‘Gaming’ the challenge of HSP

Happier, healthier, stronger


There are some very helpful ways of living with HSP. It’s all about attitude! Here are some ‘tricks’:


“I walk into the gym as a superhero! I tackle each of the exercises that my physiotherapist recommended as mini challenges, doing my very best, and the next day, doing my very best again. Great for my sense of accomplishment! I might not look like it to others but under my gym gear – I am a superhero!”


“When I feel down, I do a quick pick-me-up. Here’s my favorite:


It takes just over one minute to do and cheers me up enormously! There are lots of quick and easy ways to feel happier, healthier and stronger and there’s scientific proof that it works!”


I didn’t make these things up. I stumbled upon the podcast and then the book “SuperBetter” by Jane McGonigal. The SuperBetter method is designed to make you stronger, happier, braver and more resilient. There are lots of randomized, controlled studies and clinical trials to prove these changes are beneficial but this couldn’t be easy – OR COULD IT?!!!

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SuperBetter is like playing a game. In fact it is intentionally and specifically just like playing a game. This methodology was created by the author, an internationally renowned game designer, after a very serious brain injury, to face the stress and personal challenges of a very long and slow recovery. SuperBetter is about taking a gameful approach to life and the challenges we all come across. The SuperBetter process is to:


  1. Challenge yourself.

  2. Collect and activate power-ups, which are things you can easily do in 5 minutes or less that make you feel happier, healthier and/or stronger.

  3. Find and battle the ‘bad guys’, which are anything that blocks your progress or causes you anxiety, pain or distress.

  4. Seek out and complete quests.

  5. Recruit your allies.

  6. Adopt a secret identity.

  7. Go for an epic win.


In her book there’s a lot of science on why playing games, including online games is actually good for us! That rush of success when a player does well in a video game, gives a dopamine feel-good reward which, its been proven, is as powerful as intravenous drugs. With practice, learning to live gamefully and developing these skills can lead to significant neural reorganization, resulting in increased attention, faster decision making and more effective learning. Playing games with your friends or family, any games and especially SuperBetter games, can open doors to communication, understanding and mutual support. Lots of examples were given of how this sort of “game” helped friends/associates/loved ones finally understand how they can be helpful.

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More compelling to me though is that people around the world are adopting their own secret identities, using power-ups and battling their own bad guys, taking a gameful approach to challenges including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, loss of work even cancer and neurodegenerative disease – and feeling stronger, braver and more capable! Groups, including Navy officers, teachers, therapists and neighborhood associations have designed SuperBetter adventures.


I was especially touched by the fellow who couldn’t find a way to get himself healthier – until he decided his epic challenge was to be the best owner his dog could possibly have! He took his dog for frequent walks and threw balls for his dog to fetch and got outside much more often – thereby getting exercise and reducing his own stress – and it made all the difference.


I was touched by the man with two young children and motor neurone disease who took on a superhero identity and had his children help him with gameful physical challenges… wanting to be more to them than their father, sick in bed and dying. Life can be hard and having HSP can be hard. If there’s a challenge you’d like to approach/overcome/have more control over or if you’d like to improve some fundamental life skills in a fun, approachable way, here’s a good place to start.


Some resources


  • Ted Talks 19 minute video by Jane McGonigal:





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It’s all about attitude!

  • You are stronger than you know.
  • You are surrounded by potential allies.
  • You are the hero of your own story.

1 comment

  1. I think this is brilliant!!! Of course attitude is important but its so easy to get in a rut or fall into bad patterns. I find the SuperBetter tricks very helpful! I know now how to quickly shift from a bad mood to a better one. But a super hero? Well… maybe I am!

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