I got my first iPhone on Wednesday 2nd November 2016 and the first thing I did was download Pokémon Go. For the next 278 days I would play this game multiple times a day. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for hours and hours. Sometimes on my own, often with others. This morning I realised that I didn’t think about Pokémon at all yesterday for the first time since November last year.
This post is my love letter to Pokémon Go. A thank you and a look back on this crazy adventure.
In my town, in my county and in my country I have explored so many new places thanks to those little digital creatures. It’s getting sort of ridiculous the amount of times I’ve said or thought ‘we wouldn’t know about this place if it wasn’t for PoGo!’
I have learnt that however well you think you know a place there is always more to discover.
I have struggled with a few aspects of social anxiety for many years. The subconscious idea that everyone is watching me, the need to avoid crowds and a heart-beating, hands-shaking, stomach-dropping dread of talking to strangers.
It wasn’t an overnight fix but I’ve definitely noticed a change in my perception of the world while playing PoGo. Of course no one is watching you – everyone is the centre of their own universe! It helps to stand around awkwardly for a while (fighting gyms) or to walk past the same people multiple times (circling Pokéstops) to realise people don’t care what you’re doing and even if they do it doesn’t matter.
The need to avoid crowds stems from a fear of being jeered at. It’s happened before (to me and most women it seems :/) but just because some people do stupid stuff it doesn’t mean everyone is a jerk. I should be able to walk around without worrying about feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, ashamed or objectified. I slowly but surely stopped turning around at the faintest sight of a gathering of people and started focusing on Pokémon Go in situations where my anxiety was flaring up. “They’re not looking at you, they don’t care, you’re fine. The Pokémon are more important than what they think anyway. Go get the Pikachu” or something along those lines. Finding a distraction from negative thoughts and assumptions is a great way for dealing with fear.
I’ve met so many new people while playing Pokémon Go. From the mum whose kids were concerned about me because I’d been standing against a fence with my coat over my head in the pouring rain (fighting a gym) for half an hour to the people I have fought multiple raids with and everyone in-between. It’s easier to talk to strangers when you already have a connection point, something you both like and it’s been brilliant to work on speaking to new people.
For helping me to work on all these things and for showing me that I’m braver than I think, I am eternally grateful to Pokémon Go.
For 278 days I made an effort to explore the outdoors every single day. I left the house, even when I was ill, tired, upset or grumpy. In all weathers from bright sunshine to pouring rain to heavy snow, I went outside. I walked so much more, my body has definitely felt healthier and stronger in the last 9 months than ever before and Dougal (our dog) loves it too!
The mental clarity of fresh air and exercise can’t be beat. The hardest part of going for a walk is getting out the door, once you do it’s so much fun. Pokémon Go got me outside everyday, even when I didn’t feel like it.
I have learnt that exercise and the outdoors is not only amazing for my physical health, it has a big effect on my mental health too.
Dougal and I have already been out this morning once again, fighting gyms, catching ‘mons and spinning stops. My streak may be over but the adventure is most certainly not!