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  • drfrankgaskill

The Psychology of Habitica: How to Gamify Your Life

To be clear, I am not the most disciplined human being on the planet. But I do have certain habits I never have to think about, which is really what a habit is. An unconscious behavior you don’t need to think about.

Every morning I wake up, turn on my lamp, reach for my phone, and check the news. I brush my teeth, shower, make the bed, and dress the same way every single day. My mornings are a groundhog day of habits.

And while I have existing habits, what happens when I want to create new ones? There are all kinds of systems out there including reward charts, earning up to some big reward, delayed gratification, etc. But to explain how to create a habit, we must first understand the 3 main components needed.

1. Name your target goals and make them small

The goal, “I want to be emotionally closer to my wife,” is not a habit and is too big as a target goal for habit formation. Instead, state simple goals such as, “I will compliment my wife 2 times a day,” or “I will kiss my wife 2 times a day.” This sounds rather ridiculous, but building small habits into your life can lead to big outcomes. Another example might be instead of, “I want to be healthy by exercising every day,” build smaller goals such as, “I will say no to desserts 5 days a week, and I will stand 30 minutes a day.”

2. Create cues in your environment.

I don’t brush my teeth every time I walk into my bathroom. But I do if it’s in the morning or right before bed. When I’m at home, I make my bed, but on vacation, I don’t make my bed. My environment cues my behavior. Creating environmental cues is key. On vacation, your daily routines change, but once you get back into your usual environment with familiar cues, your habits return rather quickly.

3. Reinforce yourself with small, regularly timed rewards.

The bigger reward, the lower the likelihood your behavior will change. This is especially true with kids. “If you get all A’s, you will get $100,” vs. “ you will earn $1 for every A on a test.” Unconsciously, the giant reward suggests the habit is very difficult and will require a much longer view of behavior. Small regular rewards encourage you to move forward consistently. Our brains are designed for more immediate rewards. Plus, the rewards should allow you to enjoy your new habit rather than just to motivate you.

Habitica is an app and a website which allows you to gamify your life by allowing you to establish small, daily habits which result in small rewards. But the key for me is the peer accountability portion of the game.

The Habitica game allows you to create Habits, Dailies, and a To Do List. As you complete tasks, you check them off and gain Experience and Gold. Gold allows you to buy rewards which upgrade your Avatar.

Your Avatar represents your progress and you follow through on Habits and Dailies. My Avatar is a Killer Whale riding Rogue with a magical hat and shield.

The bars show health, gold, and gems. The gold allows you to buy the upgrades for your Avatar. If you do not follow through on Dailies and Habits, it costs your character health, and should you not be consistent, your character’s level will drop.

Plus, your peers can see your activity and can also challenge you in real life. The peer component is super cool because it makes for ready-made accountability not only online but for families and co-workers to create shared tasks and questions. This app has created new habits for me that have actually become automatic. Habitica can result in some fun trash talk as well. The peer accountability and the gamification Habitica provides is what I needed in my life to push me into creating new life habits.

As a psychologist, I recommend Habitica to my clients. My families have used this game to help kids make their chores and other activities automatic. As the world is steeped in video games, it only makes sense that companies we gamify our real lives.

Now download the app! Game your life, get healthy, and mark off those goals! Habitica is a pure life hack!

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