Hi, I’m Lara, I’m 28 years young, and my mental health is about what you’d expect it to be, which is to say it’s not very good at all. Living in the society that we do, it’s easy for mental health to take a backseat in favour of busy schedules, long workdays and near-constant phone-checking, but honestly, I think we’re all suffering for it.
But you know who doesn’t suffer when it comes to living their daily lives? The Sims. (Bear with me here).
Yes, okay, you can definitely make your Sims suffer if you wanted to, but generally speaking they’re generally a bunch of happy-go-lucky pixels, and that’s something that caught my attention and – yeah, I’ll say it – even made me a little jealous.
Sims live in the moment, they follow their hearts, they don’t get wrapped up in the day-to-day, and they do what they like and nothing else. Really there’s a lot to be learned from these guys.
So, I decided to live like a Sim for a week, and not the YouTube challenge way either. I decided to take a step back from my day-to-day emotions and really look at the bigger picture to see if the Sims really had something to teach. Here’s what I learned.
The Sims 4 makes good use of daily emotions that your Sim might feel. If someone they love has just died they’ll be Sad for prolonged periods, if they walked in on someone using the bathroom they’ll be Embarrassed for a few hours, and if they’re a teen going through puberty then sometimes they’ll often just be loads of things at once.
The interesting thing here is that these are all timed emotions. Even the Happy won’t last forever, and all the emotions tick down on a timer before finally disappearing.
The good, the bad and the ugly will all fade away, and though they might change the way your Sim approaches daily tasks while they’re active, they eventually just disappear, and as the game continues you forget they were ever there.
I tried applying the same logic to my own emotions and I was honestly surprised at how much it changed my thinking.
After a disappointing work meeting, I took some time to note that I was disappointed, but I also took some time to note that the feeling wasn’t going to be a permanent part of my day, and in doing that it suddenly became really easy for me to just…let it go.
On the flip side, when I felt happiness I recognised it, knew it wouldn’t last and therefore tried to make the most of it.
This simple change of recognising how I was feeling and that it wouldn’t stick around not only gave me a sense of power over my own emotions, but it also really helped me to take a step back and think about how my emotions were affecting my day. In effect, I was able to manage my feelings in the same way I manage my Sims, instead of just sulking or getting wrapped up in it.
One Thing At A Time
The Sims 4 has various actions that your Sims can multitask with. No longer will your Sims have to eat dinner and then use the bathroom because – hooray! – they can do both at the same time. They can browse their phones while watching TV and a few other things that just make the process of playing the game more realistic.
There are still lots of things your Sims can’t multitask with though, and no matter how advanced the game has gotten since the days of the Sims 1, you can still only queue up their actions one click at a time.
You’ve probably been told a million times in your life to take life “one thing at a time,” but have you actually ever done it?
I tried applying the Sims logic here again, isolating each of my daily tasks and not thinking about what was coming next until I’d finished what I was doing.
Food tasted better when I had sit-down dedicated time for dinner, showers were more relaxing when I was enjoying the water and not thinking about the list of things I needed to do when I got out. Housework seemed less insurmountable, and my daily tasks just started to come together without my worrying over how much I had to do.
These Sims are onto something, I’m telling you.
Balance is a huge part of mindfulness, but if you’re anything like me, it’s not easy to imagine what the right balance should look like for you.
From skipping meals and grabbing endless snacks because I’m “too busy” to eat something proper, to choosing gaming over sleeping because I’m an idiot and then suffering for it the next day, my routine could definitely improve to keep it a little more even.
Although I suck at balancing my own life, I’m pretty bloody good at it in The Sims, so I decided to make up my own metrics for Hunger, Cleanliness, Social, etc and see how Sims-living could improve my life.
Surprisingly, it made everything suddenly slip into place. By using imaginary metrics I wasn’t working myself into stress and worry about there not being enough hours in a day. I simply went with “I’m 30% full, I should eat something substantial,” or “I feel 80% gross and the UK is having a heatwave and if I don’t shower it’s going to be the biggest regret of my life.”
By recognising my physical needs and just accepting them, rather than taking care of myself being another chore to get worked up about, I suddenly found myself really paying attention to my body and actually…well, taking care of myself.
I spend too much money that I don’t have. I’ll spend hours putting things into my online shopping basket, browsing for things I can’t afford and then – for some reason – convincing myself I need to buy things that I really don’t. It’s a very millennial problem, but it’s also a very big one.
Applying Sims logic to my spending habits, I tried to view that handbag that I thought I needed as a Whim – a fleeting Sims desire that will soon be forgotten.
By separating my Needs and my Whims in my day-to-day life, I not only found myself spending less, but also making healthier life decisions.
After living like a Sim for a week, my life suddenly feels a lot less like standing in an orchestral pit during the height of a concert, and a lot more like sitting in the audience and enjoying the show.
Am I going to stick with imaginary Needs gauges, Whim wants and timed emotions? Probably not as strictly as I did for this little experiment, but after a week of working at it, it feels like these practises are something for me to always keep in the back of my mind.
If, like me, your life is a little overwhelming at times, or if you get lost in your own head, there’s no harm in taking a step back and finding a way to make day-to-day living into something that works for you.
Featured Image Credit: EA