The Games People Play
September 30, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

What "games" do you play to boost your mood or help you see things in a different light?

I made up a game for myself where, when I'm in an overly critical mood, I try to think of one nice thing to say (in my head) for each person I see. I usually do this while walking to work. At first it will only be superficial things, "I like her hair,"etc, but I'll push myself to come up with deeper things, like "She looks motivated, I admire that." By the end of my walk I feel better and am much less likely to have mean/critical thoughts about myself too.

Do you have any games you play like this?

Some other examples are the exercises from the cheesy/new-agey/semi-crazy book Ask And It Is Given, such as the Rampage of Appreciation, which is sort of like my game, but with everything around you not just people. Also the Focus Wheel, where you start with some statement describing where you are emotionally right now with something (like "I feel fat") and then take little steps that feel better ("This feeling will pass" "I can feel myself getting stronger") until you get desired statement you can now accept ("I appreciate my body")

Also I read about a game you can do where you pretend to meet yourself from 5 years ago, and you write out all the advice you'd give them, and then you pretend you're meeting yourself from 5 years from now and guess what advice they would give you.
posted by Calicatt to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 132 users marked this as a favorite
The Altered Beast method: I imagine that it is the year 3000 AD and that I have been dead in the earth for centuries. Then, like in the Sega game this method is named for, I am summoned to "rise from your grave." The light rushes at me as I am offered a miraculous chance to go back in time and resume my current life...which suddenly looks really good compared to moldering like a zombie.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:27 AM on September 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

I practice what I call Radical Gratitude, which sounds like it might be similar to the Rampage of Appreciation.

If I'm feeling grouchy because life has not offered up to me everything I want on a silver platter, I start saying thank you for everything. I start out big, and then get silly and say thank you for the smallest things.

It might go something like this: "Okay. Well, thank you, universe, that I have enough to eat and a nice, warm place to live. That's pretty awesome. Thank you that I have enough money to pay my bills. Which reminds me: thank you for the electricity. Which allows me to write checks to pay my bills at night when it's dark. Thank you for the Ikea lamp that continues to function. Thank you for the lightbulb. Thank you for opposable thumbs, because they make changing lightbulbs easy. Thanks for the spare lightbulb in the broom closet, remind me to put lightbulbs on the shopping list so I can be grateful at Fred Meyer that I can just walk in and buy a lightbulb any time I want. Thanks for walking, being able to walk is fantastic. Thanks for my new striped socks on my walking feet, they are so spiffy. Thanks for the cotton that comprises those socks. So comfy, so soft. Way better than, say, socks made of dog hair. Thanks for dogs. Thanks for especially cute dogs." Etc.

I find it helps if you do this aloud, makes it even more light-hearted and mood-altering.
posted by Specklet at 8:48 AM on September 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

kinda the opposite of what you mentioned in its focus on the negative rather than the positive, but sometimes i throw a negative preoccupation into every garbage can i see while walking or biking. if the journey is long enough i can actually RUN OUT of negative things to throw away; it's great to realize there are a finite number of things bothering me, to articulate what they are, and to leave them all behind.
posted by nevers at 8:52 AM on September 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

This is kind of a small "game"--more of a hack, really--but if I'm watching what I eat, when I am faced with temptation instead of telling myself, "no, self, you CAN'T HAVE THAT" (triggers sad feelings of deprivation), I tell myself "Self, you are doing a GREAT JOB resisting that! You are a temptation-resisting MONSTER" (triggers positive feelings of accomplishment).
posted by drlith at 9:09 AM on September 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

Not as much to boost my mood, but to deal with the boredom of stuff like exercising, commuting, doing errands: I imagine I'm with a time-traveler from 50 or 60 years ago, and notice everything they wouldn't understand. Like why there are so many words with ".com" at the end on billboards and cereal boxes. Why all those drivers are holding their hands next to their faces. What all those little striped and checked boxes everywhere are about. And the whole explanation - not just that they're URLs and QR codes, but what that means, how they work (loosely), and how integrated they are in our lives.

Actually that does help my mood, because I'm so glad I live in a time with all those things.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 9:22 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I tried to think of five things I'm grateful for and five things I'm proud of every evening.
posted by callmejay at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm more of a kinesthetic person so my game has a physical component. When I'm running, I make it a habit to drop my shoulders whenever I see the color pink. That habit became so ingrained that I do it unconsciously when I'm not running. As someone who holds tension in her shoulders, that little cue reminds me to relax frequently enough to make a huge difference in my day.

Pink=relax my shoulders and breathe.
posted by 26.2 at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

My step-mom taught me a great game for feeling better after tough encounters with people. Basically anytime you meet someone who you would normally get mad at (they were really rude, yelled, whatnot) you make up a story for them that allowed you to forgive them. It helps to be really detailed in your story for them, have it be as plausible as possible, so that you can believe it's likely to be the real story. I've found this helps me much more to stay in a nice mood after rotten encounters.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

When I'm feeling grouchy or preoccupied with anxiety about something, I like to focus on my surroundings and think about how beautiful they are. It works best when walking somewhere, when I'll just stop and contemplate a particularly attractive tree or house or whatever. I like to focus on the little details (the pattern the tree's leaves make against the sky, the interesting texture of the sidewalk in front of the house) until I get this calm, happy feeling. Then I try to carry that feeling with me as I keep walking and usually whatever was making me feel negative before doesn't bother me as much.
posted by MadamM at 10:01 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not a game exactly, but I think this fits with what you're asking. When I'm either stressed out by trying to juggle too many things at once (and feeling bad that I'm not handling anything well), or I'm totally bogged down in the details of something, or I'm just feeling sorry for myself in general, I picture the earth from space. It reminds me that there are billions of people in the world who don't give a flying rat's ass that I just spilled coffee on my last clean shirt, or that I'll be late for work because I have to get gas first and now I'm stuck in rush hour traffic behind someone out for a scenic drive.

I used to have a poster of the earth that I called my "perspective" poster, because it helped me put my problems in perspective. Kind of a "first world problems" meme back before there were memes.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Much like SuperSquirrel's technique, I imagine myself in the Total Perspective Vortex. If I'm just a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck, then any mistakes I make or any problems I have are even smaller.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I will have an emotion that I don't want like fear or anger. I create a diologue in my mind.

One voice is a gentle motherly kind voice. One is the voice of the emotion I'm feeling. M for motherly, E for emotional

E: I hate that **** &*%#%!!! What a &$&*$&&!!! I want to %&%& punch that %&%%*% in the $&$&% $%$& !!!!(further ranting).

M: so what's going on?

E: I'll tell you what's going on! (Ranting).

M: ok. Anything else?

E: yeah! (Further ranting about something only tangentally related, if at all).

M: so how do you feel?

E: angry! Motherfucking angry! What are you gonna do about it? Huh? Huh? IM ANGRY

M: ok. That's ok. It's ok to be angry. You can be angry without punching someone (or, you can be scared without hiding, or, you can want things without buying them, etc). You can be as angry as you need to be. Was there anything else?

Then I basically repeat that pattern of ranting and neutralising until I don't really have anything left. Sometimes I cry or yell or do this out loud. Eventually, I feel better. I'm also using it for behaviour modification- by jumping to the end of the cycle and starting with "so how do you feel/ what do you want".

My other technique when I start to get lost inside my head is to force myself to take note of as many details of the external world as possible, preferably while doing sonething active.
posted by windykites at 11:38 AM on September 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

I like the mindfulness based practice of labeling thoughts/feeling as if they were clouds passing over they sky without attaching value or judgment to those thoughts. Instead of criticizing myself and then judging myself for judging myself I think "oh. self-judgment". Instead of criticizing myself for judging others I think "oh. other-judgment" and then let the cloud pass by. The idea is to accept the thoughts/feelings without hinging anything on them or trying to change them.

Another tip someone taught me is to imagine anger, self/other criticism, aggression, sadness whatever as a person I invite into my sunny, warm, cozy kitchen. "Here, have some tea. Have a cookie. Tell me all about it." The idea is to treat icky feelings/thoughts/behaviors openly with love, and tenderness instead of trying to fight or talk yourself out of them.
posted by space_cookie at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Two of the three I use are more or less described above. Sometimes if I'm really stuck and frozen, I have a dialogue with an understanding and concerned alter ego much like windykites and space_cookie describe ("what's going on?" ...[listens]... "you really are overwhelemed aren't you?" ...[listens]... "that must be tough" ...[listens]...) until I get a sense of relief ("it IS tough, it's really tough! Yes! It is. Thank you. *sigh* Thank you so much for understanding,") and can move on. ("Okay, so given how tough this is, what do you want to do? what can you do?")

And if I'm just endlessly annoyed and peevish, or being hypercritical, or feeling like "what is the *$% point?" I use something much like steinsaltz's. I imagine that I was lost in the wilderness and alone for years. Or I imagine that all the people disappeared or died in a plague, and society's infrastructure started to crumble. But now, I've just returned. "Look at all of these wonderful things. Working elevators! Friendly, even healthy people! Food! in restaurants, which someone else has already prepared even, which you can just walk in and buy!" Or, I remind myself that one day I'm going to be dead...can't taste anything, can't smell anything, can't talk, can't move, just lying there in a coffin inert and lifeless with the world going on without me, how sad and alone ... "But wait! I'm not dead yet, I can still breathe, look at how my lungs can still move in and out absorbing air, and I can still walk, what a wonderful feeling, and I can even still smell that stinky odor from the trash, ha ha all these mundane 'annoyances' we take for granted in their wondrousness. And here surrounding me are all these other people who are also still alive for their brief moment in the sunshine here on earth. What a miracle we are experiencing here together right now. And yes! I should go try hard to accomplish XYZ dream by getting moving right now, even if only on ABC mundane task."

The last one not yet mentioned is to imagine myself preparing to be reincarnated into a future life, or outside of my body looking at the webs of interaction that we all find outselves in. What do I wish I had done / was doing? How do I want to relate to the people around me to repair past harms or to lay the groundwork for kindness, peace, and love moving forward? This works when I'm generally okay (see the first game above), and pretty clear on what I'm trying to accomplish in my own life at that moment (see the second game), but also kind of stuck in a petty viewpoint, absorbed with my own problems. "I have the honor of being here in this web of people and interactions, and how can I use that power for good?"
posted by salvia at 1:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

You might look for a copy of A Book of Games by Hugh Prather.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2012

SuperBetter was designed for people with physical health and motivation problems. You might find it helps improve your mood and outlook.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:47 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all great--keep them coming!

Thatdawnperson: thanks for reminding me about this. I read McGonigal's book and forgot to check that out...doing so now!
posted by Calicatt at 5:54 PM on September 30, 2012

I live in NYC, where street harassment / catcalling is kind of an omnipresent issue for myself and my female friends. To balance it out, a couple of us have a game where we try to say something nice to three different strangers per day.

This was actually inspired by a stranger across the street shouting that he loved my haircut because it was adventurous, which we dubbed "positive street hollering."
posted by miskatonic at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

You know how babies go through a phase where they're just figuring out that they have hands and that they can control them? I do that every now and then: contemplate my hands (and the rest of me) and wonder at their existence, the fact that they are mine and that I can make them do what I want, and at the myriad processes of life working in concert that allow me to function (blood flowing! neurons firing! muscles contracting!). For me just to sit here and exist requires all kinds of incredibly elaborate awesomeness. This always cheers me up.
posted by emeiji at 10:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes i focus intensly on what i'm hearing around me - as if it were some sort of produced audio-montage - works great in busy areas like downtown or airport
posted by mrmarley at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2012

When I get a bit too neurotic and frantic about things (late for a deadline at work, am I wearing the right outfit?, my hair looks stupid, should I try and ask this person about this thing? Does the person who's driving know where they're going?), I try a little "What's the worst that could really happen?" exercise. Usually the worst thing is...someone could yell at me. And if I just remember that, I can usually deal with the things a lot better, because hey, I'm prepared for the small possibility that everything could go wrong and someone might yell at me.

(There are some questions where "What's the worst that could happen?" ends up with "you'll be homeless on the street, with no job or money or place to live." Luckily, I have an old and dear friend who long ago promised me that I would always have a place wherever she was living. We both know I'll probably never need to take her up on it, but it is infinitely comforting to have a verbal promise, just in case.)
posted by redsparkler at 11:38 AM on October 1, 2012

You know that stoner idiom that "We are the universe experiencing itself"? Taken to its extreme, we are also the universe eating itself, pissing on itself, sexing itself, and feeling neurotic about itself. Whenever I put things in this perspective, everything gets absurd and I start feeling like I'm in a Chekhov short story. Nothing seems like that big of a deal anymore after the realization that I am the universe getting over its own anxieties about being the universe.
posted by dubusadus at 7:18 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is more of an 'ongoing' game, but a big one for me was always 'learn to like things that are good for you.'
posted by ejaned8 at 6:52 AM on October 2, 2012

The game:

-Name five things you can see.
-Four things you can feel (bodily sensations, not emotions).
-Three things you can hear.
-Two things you can smell.
-One thing you can feel (emotions).

Recycle and repeat as needed. Good for worry spirals or feelings of disengagement.
posted by kettleoffish at 6:59 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I'm really in a bad mood about things that just can't be helped, I sometimes aggressively wallow in it. I will tell the story about what's going on to myself, except I'll REALLY get carried away in embellishing the details - as if I were winning some kind of weird "and who's got the most awfullest, shittiest luck" contest at a bar or something.

And somewhere around the middle of the story, after I've piled on yet another "and THEN you'll never guess what happened NEXT", either the whole thing starts sounding unbelievably ridiculous and farcical, and I end up laughing at it, or I step back and look at myself and think "and I'm still putting up with all of this? DA-YUM, I'm tough," and I end up proud of myself.

Usually it's the farcical stuff, though, because seriously some of the shit that happens to me sounds like Monty Python outtakes or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on October 3, 2012

I have a bad habit of worrying about my health and my body, picked up in nursing school when I started learning about all the awful ways a body can fail. It's easy to focus on how much my feet hurt, or how my belly feels bloated, or my muscles are sore, or whatever. Someone taught me recently that when I notice myself doing that, I could ask myself, "What in my body feels good right now?" Even when my grumpy/worried brain wants to answer, "Nothing!!!" I can still cajole myself into finding something. Like maybe my earlobes feel pretty relaxed, or my eyeballs feel well moisturized. And sometimes I'm surprised to find that my feet don't hurt, or my shoulders aren't tense, and it's really nice to notice that those problems aren't ever-present. The more I make this into a habit, the less I worry that I'm headed toward imminent death or disability or misery.

Oh, and I'm also trying to develop the habit each morning of saying a terrifically cheerful, "Good morning, body!" when I get up, instead of immediately thinking about how my calves are sore or I feel fat or I'm not happy with my skin. It's helping me feel like my body is a friend, rather than an enemy. Plus it's super silly, which is a nice way to start the day.
posted by vytae at 6:23 PM on October 4, 2012

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