Metaverse and Mental Health

Metaverse and mental health - person's eye looking at city

Running Away from Your Anxiety

Imagine a world where reality no longer matters. People are no longer motivated to be successful, to educate themselves or to work hard. Some will even toss their morals straight out the window. Reality will no longer matter because virtual reality will become the norm. Whether morning, noon or night, in this world, people will have fallen in love with the metaverse. They will longer feel alive in the real world. Religion? Forget about it. Virtual reality will become their newfound religion. The metaverse and mental health are going to cross paths in many ways. This article will focus on the metaverse and anxiety.

With all the anxiety that we’re already experiencing since March 2020, the metaverse will become an escape for the masses’ mental health problems. Who needs antidepressants for panic disorder when you have the metaverse? Why see a shrink when you can put on a headset and escape reality? When you feel like rushing out of a room due to a sense of doom from your panic, you will instead put on a headset and escape into VR. For all the good reasons why one should have to take care of their mental health, they will all vanish in an instant when the metaverse will go mainstream.

Some will do it consciously while others will not pay attention to it; running away from anxiety will become the norm for many. It will be easier to enter the metaverse when feeling anxious and waste countless hours in another state of consciousness. When returning back to reality, people will feel miserable because their anxiety will still be present. They will do the bare minimum to get by, thinking all day long about the metaverse until the first opportunity to reenter it. Reality will become a hurricane of anxiety! People will no longer have any motivation to treat their mental illness; the metaverse will be their medication.

Metaverse and mental health - white woman wearing black virtual reality headset

The Metaverse is Not a Solution for Mental Illness

No virtual reality platform, video game or illicit and unstudied substance will ever be a proper treatment for mental illness. People will continue to use these avenues as ways to escape their suffering, but no shortcut has ever properly treated a mental illness. The treatment of a mental illness often requires three important factors:

  1. The courage and desire to seek help
  2. Therapy
  3. And oftentimes, medication

The metaverse and substances will never be a treatment for mental illness, but more of an escapism. It will be easier for people to enter another world than to spend countless hours with a therapist or take a chance with psychotropics. I am not here to blame the metaverse, but only to spark food for thought. Many people abuse substances to attempt to treat anxiety and depression, but drugs only make their symptoms worse. Who is to say that people will not attempt to treat their illness with the metaverse?

Use the metaverse for entertainment and psychiatry for your mental health concerns; don’t mix the two.

Smiley GIF

The Metaverse

The metaverse - white man wearing Oculus headset

Mental Health and Virtual Reality – Do they Mix?

The metaverse is a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. People will be able to wear a device or log onto a platform on their computer or television and enter the metaverse. What you will be able to do in VR is endless. Imagine being able to play table tennis, hang out with friends at virtual bars or go hiking on your favorite Appalachian trail. Everything you’ve always wanted to do in real life, you will be able to do so in the metaverse. While it sounds good, you can also imagine all the downsides that VR will bring to society.

So how is the metaverse going to affect mental health? Well for starters, people might become more disconnected in real life. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic not going away, they will be more tempted to stay indoors and hop into their VR niche. It’s going to be much easier to come home from work and put on a headset than make an effort to meet up with friends. People will rely even more on technology to socialize and lose more of those in-person benefits such as touch, physical closeness and empathy.

The Metaverse and Psychological Addiction

Everything you’ve always wanted to do, you will be able to on the metaverse. Ever wondered how heroin feels? You obviously don’t want to try it in real life, but what if the metaverse will offer “heroin bars?” You will be able to consume the drug and feel as intoxicated as in real life! This might lead to higher addiction rates, despite being virtual experiences! Also imagine all the people who are struggling with their love life. What if the metaverse can offer prostitution, perhaps even for free? All you will have to do is hop into VR and experience a “virtual sex session.”

Everyone is excited about all the positives of the metaverse, but we cannot ignore the negatives. Look how hooked we are to our iPhones, internet and Netflix. Now imagine taking these experiences and intensifying them by 100x, literally transporting our consciousness into an alternate reality. Your brain is going to release great amounts of the “feel good” neurotransmitter called dopamine. My concern is when you’ll tap out of VR and come back down to reality. What will happen to your dopamine levels? For all the people who complain that “reality sucks,” they will likely be tempted to spend more time virtually. Repeat this process enough times and we can likely see society developing a “virtual reality” addiction.

The metaverse - white man wearing cyber glasses

The Positives of The Metaverse

Okay, not everything will be bleak. Perhaps many people who are lonely, avoidant, anxious or depressed will find relief in the metaverse. They will be able to socialize with others without the fear of feeling rejected as in real life. They will be able to conquer their phobias and anxieties by titrating experiences at their own pace and comfort level. People with depression might be able to enjoy any activity they desire, which they could not otherwise in a depressed state of mind at home. Those who are shy and avoidant will be able to interact with others at their own pace. People who are autistic will more easily connect with others who are also autistic and enjoy similar activities. Perhaps some people will also meet their partners in the metaverse and fall in love!

Let’s be realistic; you’re never going to be able to experience all the activities you’ve ever dreamed of. In reality, work, relationships, stress and other factors always tend to get in the way. But in VR, you will be able to go skiing, skydiving or visit Paris for the first time within the comforts of your home. Technology is going to become so advanced that skydiving will likely feel as if you are actually falling in the sky. Maybe you won’t even have to leave home to go to work. Your employer will provide you with a number or code that you will be able to use to clock in virtually and work from home. Sitting at home and working virtually rather than sitting in traffic for an hour will likely result in reduced stress!

For people who have always struggled to exercise and get in shape, the metaverse might become an easier outlet to get started. Don’t have enough money to afford a Peloton or motivation to head to your local gym? No worries! Just hop onto VR and start cycling away. Building confidence while exercising virtually might prove to have a beneficial effect on your mental health.

The Future is Virtual

In conclusion, it’s too early to predict all the positive and negative aspects of the metaverse. I’ve touched upon a few of them above just to get our minds to anticipate what the future might have in store for us. But as with any new technology, there will always be some downfalls that we need to prepare ourselves for. Everyone will be susceptible to different pitfalls and we will have to manage them when the time comes. But if we can at least anticipate them before the metaverse goes mainstream, we can mentally prepare ourselves beforehand so we don’t experience any major surprises.

What are your thoughts on the metaverse? Do you think that society is doomed and this is just another form of control by the elite? Or do you believe that VR will bring more benefits than risks? I’m tempted to believe that it will be an equal mix of positive and negative aspects. I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual reality might make us more distant in person. This will cause us to rely more on technology as a form of communication. I also believe that we are going to become even more disconnected from nature than we already are. Think about it, who wants to go spend time in a forest when you can just hop onto VR and do it from your couch? My main concern is that humanity will consciously transition from reality into VR and experience great difficulty transitioning back.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The metaverse - smiley GIF

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cloudy red sunset

When the Sun Sets, the Sadness Rises

Couple more hours ’till 7pm… The sun approaches 5pm and your sadness is thriving. You scratch your head wondering why this repeats year after year. You hate the darkness; it makes the day feel shorter. A shorter day means less time to have fun. Less fun means more isolation. More isolation attracts sadness. Feeling sad means you’re in a rotten state of mind again. And the pattern only continues as fall progresses into winter. Once winter arrives, you pray that you can see spring again; or at least people with seasonal affective disorder do.

The key to avoiding sadness is learning how to be positive regardless of changes in your environment. You don’t have control over what happens around you, but you have control over your mind. It’s when you lose control of your mind that you become most susceptible to outside forces. And when this happens, you become an easy target. In this case, time is the outside force. As fall approaches, it gets darker out earlier in the evening. When winter arrives, 4:20pm becomes your last hit before the darkness settles in at 5pm.

White woman suffering from seasonal affective disorder, standing outside in snow

So What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depressive disorder that causes people to become sad during seasons with shorter daylight hours. In addition, less sunlight during the winter months also contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, sadness, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, etc. The most common months to experience SAD are January and February. Other symptoms may include:

  • Craving carbohydrates
  • Hypersomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Pacing and the inability to sit still
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts

The disorder usually starts between the ages of 18 and 30. Treatment involves light therapy, antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. SAD goes away during spring and summer, but therapy and medications help alleviate the symptoms sooner. Seasonal affective disorder occurs due to a biochemical imbalance in your brain, believed to be caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. It’s unknown why some people experience SAD and others do not. It definitely does not help if you live in a location that lacks sufficient sunny days during the year.

What is your experience with SAD? If any, what have you found to be helpful?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Feeling Sad for No Reason

Sad woman in black cardigan near trees

See Where Sadness Takes You

Don’t hide from your sadness; see where it takes you. Observe how it makes you feel and what thoughts it brings to the surface. We all tend to shy away from sadness and use the unconscious, immature defense mechanism known as denial. We all tend to carry on like sadness is “Not for me.” But it is for you! You have to stare sadness in the eye and tell it, “You’re back. What are you going to teach me this time?” Feeling sad for no reason is not a thing. There is always a reason as to why you’re feeling sad; you just have to discover it.

Sadness should not bring you embarrassment; it happens for a reason. Your job is to find out the reason and learn from it. If you suppress your sadness, do you think it’ll go away? Maybe only temporarily. Suppression means that you are consciously moving a negative emotion or thought into your unconscious mind. This prevents you from experiencing the negative emotion or thought. But oftentimes, it comes back out at a later date, causing you to feel sad again.

White woman feeling sad for no reason

Feeling Sad for No Reason – There is Always a Reason

Many people don’t want to learn about the reasons behind their sadness. It’s easier to suppress your thoughts or medicate yourself with substances. Many people drink alcohol, smoke cannabis or consume hard drugs to counteract their sadness. Drugs are great tools for alleviating sadness, but they only work temporarily. Once you come down from the high, the sadness resurfaces, sometimes even more powerfully. Don’t be afraid to seek the reasons behind your sadness.

When you’re feeling sad, this is a sign that something needs to change in your life. I know it’s not easy to make changes when feeling sad, but it’s worth it. Sitting there and feeling sad all day long does not accomplish anything. You need to be honest with yourself and discover the reasons behind your sadness. But also just discovering the reasons is not sufficient. You need to implement the necessary changes to avoid feeling sad again. If you’re lonely, then make the effort to be social and meet up with people. If you’re drinking too much, make the effort to cut down on the booze. There is always something that you can improve on that will prevent you from feeling sad again.

You just have to seek, implement and change.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Nobody Cares Work Harder

Red brick wall with live, work, create quote

Whenever you find yourself complaining about the difficulty of your job, remind yourself, “nobody cares, work harder.” After training your mind to work hard over many years, you start deriving pleasure from the process. Anyone would prefer to relax and not have to work for a living if they had the opportunity, but even then, happiness is not guaranteed. Hard work has the potential to bring you satisfaction which often translates into happiness. But you must balance your hard work with free time and leisure activities. If it’s all work but no play, then happiness will fly away.

Whenever you are experiencing those long grueling days at work, remind yourself that you are not the only one going through them. Happiness will be your reward before your turn off the lights at night. But you must enjoy what you do. This cannot be reiterated enough. If you went to college and are now working a job you dislike, somewhere along the way you made a mistake. Rather than continuing to devote the rest of your life to something you don’t enjoy, make a change today. You control your present which influences your future.

Nobody cares work harder blue neon sign on wall

Nobody Cares Work Harder and Stop Complaining

A common mistake many people make is complaining a lot about their job. The complaints are endless and often quickly pile up. One of them is that their job or schoolwork is too difficult and demanding. Nobody cares work harder! People don’t care about the process; they are only impressed with the results. In reality, the results don’t matter that much. What matters is the hard work you clocked in for many years to achieve those results. Why don’t people care about your hard work? Because it’s not attractive. They don’t want to hear about your complaints. People want to see the fancy cars and flashy clothes that your hard work earned you.

Besides luck which cannot be depended on, the solution to getting impressive results in life is working harder. No one can put in the work for you; only you can do it. So stop complaining and work harder. Don’t forget to also keep your dreams alive. Dreams provide the sugar that keeps your work effort bitterly sweet. Without some occasional sugar, your hard work becomes dull. Don’t make the mistake of working hard without dreaming. I like to remind myself of this formula:

60% hard work + 40% dreams = 100% success

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Peaceful Life

White man sitting on blue pillow meditating

A peaceful life matters a lot. Once you learn how to carry yourself with peace and comfort, life becomes much more enjoyable. Practicing living in peace and comfort is not an easy task for many people. Life circumstances, negative emotions and even mental illness often get in the way. But once you learn how to harness peace, your days will progress more smoothly, helping you achieve a happy state of mind. But when you lose touch with your inner peace is when your days become inflicted with pain and misery.

So how do you go about instilling a peaceful state of mind? The key is to slow things down by absorbing every moment of your waking state. A lot of us feel rushed and tempted to power through work and activities, forgetting how to relax. Powering through the day gives us a sense of accomplishment, but at the expensive of our mental health. Instead, you want to slow down your perception of doing things while preserving the quality of your work. This can be done by practicing mindfulness and learning how to enjoy being present in the moment.

White woman practicing a peaceful life near blue water

A Peaceful Life for Your Mental Health

Imagine all the people living life in peace! No more temptations to do each other wrong. Life would involve unconditional love and envy would cease to exist. Rather than feeling rushed, your perception of time would disappear; life would just be. You would no longer feel rushed to get done with work and get back home. Instead, you would cherish every moment of life while bathing in a peaceful state of mind. People would no longer make fun of each other because peace would overcome insecurity.

Now the above describes a fictional scenario but the point is that peace can bring you comfort. But the question is how do we obtain peace? With today’s hectic society, it sometimes feels impossible to find peace. As I mentioned above and in many previous articles, practicing mindfulness is key. The difficult part is not the actual mindfulness; it’s easy to sit and just think. I personally find that the most challenging part is getting myself to sit down and actually doing it. Right when the thought of mindfulness comes to my mind, I think, “but it’s so boring!”

If you can overcome that initial resistance that prevents you from doing mindfulness, then you’re golden. Once you sit down and get in that moment of mindfulness, the act is not difficult. You tap into a peaceful state of mind and become one with the present moment. You learn how to disconnect from your environment and focus on your inner thoughts and emotions. Once you practice mindfulness enough, you’ll start to notice that things don’t bother you as much. You’ll realize that your resilience and tolerance to stress and adverse outcomes improve. And once you overcome stress, your mental health also improves.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Influenced by the Environment

White man with arrows pointing to head

Everything regarding the way you interpret reality stems from the most important organ in your presence: the brain. How you think and view the world is based on your personality and interpretation of your surroundings. If you can match your personality with an accurate portrait of society, then you will experience a more realistic experience. But once you allow your mind to be influenced by outside forces, you become more susceptible to programming or the manipulation of your mind. You become influenced by the environment to your detriment.

So take what you can from society that is still good and add it to your arsenal. But always remember that it’s your mind that is most precious; keep outside forces in check. Protect your mind for it roams openly in a dangerous land, ready to be attacked by invisible forces. These invisible forces do not care for your sanity. As a matter of fact, they prefer that you join the sheep and obey without questioning. When you ask less questions, you make it easier for them to control you. Their ultimate goal is to control the masses because it makes them feel superior, as if they are God. But they will never be God.

Influenced by the environment - skull with brain experiencing waves of butterfly effects

How do you Know if you’re Influenced by the Environment?

If you believe everything you hear or read in the mainstream media, then you’re being influenced. Of course, almost no one will admit to “believing everything” they hear in the media. “Everything” is obviously an exaggeration. When I say everything, I mean generally being in agreement with what is televised on a daily basis. Many people are glued to CNN, Fox News or BBC without questioning what they see or hear. They were quick to stick out their arms for new mRNA vaccines as soon as they were released to the public. Many don’t question the fact that the vaccines came out within a year or that mRNA vaccines were released during a pandemic out of all times.

Why don’t people question? Because they put too must trust in their government and find it easier to trust a large entity than small sources. They believe that if they start listening to small sources, they will be labeled as a “conspiracy theorist.” Little do they know that the CIA supposedly invented the conspiracy theory tactic. They did this as a form of protection from the masses seeking the truth. But hiding the truth from a population of 7.9 billion is impossible; it will always leak. So as a form of insurance, they created a psychological tactic that labels the truth-finders as “nut jobs,” with the mainstream media as their pawns.

I’m not saying that you need to become a conspiracy theorist. Just keep an open mind to alternative stories and explanations, because the truth always lurks somewhere in the middle. Think outside the box.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis leaf artwork

Being natural is normal. Being you without any exogenous chemicals is normal. But when you use a substance to get high while hiding behind the excuse, “it makes me normal,” then something is clearly wrong. No drug can make you normal. People want to see the real you and if you’re saying that drugs make you normal, then there is something that you’re doing wrong. Cannabis addiction is notorious for making users believe that the high makes the normal.

Drugs were never created to make you feel normal. There are many arguments behind the creation of drugs, but almost everyone will agree that drugs are not a replacement of your personality. If your personality is changing while experimenting with a drug, then please stop using the drug. If anything good is to be observed from drugs, it’s perhaps their great ability to make you more creative, allow you to think outside the box and relax more efficiently. But your personality must remain congruent with these drug-induced states, or else you’re allowing the drug to mold your personality into someone you’re not.

Breaking bad cannabis addiction chemistry sign

Cannabis Addiction is Real

Many people are still under the impression that you can’t get addicted to cannabis. Many uneducated people continue to push the line, “weed hasn’t killed anyone.” Cannabis addiction has nothing to do with deaths. Drugs such as cocaine, meth, MDMA and PCP can lead to deaths, but cannabis is not one of them. What cannabis shares in common with all other drugs is the potential for psychological addiction. The fact that cannabis doesn’t cause deaths is even more appealing to users. They believe, “if weed isn’t that bad, then why not keep using it?”

The physical safety net of cannabis acts like a reinforcer for people to keep using the drug. The more a person uses, the more they need to consume to get a similar high. This is because their mind, at the receptor and neurotransmitter level, becomes desensitized to the THC; it needs more of it to feel as high as before. So the user consumes more or spends more money on a higher quality product, until they become tolerant to the new dose. In addition, with practice comes perfection. A user will also learn how to more effectively function under a high state of mind, motivating them to consume the drug in different situations.

Overall, the idea of cannabis addiction is something to keep in the back of your mind if you’re a regular user. Reminding yourself of this possibility can help you regulate your intake, especially if you find yourself toking more. There is no shame in catching yourself smoking more and having to cut back down. Your mental health comes first; having fun always comes second.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Cannabis Legal States

Green and orange marijuana buds

Boy was that an election! Donald Trump never stopped being the president and Joe Biden’s mental status likely confused him regarding his election win. But guess who has been impressively standing on stage this entire time delivering the most useful message? Marijuana was recreationally legalized in the states of New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana this year. Mississippi came in big by legalizing medical marijuana. It seems that with each passing year, cannabis is gaining more supporters who are pro-legalization. This will lead to more cannabis legal states.

The science remains young and we don’t have enough evidence to conclude any long-term health benefits or adverse effects. But we have reached a point where criminalizing cannabis users is no longer sensical. I mean, going to prison for possession of marijuana? That sounds very archaic. Remember, that even though marijuana is being legalized, should not mean that we become naive to its potential mental health side effects such as anxiety, psychological addiction or even psychosis.

Cannabis legal states - drawing of woman holding hair next to cannabis leaves

Are Cannabis Legal States the Future?

I predict that the United States will legalize cannabis in all fifty states within the next ten years. The people want it legalized, it’s no longer taboo to indulge and it’s great as a stress reliever. Not everyone enjoys drinking a glass of wine to unwind. Some people prefer to take a hit of a vape pen or consume an edible and call it a night. As long as cannabis is used in moderation and you’re not experiencing any mental health symptoms, it should be fine to use. The only thing going against cannabis at the present time is that we lack the science behind long-term side effects. But with ongoing clinical research trials, we will have those answers within the next 5-10 years as well.

Cannabis legalization is here to stay.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Talking About Mental Health

Selective focus photography of hand holding crystal ball

Planet Zer0

Imagine a world where mental health does not exist; let’s call it Planet 0. In this society, there is no recognition of depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, ADHD, tic disorders, drug addiction, etc. If you suffer from a disorder of the mind, you are considered “weird,” “abnormal,” “strange” or “other-worldly.” In this world, if you have a mental illness, you are ostracized from society; you have to find your way back home because you are not getting into this circle. In this world, talking about mental health is not an option.

Talking about mental health - old man with dementia laying in bed

Talking About Mental Health is Not an Option

People who commit suicide are viewed as weak; “he would have never made it anyways” is the mentality. Drug addicts are considered the scum of the earth on Planet 0. Suffering or even worse, dying, is celebrated by the masses. Psychotic people are one of the most feared and despised. Governments all around the world are considering passing a law to allow citizens to shoot at a psychotic person if they feel threatened.

Essentially, humanity on Planet 0 does not want to have anything to do with mental health. If you are feeling down, your family warns you to get yourself together. Your friends start to lose interest in you if you’re suffering from anxiety. If you are feeling insecure, your significant other is expected to leave you. If you are hallucinating, society no longer knows of you. Psychiatric medications are for lab rats. If you’re even heard of having some medications in your home, your landlord has the right by law to evict you.

In this society, people prefer to be free of mental illness, but do not want to address it. The stigma of mental health is sky-high. Laws are being considered to prevent pharmaceutical companies from creating psychiatric medications. Pharmacies are considering banning psychiatric medications. The suicide rate is on the rise and over 60% of the population is depressed. But society doesn’t care. They view mental illness as a plague and want to wash it off the face of the hearth.

Why do we talk about mental health?

So we can avoid experiencing any sort of stigma that slightly touches or resembles Planet 0.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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