Introducing the newest scientifically-based weight-loss program (drum-roll, please): Hanging out in the virtual world of Second Life!
Before you laugh yourself blind, let me say I’m telling you this in all seriousness. One of the recent news stories making the rounds of the mainstream media is an article reporting on a study that shows SL users with thin, active avatars in Second Life tend to lose weight and become more fit in first life.
My personal experience supports the notion – I’ve lost a lot of extra pounds since joining Second Life a year and a half ago. But I never put the two things together until now. Nor am I surprised to learn that researchers are verifying this – that’s how the brain works.
Scientists have validated what athletes have known for even longer: that fully visualizing an experience has pretty much the same effect on the brain as actually having the experience. In other words, the brain doesn’t distinguish between the ideas and practice acquired in the physical world vs. the virtual world of your imagination.
So it makes sense that an even more detailed, visually rich virtual world like Second Life can provide as fertile – or even more fertile – an environment for training the brain. After all, when you’re fully interacting with the people and environment in SL, you are at the same time visualizing (and hearing and feeling) your real self do the same things!
Many Second-Lifers I know are aware of this phenomenon and use it to their advantage. I haven’t consciously applied the principles of creative visualization to my explorations in Second Life, but I realize now that I’ve been practicing an unconscious form of visualization in SL, with clear results in both my main activity in SL (writing-related experiences) and in just having fun.
Example: In first life, I’m afraid of heights. Stepping to the edge of a cliff, or even a fenced bridge, can be a challenge for me. And skydiving? (Excuse me while I roll on the floor with laughter…) Skydiving in first life has always been at the top of my “Never, EVER, Even Think of Doing This” list.
So when I began to explore Second Life, I found my physical body reacting just as it does in first life when my avatar walked over a high bridge or approached the edge of a deep crevice: faster heart rate, clammy sweating, tensed-up muscles. And my fears created the reality: my avatar tended to fall off every bridge and over every cliff I came near! Then one day, I accidentally fell off a “skybox” sitting 500 meters above the SL ground.
My next step was to fly up to about 1500 meters and then dive into a pool in the ground. After the first few times I did this, I actually began to enjoy it. So when my friend Clarissa said she wanted to go skydiving (in SL) to celebrate her birthday, I agreed with her plan – to fly up in the sky as high as possible and then fall back down to a little pool formed by our waterfall at Story Mountain Center for Writers.
I expected to achieve the oxygen-thin realms of 4000 meters, which I thought was the highest one could go in SL. But I kept going up . . . and up . . . and up . . . until we passed the 25,000-meter mark and decided that was high enough. When I clicked the “stop flying” button (which turns my upward flight into a fast freefall downward), I had that panicky feeling again, but only for the first few minutes. Then I began to enjoy, and even thrill over the experience of freefalling, watching the land rise up to meet me, and landing in the water.
Recently, Clarissa and I teleported to the International Spaceflight’s planetarium high above the ground, and took the offer of a free parachute to use skydiving to the ground. What a fantastic experience.
Will these experiences give me the courage to skydive in first life? I doubt it! But what they have done is made me cross skydiving off my “never-do” list.
As a writer, though, I know the experiences I’ve had in Second Life have definitely allowed me to develop confidence and skill in areas I lacked in first life. Here are some examples:
- Watching my avatar write with focus and determination in Second Life as I write in first life has resulted in dramatic progress on my novel revision.
- Standing in front of audiences as my avatar has given me the experience to be confident in doing so in first life.
- Talking with so many published authors in Second Life has wiped away my fear of saying something stupid to an author in first life.
- Seeing my name as a writer on posters and in notices for readings has given me the courage and determination to work even harder on my first life career as a writer, and it’s resulted in the completion, submission, and even publication of new work.
And that’s just a few of the many ways my brain has captured and used my SL experiences to help me achieve my writing goals. The bottom line is that thanks to the many experiences I’ve had as a writer in Second Life, I’m much more dedicated and disciplined about my first life career.
All of which leads me to ponder an even bigger question: What really is reality . . . ? But that’s a topic for another post!
In the meantime, try the new, easy, fun Second Life diet and mind-training program!
What about you? I’d love to hear if you’ve noticed the power of visualization at work in Second Life? Or if you haven’t. How have Second Life experiences affected your first life’s creative endeavors? Please share in a comment to this post.