be someone else’s words (“you’ll never…”)

Power ups are the positive boosters that make us instantly more able to fight a good fight. They can be anything that increases positivity and well-being. Examples are: breathing exercises, walking, appreciating nature, music, connecting with a friend, a hug, a physical exercise, a simple mental challenge, smelling something delicious, eating a healthy snack, exposure to sunshine, self-care, stretching or watching an inspiring clip on YouTube.

The most important aspect of a power up, after it’s ability to improve well-being, is that it needs to be quick and easy. A power up should generally only last a minute or two.

The SuperBetter “programme” of gamefulness suggests that each day you try to activate at least 3 power ups, fight one baddie and complete 3 small quests (from your challenge to-do list). Seek out your allies for encouragement and support and work towards epic wins on your journey towards completing your challenge.

The science behind the success of this kind of real life game play is convincing. Play is indeed powerful – life changing – and SuperBetter helps us to harness the power of play in overcoming our real life challenges.



15,779 Replies to “The power of play and how to become SuperBetter”

  1. I had not realized until you put this so succinctly that it is the secular equivalent of the spiritual life as I understand it. The “baddies,” the “power-ups,” the people who support you, etc. Joy makes it “fun.” Sorry; probably not what you want to hear! I wonder what Fiona thinks. xx

    1. I think it’s actually the way of all journeying and quests, from the heroes of ancient Greece, to the knights of the old code, to the spiritual progression in the lives of those who engage with the many and various beings that mankind worships. It’s every episode of Star Trek, every epic video game, every adventure story, every human being, choosing their way from despair back to hope. I think it is relevant to all of our journeying, because at some deep and fundamental level it’s who we are… what we do. That’s why it works for atheists and believer equally… it relies on engagement with self, in the context of support, and that’s available to all. xx

  2. Just wanted to say how building up on different habits has really helped me get back on track after last year. Establishing one habit at a time has overcome chaos and given me heaps more free time, next step is to use the free time creatively and constructively!

  3. That’s good to hear, Mum. I think the biggest mistake we all make with habits is to try to change too much at the same time, and too fast. Glad you are feeling more in control.
    Alison xx

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