All-Star Lukas On Travel and Keeping Up With My Challenge

This is the first in what I hope will be several blog posts about my SuperBetter challenge, to cut sugar out for 30 days (month of March) and then to switch to only having sugar on Sundays for the next two months (at least).

Most of my sugar-free March went really smoothly. I have gotten a lot of practice at doing my 30 days without sugar exercise so I have developed plenty of coping mechanisms. This time around I hardly needed them. I mostly got through with sticking to mealtimes, being vigilant about preparing ahead for meals, and drinking lots of water. I think that this is because since my last attempt, I have actually reduced the amount of sugar I keep around me significantly. However, there’s a big glaring spot in my life where sugar is ALWAYS present at the office. Our office has a wall-o-snacks for the taking (this is some Silicon Valley thing I have never experienced before).  I’d wager at least 60% of the snacks are high in sugar, another 20% medium sweet and then theres a handful of savory things like pretzels, cheese sticks, and V8 thats my triad of workplace snack right there :)

The snacks aside, no-sugar March was cruising along and then Jenny and I went to Mexico for her spring break. We went to Tulum, which is down at the bottom of the Carribean side of Mexico, a place of Mayan ruins and lots of snorkeling.  Mexico (the parts I’ve been to anyway) is a great place to avoid sugar because they don’t seem to do much in the way of deserts.Sure, if I wanted to I could have bought candy at the store before we headed to our out-of-the-way palapa on the beach but since I didn’t, there wasn’t any temptation at all.  When you have a meal there it’s just the meal no desert is offered.

The first four nights of the trip were excellent and full of rest and adventure in equal amounts. I think I really pushed my record for how much time I spent reading in various hammocks. On the fifth night though, I woke up to an unpleasant illness that wiped me out and left me hollow and dehydrated the next day.  Unable to eat (or really want to try eating) any more of the food provided at our resort, I really had no choice but to have a bit of Fanta orange soda so that I’d at least get a little energy.  This was a bit of a bummer to me because not drinking soda is something I’ve really conquered in my life. I’m not going to be too hard on myself though, I was sick and in a strange land.  If I could have been at home I could have made myself dry toast that wasn’t WonderBread or I could have had some chicken broth for energy instead of a soda.The next couple of days were a little bit loose with sugar too because I like to be nice to myself when I’m sick so when we went to the Mayan ruins the next day and the parking lot craziness included a Dairy Queen well, I’m not the kind of person who easily ignores ice cream :)

In the end, I made it to March 29th without having sugar and then when we got home I re-committed to my epic win where I now only have sugar on Sundays. It’s Wednesday now and I’ve got a Canadian chocolate bar in the cupboard waiting for me on Sunday.

If anyone is interested, here are a couple of my tips for traveling when I’m trying to work on my eating:

  • Bring snacks you like and can eat.  I bring dried fruits, jerky, and if I’m eating sugar I bring Clif bars as a breakfast option in case theres nothing good where I’m staying. They are also useful if I’ll be in hotel with a gym so I can eat something right away after working out and avoid impulse purchases of breakfast pastries.
  • Have a reusable water bottle with you. Fill & drink it empty often, especially on the plane. First of all, it keeps you hydrated (and flying is super dry) but also it helps you feel full and less likely to impulse-shop in the airport gift shop or duty free both of which taunt you with massive amounts of chocolate and candy.
  • Buy a salad (or a sandwich if no salads are appealing) in the airport to take on the plane. Most of the airline food will have sugar in it or sugary parts to the snacks included.  It’s incredibly hard to resist eating while bored/full on a plane because it’s already such an altered state and planes don’t really sell salad.

Thats all for this post, thanks for reading.

 Lukas is one of our Spring 2012 All-Stars.  You can watch Lukas, and the other All-Stars, share his journey through video blogs on our YouTube channel.

Show Me the Science! Resilience, games, post-traumatic growth, and more

Looking for the research behind SuperBetter Chief Creative Officer Jane McGonigal’s SXSW, Games for Health, Games for Change, or TED Global talks? Good news: You’ve found it!

Haven’t seen any of these talks yet? You can listen to one right now: Download or stream the podcast of Jane’s 2012 SXSW featured talk: A Crash Course in Getting SuperBetter. Or download the slides from Jane’s Games for Health keynote!

Curious for more breakthrough research? Join (it’s free) and explore the science in your Secret Lab! Watch videos, listen to mini-podcasts, or read our “level up” research summaries. And whenever you want to investigate further, you can access the original research yourself! We’ve curated more than 100 of our favorite scientific studies for you, on everything from “Lazy Exercise” to “The Science of Mindfulness”.


(TIP: The studies here are presented in the order they appear in the talks, so you can follow along with the online podcasts, videos or slides!)


A first-hand account from a hospice worker: “The most frequently expressed deathbed regrets.”




The Benefits of Playing Videogames With Your Kids

Research from Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life: “Game On: Associations Between Co-Playing Video Games and Adolescent Behavioral and Family Outcomes.”

Social Games are a Powerful Relationship Management Tool

Research from Michigan State University: “The ‘S’ in Social Network Games: Initiating, Maintaining, and Enhancing Relationships.”

Online Games Effectively Treat Clinical Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

Clinical trials and randomized controlled study from East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic: “The Efficacy of Prescribed Casual Video Games in Reducing Clinical Depression and Anxiety”; “EEG, HRV, and Psychological Correlates while Playing Casual Video Games”; “The Effectiveness of Casual Video Games in  Improving Mood and Decreasing Stress”

Avatars Change Our Real-Life Behavior

Research from Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab: “Doppelgangers: A New Form of Self”; “The Use of Doppelgangers to Promote Health Behavior Change”;  “The Proteus Effect: Implications of Transformed Digital Self-Representation on Online and Offline Behavior”; “The Proteus Effect: Self-Transformations in Virtual Reality”

Games Increase Creativity in Kids

Findings from the Children and Technology Project at Michigan State University: “Videogame playing tied to creativity” (summary) and full research paper.

Even Violent Games Improve Real-Life Cooperation Skills

“Violent Gaming Leads to Cooperation, Not Aggression” (summary) and full research paper (academic log-in required); “Effect of Playing Violent Video Games Cooperatively on Subsequent Cooperative Behavior”

Games Help Us Tackle Tough Challenges With More Determination

“Brain Changes in Videogamers”; “A Neurologist Makes the Case for Videogames”;  “The Neural Basis of Videogaming”; “Dopamine Levels May Determine Work Ethic”

Games Increase Self-Efficacy

The Hope Lab/Re:Mission Case Study: “Your Brain on Re:Mission”; “A Video Game Improves Behavioral Outcomes in Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer”; “Interactivity and Reward-Related Neural Activity during a Serious Videogame”



Personal Resilience Can Be Increased

Review of research literature: “Seven Principles of Building Personal Resilience”

Post-Traumatic Growth is Possible

“An introduction to post-traumatic growth”; “Post-Traumatic Growth in Young Adults”; “Who Am I Now? Helping Trauma Clients Find Meaning, Wisdom, and a Renewed Sense of Self”; “Assessing Strengths, Resilience and Growth: The Guide to Clinical Interventions”; “The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the Positive Legacy of Trauma”; “Does Self-Reported Growth Reflect Genuine Positive Change?”



Sitting Still is Dangerous

Data presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research: “The new science of ‘Sitting disease’”

Brief Physical Activity Improves Physical Resilience

Review of the scientific literature: “Brief Bouts and Baby Steps for Physical Health”

Research from the NIH: “Exercise Dose and Quality of Life”; “Little Exercise, Big Effects”




Willpower is Like a Muscle

Published in Current Directions of Psychological Research: “The Strength Model of Self-Control”

Review of the research literature: “The Science of Willpower”

Realistic Optimism is a Strength

Published in American Psychologist: “In Search of Realistic Optimism”

Published in Personality and Individual Differences:  “Mental Toughness, Optimism, Pessimism, and Coping Among Athletes”



Frequent Positive Emotion Improves our Odds of Success

Research from the American Psychological Association: “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?”

Positive Emotion Increases Creativity, Social Support

Research from the Review of General Psychology: “What Good are Positive Emotions?”

Positive Emotion Boosts Physical Health

Research from the NIH: “Psychological Resilience and Positive Emotion”’

Research from the American Psychological Association:  “Does Positive Affect Influence Health?”

Positive Emotion Supports Neural Growth

Research from the American Psychological Association: “Perspectives from Affective Neuroscience”

The Tipping Point for Positive Emotion is 3:1

Research from University of Michigan: “The broaden-and-build theory of Positive Emotion”




Social Relationships Make Us Stronger

Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior: “Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy”

Social Relationships Improve our Reaction to Stress

Research from the NIH: “Social Ties and Cardiovascular Function”

Touch for 6 Seconds to Boost Oxytocin

Review of the scientific literature: “How to Be Happier: Touch More”

Brief Touch Increases Trust Among Strangers

Research published in Evolution and Human Behavior: “Sacrifice Among Strangers is Mediated by Endogenous Oxytocin Release After Physical Contact”




Social Resilience Boosts Longevity

Published in PLOS Medicine: “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review”

Positive Emotion Boosts Longevity

Research published in Health Psychology: “The Power of Positive Emotions: It’s a Matter of Life or Death”

Mental Resilience Boosts Longevity

From the NIH: “Optimism and Physical Health: A Meta-Analytic Review”

Published in the Impact Journal on Aging: “Positive Attitudes Toward Life and Emotional Expression as Personality  Phenotypes for Centenarians”

Physical Resilience Boosts Longevity

Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology: “Non-vigorous physical activity and all-cause mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis.”


Your Awesomeness Is the Backbone of Everything I Write

Here are the two most crucial things that I want you to learn from me today. Nope, I won’t make you sit quietly, study endlessly, or toil for years until you’ve earned the right to hear it. You don’t need to be ready. I’ll just tell you now:

1. I champion and celebrate your desire, dear Hero, to change and evolve as much as you want to. And you do not need to be fixed. No matter what your situation, challenge, or condition, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are blazingly fantastic, whole, and perfect down to your core. You’re doing such an excellent job of being you.

I know that some of us out there are genuinely sick, have suffered life-shattering injuries, or are hurtling more quickly towards death than others. Some of our bodies are in greater stages of perpetual crisis, with very real implications to live with. Some of our minds tend towards the darker and more painful shades of reality. Some of us are stuck in habits and patterns that no longer serve, ones that we want to dramatically change. Some of us need help just facing the day.

I’m a huge advocate for positive change and for receiving help and support. That’s why I write Power Packs and believe so much in games like SuperBetter. I’ve contended with my own emotional demons, physical conditions, and strange but tenacious habits of self-sabotage. I know that given the right physical care, social food, mental air, and emotional watering, we humans can flourish in ways that astound and inspire me. There are real habits and practices we can do to positively enhance our lives.

But I need you to know that underneath and all around whatever challenges you’re facing right now—you are AWESOME. You’re awesome despite your challenges, sure; but you’re also awesome because of them. They are what lead you here after all. Let’s take a moment to thank them for that.

That’s one of my goals as a Power Pack writer for SuperBetter: to offer up tools and suggestions for transforming a life by using and accepting exactly what we’ve got.

Another is to support positive change in a way that focuses more on the adventure than on the destination. Which leads us to crucial point number two:

2. You win the game by playing it, not by finishing it. Finishing this game of life means you’ve died. Hopefully when we do reach the finish line (even if it comes sooner than we hoped), we have a sense that we used the time we had here to greatest advantage for ourselves and for others.

This means we’re beyond self-improvement, folks. We’re past that false notion that there’s somewhere static and tangible to get to—and if we could just get to that perfected state then we’d be golden, our problems solved, and money would start raining down from the sky. We’d have “won the game,” so to speak.

I don’t think so. I’m not sure how the myth of arrival got set up in the first place, but let me offer an example of how ridiculous it really is: I’ve been breathing my whole life,” an man says eagerly to you on the train home, and I’ve worked hard at it. Any day now I’ll have perfected it and then I’ll be done with it altogether! I mean, I’ve mastered it—so I won’t have to do it anymore, right?”


Perfected, mastered breathing obviously doesn’t imply that we stop breathing. Anything but. It might mean breathing has become easier or more flowing. That there’s enjoyment with each breath, or that I can now use my breath to alleviate pain or calm nerves; to connect with others and be fully alive in this world. But I don’t stop. No, as long as I’m alive I never stop breathing. Instead, I use breathing as a tool in the tool kit that I reach into when I need support, want to increase my enjoyment or sense of purpose, or want to ramp up my resilience. It’s a tool I can use on my journey of life, one that can make the journey easier and more fun.

The same is true for personal evolution and growth. “Winning the game” of positive change, living up to our potential, and moving towards our dreams—the game of being SuperBetter—isn’t about reaching the finish line and then being fanned in a golden chair for the rest of your life. (I love golden chairs and being fanned, fyi—just under different circumstances.) It’s not about the finish line. It’s about playing the game and playing it well, to the best of our current abilities. It’s about being the Hero in our own never-ending adventure. In the game of life, we don’t always defeat the dragon and then rest on our laurels. Instead we discover all the ways there are to defeat dragons then practice our favorite techniques so that next time the dragon pops up, we can kick some ass.

Or have learned to speak Dragon.

Or whip out a saddle so we can dragon-ride off into the sunset for a while.

This is what sits at the foundation of my creating and writing of Power Packs. Your awesomeness, Hero, is the backbone of everything I write. I run every Quest, Power-up, and Bad Guy through the awesome filter. Heck, I run every sentence through that filter. I ask myself: does this sentence help bring out the inner gem in my Hero? Does it encourage positive change while not making my Hero feel inadequate for not being there yet? When a Hero reads my words, does she relax and think, “I can do this! I can totally do this”? I strive to push my Heroes towards greater freedom, aliveness, and resilience by believing to my core that each and every one of you is already there. My job isn’t to change you, fix or redeem you, but to expose you to ideas, tools, and concepts that you can use for your own empowerment, that you can use to reveal and express more of who and what you already are: which is mind-blowingly, staggeringly, oh-my-God-I-can-hardly-see-because-of-the-blinding-light incredible.

Want a closer look at what goes into creating Power Packs? Stay tuned for my next installment!

As the creator, developer, and writer of Power Packs, Bez Maxwell brings to SuperBetter an inexhaustible delight in written words, creativity that won’t turn off, and a vast amount of compassion and care for humanity’s emotional welfare. She’s passionate about pushing limits while also loving and appreciating what is, and fiercely values both the ecstatically joyous and the unpleasantly dark aspects of the human experience. Bez is a Stanford-educated professional writer and Certified Life and Relationship Coach trained in transparent communication, emotional wisdom, and playful problem solving for individuals, couples, and businesses.

You can reach her at bez [at] superbetter [dot] com



Player blog: Charlie slays his dragons

We are thrilled to have a guest post from All-Star Charlie, who tells the story of how he overcame a history of depression and anxiety to achieve his Epic Win!

I have been battling depression and anxiety for much of my life, and have had my good days and bad days with it. I still do. The thing is that I never have had the confidence to really face it head on, and in a way SuperBetter allowed me to take the first steps to do just that. I really lucked out finding out about SuperBetter. I had read Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken, and saw her present the keynote at PAX East. After watching her talk, I tried to keep tabs on what new projects she was starting, and then she made mention of something called SuperBetter. Not really knowing what it was, I blindly signed up for the chance to be an All-Star.

After applying I have to admit I was scared to death. What had I gotten myself into, was I really ready to try to take on something of this magnitude, would I really come out of the experience becoming SuperBetter? Then I thought, there’s no way they’d pick me, I’m sure there are others out there who probably should be the spotlight, but then I got the e-mail. My heart jumped. I was excited and anxious, but I did all that they asked me, and officially became an All-Star.

When I first logged in I was overwhelmed, and slightly lost. I tried to set it up just like I do with any MMO (massively multi-player online game): find a way to solo through this “game”. The problem is that in order to really get SuperBetter you’re going to need help. This isn’t something that you can simply do alone. Sure there are degrees of help required, but in my opinion you need a couple of allies to help lift you up when you’ve fallen short (or at least when you feel like you’ve done so.)

For my Epic Win, I chose to tackle talking to two complete strangers (I’m terrified to talk people I don’t know simply because somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like I’m going to be laughed at, or maybe criticized for opening my mouth) at a Game Developer meetup in Atlanta. The biggest obstacle that became abundantly clear from the start was scheduling. I will fully admit that there were several times where I could have gotten it done early, but decided to do something else that day so I could say to myself, “darn, it’s just not going to work for me this month.” Then a funny thing happened. I found out I was going to be a dad, and that we were going to need to get ourselves a house.

Now, if I thought talking to game developers (a community that I can actually hold my own in) was scary, talking to realtors, contractors, civil engineers, and more is outright the scariest thing I would ever have to do in my life. Somehow though, I found the courage, guts, and confidence to take all of those on, and I think held my own. So in a way I over-shot my original Epic Win by doing something I found much more difficult.

There was a piece of me who thought that that would be sufficient, that I would be okay not accomplishing my “true” Epic Win, but there was always a part of me who knew I had to still take it on. My biggest Bad Guy through this experience has been my Negative Self-Confidence, the true “demon” that stands in my way when I try to accomplish anything, or I try to set out to do something I’ve never done before. That guy has been the bane of my existence, and to this day I continue to battle him. It is not something I can easily put behind me, but somehow through the SuperBetter experience, and a lot of singing my lungs out (my favorite power-up, by the way), I gained ground on him and even beat him in battle a couple of times.

So that leads me to May 15th, a “final” attempt to accomplish my Epic Win before my All-Star experience comes to an end. I almost didn’t go. I found the perfect excuse, I thought: May 15th was Diablo III release day. I told myself that no one was going to show up, and that I hadn’t had a chance to really spend time with my wife this week with all the house stuff. Those thoughts and more floated through my head all day. I think without my lovely wife (my biggest and best ally) basically telling me to go, and that she’ll be alright if I’m gone for a couple of hours, I would have stayed home and found yet another excuse to miss out on a chance to accomplish my goal. But she pushed me in the right direction, and I battled rush hour traffic to make it to the meet up.

I arrived and went straight for the pizza and coke, and found a place to nervously consume my beverage and food, my eyes darting all over the room, hoping that someone would just come to me and say hello (you see that’s the wierd thing about me, I’m petrified of trying to make first contact.) But it never happened. After eating every small bite of my pizza until there was nothing left, I had to make a choice. I had to decide if I was going to go through with my Epic Win, or was I going to walk away quietly like I got an emergency text on my phone, or something along those lines.

Thankfully, after throwing away my trash, I spotted someone looking as nervous as I felt sitting by himself. His name was Jamal. I put my hand out, shook it, introduced myself as Charlie, and started chit-chatting about the industry, and what he did. Soon enough another person came to sit down and listen. I turned to that person introduced myself, found out his name was Justin, and we continue to talk amongst the three of us for a bit until another person joined in (sadly I didn’t catch his name). An hour or so passed and the meet up seemed to be dying down, so I made for the door, got in my car, and headed home. I blasted my favorite songs all the way home, singing until I couldn’t sing any more. When I got home I fired up my PC, logged onto SuperBetter, and claimed my victory.

There is part of me who wants to say with that I have conquered what I’m trying to get SuperBetter from, but in reality this is just the first step. There are so many more to take, and to be honest even if I move away from the site, I will continue to strive to be SuperBetter. If I can do that, I think the world could be filled with endless possibilities. It is through this SuperBetter experience that I learned that I’ve got a support system that can be there for me, and that there is a way to conquer a ton of my fears and doubts if I’m only willing to give it a go.


– Charlie
AKA: Altered Confusion


Charlie is one of our Spring 2012 All-Stars. You can watch Charlie, and the other All-Stars, share his journey to this Epic Win victory through video blogs on our YouTube channel.

Epic Win Friday! Talking to strangers, defeating self-destruction, and more!

Ready for some inspiration to take you into the weekend? Take a look at these Epic Wins completed by our players over the last couple weeks – including a big win by All-Star Charlie!

Charlie, All-Star (Epic Win: Have the confidence to talk to people at the next Local Game Developer Meet up):

“SHAZAM, I actually came through and did it. It took forever because there’s only one of these meet-ups a month, but I went tonight, and I have to admit at first I didn’t have as much courage as I thought I was going to have, but after I had a slice of pizza and a coke, I found someone sitting by themselves and started there, and just rolled with it meeting others.”

Jill (Epic Win: Age Gracefully): “In my ongoing Quest to Age Gracefully, I am embrassing less is more! Viva le Boheme!”

Melanie (Epic Win: Exercise a half hour a day, 30 days in a row): “I wish I could say that I feel amazing—that I feel like I can take over the world with my new found exercising abilities. Instead, I’m really afraid that I’ll be falling off the wagon. My next Epic Win is to work out 6 days a week for 3 months. I needed something to keep me on track. I feel tired going into that next challenge. But you know what? I’ve come this far, and I can keep going. I do feel proud. Stronger. More peaceful. I know I can hit my next Epic Win. “

Anne (Epic Win: Go 21 consecutive (or near-consecutive) days without self-destructive ideation, by June 3): “It’s lovely going 3 weeks without any of the usual, daily “black hell” between the ears.”

Alison (Epic Win: Meditate 10 times by this Friday!): “This is a baby epic win- my first. I feel pretty humbled that it was such a challenge. I just managed to meditate almost regularly for a couple of weeks. I still have a way to go on my adventure but it feels good to have made a start. “

John (Epic Win: Learn Mood For A Day by YES): “I NEVER thought I’d be able to learn to play Mood For A Day by YES!! Seemed outta my league. But doing it little by little, and not getting frustrated kept me going. Staying positive and on track is the key.”

Olga-Maria (Epic Win: Fly to fl & drive tampa w/o panicking): “i am feeling great–definitely feeling superbetter. my highs stay steady & my lows are so much higher than they have ever been. my allies are great, and everything about sb has been helpful. now i feel like the bad guys are easier and easier to avoid, the power ups are more and more second nature, and the other habits of action, thought, and feeling that i’ve build through this program have really paid off. i am more resilient and i also am more compassionate with myself and others. thank you so much for all of this help, everyone. i really believe in this program & am excited to share it with my doctor, as i already have with my friends.”


Congratulations to Charlie, Jill, Melanie, Anne, Alison, John, and Olga-Maria! If you’d like to see your Epic Win on the SuperBetter blog, please be sure to mark “Share this win with others” when you accomplish it!