Okay, I’m Obsessed

For all you loyal Doc Gurley website visitors (yes, all two of you), you may be thinking this is another article about Dave Barry. But nooo. Just to prove how fickle my fantasy stalker-affections are, I’m outing myself right here, right now, on international Internet, as being obsessed yet again–only this time with a face. Who is this person? I have no mindhabits.jpgclue. What does he do? I have no idea. When it comes to his opinions, politics, or personality, I got nothing. He’s frozen in time, with one two-dimensional expression on his face. For all I know, one second after the camera clicked, he drooled. None of that diminishes my affections. So how did I even find him? By sacrificing myself to the greater good. On behalf of my readers, I went online to investigate a scientifically-supported positive mood-enhancer that was designed based on neuro-psych research. I (gulp–this is hard for someone over 40 to admit)…I played a computer game. Yes, I’m exposing my innermost, tenderest feelings of vulnerable obsession to all of you as a warning. Unless you want to be an object of teenage mockery (but then again, what mom isn’t?), beware. Here’s the cautionary tale:

I read with interest a National Review of Medicine news article about a published study evaluating a computer game that improves mood and self-confidence. My personal (cough cough) experience is that playing a computer game, after several hours (or even days, okay I admit it, I’m kind of a FreeCell addict) tends to depress the mood of the player, leaving some people shouting in a cranky fashion to just fix your own damn dinner, I’m busy here. As if the odds of a computer game improving mood weren’t stacked against the creators enough already, this particular computer game also was tested on the most rigorously depressed, heinously emotionally-battered individuals in the known universe. Think of it as the ultimate trial-by-fire test. It was tested on, you guessed it, telemarketers. Just thinking about having to pick up a phone and cold-call someone during dinner to sell an item that is clearly unsellable any other way makes several of my sphincters contract. God help my family if that was how I had to support myself. Well, I thought, if it can not only lower the blood cortisol levels (a marker of stress) in these people, improve their mood and increase their sales, then there’s got to be something here. So I went online to investigate, in the interest of writing a Joy Habit article for you legions of Doc Gurley readers (yes, both).

I guess I expected something with soothing music and chimes and a floating yellow cartoon-smiley face. What I found was something altogether different. These are real games where you have to react quickly. You can sign on and play any of them for free. If you like the games, you can pay ($19.99) for the actual, expanded version of the game with more levels and a tracking function to see how you’re doing over time. There are several different free games to try, each designed to reinforce a positive mind habit. I am (I modestly admit) scarily good at finding the ridiculously easy-to-find positive words in a word grid. My daughters love the Grow Your Chi game which is actually quite difficult. My favorite, however, is the game designed to train your mind to inhibit negative faces. Real faces flip over on cards and your job is to quickly find and click the smiling one. I have to tell you, these are great faces. I love these people! When you see actual, diverse faces smiling at you and you find them and give them a chirpy little click, and the game happily beeps at you–I swear, you can’t do this without finding yourself smiling back. I find myself making up personalities to go with these glorious smiles, and bonding with some more than others, and imagining jobs and jokes they just told and how we’re all going out together this weekend, and–okay, you get the picture. It would be a kind of disturbing statement about me, unless, that is, you (like me) decide that the best thing is to just go with it. I’m getting a great result from the game. It’s a wonderful mood enhancer, especially if you play it before you have to roll up your sleeves and tackle some yucky toilet-cleaning-level chore (tip: keep the site bookmarked for tax time). I mean how bad a side effect can a bit of stalker-level obsession be? I’m pretty sure the game creators keep the names of the people they used in the pictures under lock and key.

Now where was that lab located?

Go to MindHabits.com, give the free game a try, and then nominate who you think the Doc Gurley Smile-Obsession person is in the comments section! (hint: he doesn’t look like Dave Barry, not even a little).

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