I have been using the SuperBetter app for the last few weeks. In it, you earn points (which you can do nothing with) by activating power ups (things like getting tasks done early or reaching out to a friend or family member). There are also quests to o and enemies to face. I won’t go into those here, partially because I have a different purpose for this post and partially because I’m way better at using power ups than doing the other two.
In each category you have the ability to make your own items. I’ve made a number of power ups that apply to my own life and I’m always surprised by the (presumably) dopamine rush I get from activating one of these. As a consequence, I have now gone from looking at litter on the ground with a sense of depression and hopelessness to seeing it as a chance to get meaningless points in a game, that’s right, picking up litter is one of the power ups u made. Which leaves me wondering what other things I could add to turn being more sustainable into a game. Fight with the single use plastics enemy by refusing a straw and bringing my own reusable containers for leftovers at a restaurant? Set a quest of eating only vegetarian meals for a whole week? Activate a power up when I turn off my electronics and take the time to read? These all sound great and adding them into the app seems like an interesting way to add some well being components to my actions. Now as it turns out, the actions themselves probably contribute to my well being.
Kasser (2017) reviewed some of the research on well being and pro-environmental behaviours. People who do more pro-environmental behaviours tend to have higher well being and people wth higher well being tend to engage in more pro-environmental behaviours. This connection is still not completely clear but things like feelings of higher competence, mindfulness, and voluntary simplicity appear to contribute to both well being and pro-environmental behaviours.
So where does the SuperBetter app com in? I can’t help but wonder if the app actually helps with the competence and the mindfulness. When I do something I get to/want to check off that I did it. I want that goofy little recognition that I did something important if small. I can’t announce it to everyone. Imagine how annoying I could be if I texted someone every time I completed a sustainable action? But this way I can take a moment and think “I made a choice today that helped the world, go me!”