Xin gets us thinking about addiction in this blog, and when a passion has started to negatively impact on our lives.
In 2003, I started playing an MMORPG called RuneScape. In case you’re not familiar, MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. This is a game where a large number of people can go online and play together, often in a fantasy/adventure setting. World of Warcraft (WoW) is probably the most famous of them, but there are plenty of other ones out there at the moment.
As I was saying, I played RuneScape quite a bit in 2003 when online gaming was just starting to flourish. I enjoyed it so much that I played it at every spare moment of the day, and often in moments that weren’t spare at all. I’d log on to kill greater demons for 20 minutes after breakfast, or set my alarm for 3am so that I didn’t have to share the computer with my brother. In one instance when one of my friends was having a bad day, I chose to stay home from school and go questing with her to cheer her up. I poured hours and hours of my life into the game, and almost as much into the clan (community of players) I was part of, posting on the forums and trying to maintain dozens of friendships. Eventually I couldn’t keep it up, and I finally realised what I had long suspected: that I was addicted to RuneScape.
There was no single moment where I went “Holy crap, I’m an addict”. Instead there were lots of little signs here and there, signs which you probably would have recognised but I was oblivious to. Addictive behaviour can often seem very appealing for a wide range of reasons – I had friends who wanted me to play with them, I was just a few repetitions away from gaining a new level, I really wanted that rare weapon that had a 1% chance of appearing and so forth. But at the end of the day, I was able to recognise that my life was suffering in exchange for the time and energy that I was investing online. I didn’t have any time for homework, I resented going to social events because it was taking away time I could have spent playing (not that I had any friends outside of the game anyway), and my sleep patterns were abysmal. It reached a point where I decided it just wasn’t worth it, and I decided to stop.
From then on, I swore off RuneScape and MMORPG’s in general. I was terrified of falling back into that pit of addiction where I kept playing, even though I knew that the rest of my life was suffering as a consequence. Even so, I still felt the ache of longing as my brother continued to play and my clanmates emailed me from time-to-time. I even agreed to return once or twice to help out with special events, but I made it very clear that I was only playing for the duration of the event and no further. My friends accepted it, I dropped out of contact with many of them, and I moved on to new adventures in my life.
I’ve heard the term “addictive personality” thrown around a lot. It’s a real thing, but I think a lot of people are using it as an excuse. They say, “Oh I can’t help playing six hours a day, I just have an addictive personality.” To me that’s like saying “Oh I can’t help having hypoglycaemia – I have diabetes.” If you know you’re likely to be addicted to something, it means you have to be especially responsible if you start engaging in the behaviour.
Even with the benefit of experience, gaming addiction is something that I am still prone to. Normally my obsessions are only a couple of days at the most where I’ll delve into an incredible world without compromising my other responsibilities (such as work, training etc.). But a few weeks ago I started playing a new MMORPG, and I noticed pretty quickly that I was spending way too much time playing and had lost interest in doing chores, hanging out with friends or spending any time with my girlfriend, Beth. I found myself thinking, “I don’t have to get ready for work until 2:30, so I’ll get up early and play as much as I can before then.” But after Beth pointed out to me that she had only seen me for an hour or two a day for the entire week, even though we were living together, I realised that I’d once again fallen off the bandwagon.
After that I immediately took measures to limit my time online. I scheduled in other activities, like “Dinner”, “Spend time with Beth”, “Go shopping”. It seems ridiculous to need to lock in these mundane daily activities, but even so, the first few days were a real struggle not to use any excuse to jump back online. But I found that as soon as I did something other than playing, I was able to focus my attention on other things which I enjoyed even more than gaming. Through mindfulness, I could really enjoying cuddling and watching a movie rather than exploring a new part of the map. I could drink tea and read a book rather than crafting new gear. The virtual world, while beautiful and compelling, will still never be as rich or miraculous as the world we live in.
Addictions work by feeding into a biochemical reaction. Stress hormones build up as the desire to play increases. If you give in to that desire, you feel relieved or relaxed as endorphins flood your system. However, this relief is short term, and the moment you stop playing, the stress hormones start to be released again. You may not even enjoy playing any more, but those stress hormones make it seem really compelling to do it, and so the cycle continues. But if you can build up the strength of will to break the cycle, the stress hormones will gradually lower on their own and the compulsion won’t be as strong – it’s short term pain for long term gain. For me it was almost as if my Addiction had its own personality, and when I refused to give it what it wanted, it threw little tantrums, sulked for a while and then gradually faded into the background as I carried on with my day. It wasn’t easy at first, but it was entirely worth it.
One of the most straightforward ways to tell whether an action is an addiction is if you know it’s causing harm but you can’t stop doing it anyway. If this post reminds you of anyone, yourself included, get them to ask themselves “Is this behaviour having a negative impact on my life?” If they find the answer is Yes, then check out this page here on addiction for more information. If you do decide to alter the amount of gaming you’re doing, talk to the people around you about what you’re going through and what you’re trying to do. Changing a lifestyle habit isn’t always easy, and you’ll find that their support makes a world of difference.
All the best,
With Fresh Faced Friday coming up on the 5th September, Bethwyn gets us thinking about image expectations, both the ones we place on ourselves, and ones people place upon us.
During the end of Primary School, and all of High School, I convinced myself that I was ‘average-looking’. This may not sound too bad, but, for me, being ‘average’ was absolutely awful. It was a truly awful word that I hated, and yet I used it often to describe myself.
The thing was, I was surrounded by friends – both male and female (mostly female) that I considered more attractive than myself – and quite a few of them were smarter than me, as well. At the time, I felt like you were either beautiful/attractive, or you were smart. There were a few that had both, and a few that had neither. I felt like I was in limbo – not quite anything. It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least.
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Friday 5th Sept is Fresh Faced Friday where you are invited to ‘tear up’ talk about negative body image and help everyone realise it’s okay to love their bodies! In celebration of this, this blog is about a time I looked in the mirror and recognised myself as a beautiful person. I hope that by talking about it, more people come to recognise that it’s okay to feel good about who they are and the way they look, ’cause baby let me tell you: you look smokin’ today.
So a little while ago I had just finished a morning exercise class where I had gotten up at ungodly time of 5:15am to run and pull and jump and swing. I had worked really hard that morning, pushing myself until I was glistening with sweat, yet smiling in my heart for how healthy I felt. I got back to my girlfriendâs place and jumped in the (cold shower, and when I got out to dry myself, I was caught aback by my reflection. In all humility, I had never seen myself look so beautiful in all my life. I stood there for a long moment, amazed at how young and fit and healthy I was.
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I’m quite introverted. I have nothing against extroverts at all – I think it’s so great that they are able to go out and socialise so often, and to have personalities that are often described as ‘go-getters’ or ‘bright sparks’. That’s amazing. But it’s not me. I spend a lot of time either alone or just with a couple of people at a time, and I really enjoy times like that. Socialising takes energy from me, and so I spend a lot of time recovering by doing quiet things.
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There have been so many tragedies on the news lately, planes going missing, planes being shot down. Wars happening. World leaders acting less than ideally. And so many problems happening within Australia that people are beginning to question whether we are really the kind and calm people we were once painted to be.
And then within peopleâs own lives, there are so many worrisome things that happen. Losing loved ones, or having someone close to us get very sick â either suddenly, or gradually. Everyday stressors impact on us, too. The guy driving in front of you that cuts you off or doesnât indicate before swerving in front of you, your boss giving you more work than you can possibly handle, your friend not returning your calls because they have a new partner and have disappeared into them. Your pet throwing up on your favourite rug, or tripping you over and making you smash your favourite mug.
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âTo be nobody-but-yourself
in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.â
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and thought, âI look great; I am happy with myselfâ? I can say that personally, my inner dialogue fluctuates daily based mainly on my emotions (and not reality).
Our feelings are not always accurate, especially when based in guilt or comparing ourselves to someone else and/or unrealistic standards. I also find that an unhappiness with my body spreads to other areas, making me feel lesser in many facets of life.
Our generation is so stressed; information is coming at us from every direction with perfection always frustratingly just out of reach. We are expected to be advanced in many ways because we have so much that past generations did not (read: the World Wide Web, Facebook, Reddit, etc.). While the expanded worldview we gain from this is invaluable, it also leads to a consuming competition between who looks the best on social media, or does more interesting things on Facebook. We forget that posts and snapshots are momentary, often posed, glimpses not into another’s life, but into a limited view of how they choose to represent their reality. Camera angles and filters can make someone look thin/happy/fulfilled, but let’s not forget the bigger picture.
‘Body image‘ is one of those catchphrases that makes many young adults roll their eyes because it’s a complex issue that often gets glossed over. However, I think that the image we internalize and tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves is so vitally important. Bigger than your body, what do you think about you as a human being? The bigger picture here is self respect.
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Have you every wondered about the reason why you wear makeup? Was it your idea? Or did a well-meaning parent or sibling take you aside one day and press a bottle of foundation into your hands?
The reason Iâm asking this is because our society conditions girls to think that they need to wear makeup in order to be pretty or attractive. I think that there is something really wrong with that.
The first time I wore makeup was when I was 17 and in year 11 at high school. For years all the girls around me had gradually started wearing makeup until I was one of a rare few that hadnât yet. I felt happy with my decision, knowing within me that I didnât need to put a kind of paint on my face in order to be attractive. I valued my brains and abilities over my appearance and hadnât even thought about makeup.
But all that changed one day when my Mum arrived home with a present for me: a bottle of foundation, mascara and an eyeliner pen. I was confused and hurt when she told me that I should start wearing makeup. She told me that âit would make me feel betterâ and that I would need to wear makeup when I finished school so I might as well start now.
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Inspired by the blog DearHolly, our blogger Beth writes to her High-School-Me
I donât really like the idea of regrets â so I feel like either you do something or you donât. Having said that, though, I think there are quite a few people who would like to go back and talk to themselves in High School and tell them to do (or not do) certain things.
This, I think, is why some people can feel a little stifled by their parents â your parents just want to stop you from making the same mistakes they did, but it doesnât work that way. Everyone needs to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. I mean, Iâve never met a successful person that hasnât made a few mistakes, have you?
If I were able to go back and advise my past self about one thing to do with High School, it would be this: romance and love are amazing and wonderful, but donât make it the absolute main factor of your life. Now that may sound a little strange, maybe a little jaded. Iâm not saying love isnât worth it â because it truly is. And I met my fiancĂŠ in my final year of High School. I am truly grateful to have him in my life.
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There are always going to be people who offer you advice, regardless of whether you asked for it. We do it to others, they do it to us. We want to relate, to interact with one another, and so the more logical choice when someone is telling another of their issues is to immediately search our memories for when something even vaguely similar happened to us – so we can then offer advice.
There is something kind behind this desire to connect, of course. It is usually just a simple desire to help, even if we aren’t entirely sure how to. We want to make people feel like they’re not alone with whatever they’re going through, and that’s wonderful. But we seem to have developed this inability to be present with ‘not-knowing’ – we always feel like we have to have an answer, like we always have to help somehow.
I’m just going to say right now: there is no shame in not knowing something. Sometimes we really want to help someone else when they’re going through something tough, but we don’t know how. That’s okay. Don’t be afraid to sit with it and acknowledge these feelings, or even stating them to the person you want to help. Sometimes they will react badly to this – there are multiple reasons why they might do this – maybe they are frustrated with their situation, and you saying you don’t know how to help kind of makes it feel a bit harder, or maybe they were expecting you to fix everything. Either way, as long as you are genuinely trying to help, then it’s okay to sit with that – you don’t have to have the ‘how’ in place straight away.
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We are very pleased to have a guest blog post by Jessica Barlow of the DearHolly Project
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How many times have you wished that you could hit rewind and try everything all over again? If youâre anything like me, Iâm willing to bet that the number in your head is spiraling into the hundreds.
Iâm writing for you today because I want to let you know about a mail art project Iâve started online. Itâs called DearHolly and Iâm asking people of all ages to write a postcard addressed to either âHollyâ for girls or âOllyâ for boys, detailing advice, stories, regrets or successes relevant to life as a teenager.
Every week I publish all the postcards that arrive online so we can all check them out. So far there have been postcards from as far away as Asia and from people as young as 11.
The idea is that instead of having to live through your teenage years before you can look back on them and wish you had done differently, or listened to âthat adviceâ etc, you can now look back on and learn from the teenage years of other people. Best of all, these people come from all walks of life, countries, ages and eras, so you most likely would never have had the opportunity to hear from them otherwise.
By sharing our own experiences with DearHolly we can help other teenagers and young people around the world to navigate teen life, as itâs happening. And letâs face it, there is a LOT of drama, challenges and identity issues that happen from 13-19!
Iâm 22 now but I sure wish something likeÂ DearHolly had existed when I was a teenager. I baulked at the idea of asking my parents for advice (are you kidding me? As if they have a clue what life is like for me!) So I mostly bottled up my problems and questions and hoped for the best.
With DearHolly, Iâm hoping to change that scenario for other young people who, like me, didnât/donât feel comfortable asking their parents or families for advice. The beauty is that you never know what topic of advice is going to come through or if there will be a funny story to make you laugh. It is completely random and representative of not just our generation, but also those who have come before us.
So what are you waiting for? Do you have a goal for your teenage years? Do you have a regret to share that might help others avoid having the same regret? Do you have a funny story about your time as a teenager? Have you received some awesome advice that simply must be shared?
To submit to DearHolly you need to:
1. Grab a postcard or envelope
2. Write, draw, include a photograph etc
3. Sign your first name, age and gender OR remain anonymous
4. Post to: DearHolly, Knox City Centre Post Office,â¨ PO Box 4180,â¨ Knox City Centre,â¨VICTORIA, Australia, 3152 OR email a picture of your postcard to: email@example.com
To check out the past 3 weeks worth of submissions visit the website here DearHolly.
You can also Tweet to DearHolly at @dearhollymail or visit me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dearhollyproject
Iâd love to hear from you â donât be shy!
I would like to start by remarking on an observation I have made. Previously when people have asked me the generic opening line “Hi, how are you?”, I made it my goal to give them an honest and unique answer rather than the generic “I’m good thanks”. I would pick some part of how I was feeling and comment on it: “A bit tired”, I would say, or “I’ve been better”, or “Not bad considering I’m at work on a Sunday”. But I’ve recently discovered that these lines, innocent and honest as they may be, are layered with a subtle negativity. I have found that when you talk about things that are going wrong, the people you are talking with will respond in one of two ways:
They might start to withdraw from you and avoid getting into a discussion of an unpleasant topic by brushing you off with something like a “Oh, right. That’s too bad”.
Alternatively, they might start to feed into your negativity with a well-meaning response such as “Oh, I’m so sorry. What sort of sickness do you have?” While this might initially seem like kindness, it is feeding into the cycle of I believe I feel bad – this person believes I feel bad – I continue to feel bad. When you see that person again, they are likely to open with “Are you feeling any better today?” And you might think to yourself, “I don’t know, am I? Maybe I am still a little under the weather.”
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