How Second Life Helped Me Lose Weight, Fly Above My Fears, & Advance My Writing Career

by Joan Kremer on August 14, 2009 · 14 comments

in Adventures,Benefits of SL,Virtual tools

Introducing the newest scientifically-based weight-loss program (drum-roll, visit this please):  Hanging out in the virtual world of Second Life!

Before you laugh yourself blind, salve 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, ampoule 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.

Falling 25000m in Second Life

Clarissa Tolsen and I freefalling 25,000 meters in Second Life (the wings were just for fun -- didn't help with the flying at all!)

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.

And survived!

Freefall at Spaceflight Museum in SL

Skydiving at the International Spaceflight Museum in Second Life!

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.

Parachute opens in Second Life

Parachute opens just in time at the International Spaceflight Museum in SL

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:

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.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Great acai berry (1 comments.) August 20, 2009 at 3:59 am

This is a good way to develop one’s personality and like what you have said you are serious about it and also helped you lose weight, I also want to lose weight and if my ask how many pounds have you lose so far. I like the way you have explained how it works to overcome fears.
Great acai berry´s last blog ..Acai Energy Drink My ComLuv Profile

2 Debbie (8 comments.) August 24, 2009 at 11:55 am

Great post, Joan!
Debbie´s last blog ..Will ‘friend’ become an official verb? My ComLuv Profile

3 Meela Joubert (1 comments.) August 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm

That’s me in SL! I understand about the heights thing. Had to approach the edge of a building with a transparent balcony the same way I approach all balconies: reaching out a hand first, then looking over the edge, then stepping out! And yes, I deliberately jump off of things now a lot of the time in SL.
The only time I’ve been a writer in SL has been during Nanowrimo season. I will have to check out some of your links.
Meanwhile, I have been making use of the extended reality of SL by leading meditation circles. Our community had been experimenting with SLs effects for a while now and enjoy the effects on our real lives. My favorite part of the Avatar shape-shifting is being different animals. Gekkos crawl under buildings and through grass, Ravens fly with flapping wings, Dragons breathe fire and Bunnies generate happiness by being sooo cuuute! Now that I think about it, I wonder if depression can be reduced by spending time in SL as bunnies!

See you inworld!
mj

4 Salvatore Otoro (1 comments.) August 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Joan, I love your posting. I too have skydiving on my never ever list because in real life I am afraid of heights and of falling. A long time ago, however, my avatar made some friends whom decided to do skydiving. We went somewhere that had a launch pad, bought the gear, and went for it. I did not suffer the jitters you spoke about though it was something I never thought I experience. I enjoyed the first time so much that we went up a few more time that day. It was fun and enjoyable, but it’s still on my never to do list.

Most of my time in SL is spent in role play sims. In fact, many times, I will be perched on the ledge of a rooftop looking down a the passerby. It’s not something I would do in the real world but I do understand the power of visualization. It does help to enforce you thinking and push you do improve in ways you could not do otherwise. I won’t be standing on the ledge on any rooftop any time soon but the act of doing so virtually, does help alleviate some of my fears.

As for improving upon myself, I would say that SL has helped me improve as a writer. True, role players are for the most part good writers with vivid imaginations, but I have improved upon myself. I have always been good at writing but never did any except when I had school work to do. Currently I write for a SL magazine and I have a blog about role play in SL; two things I would never had done had it not been for SL. It has sparked so much creativity in me that I plan to someday write a novel. These are all things that were never on a list of does and don’ts but that now are slowly shaping who I am and what I can do.
Salvatore Otoro´s last blog ..Role Magazine – August Issue My ComLuv Profile

5 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) August 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

@Debbie — thanks so much!

@Meela — I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one whose fear of heights transferred into SL (though that just goes to show how real it can be). Isn’t it fun to jump off of things now?? (In SL, not first life, of course!) I can see how group meditations would be an awesome application of SL. One time I had my avatar do a tai chi routine in SL, and because I was so focused on watching her, I got the “meditative” benefits in first life. Thanks so much for your great comment! I’ll look for you in-world. ~ Joan

6 Gando Thurston (1 comments.) August 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Before I started in Second Life I would often tell people, “I’m a shy person”. Then, on night at a SL party the host came up to me and said that she was glad I could make it to the party, and that she knew I’d be the life of the party. I was forced to ask myself how I went from “shy” to the party guy.

Turns out, I only thought I was shy, rarely acted that way in SL or anywhere. Now, when I start thinking that I’m shy, I pause, and toss that idea in the trash.
Gando Thurston´s last blog ..By Pair, I Mean Balls. My ComLuv Profile

7 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) August 26, 2009 at 9:52 am

Salvatore, thanks for your wonderful comment. It’s wonderful to hear how you’ve used SL to expand your creativity and make your “never ever do” list shorter! 🙂 Your description of visualization is excellent — it’s exactly how it works for me (and many others)!

Thanks, too, for the information and links about role-playing. That’s something I’ve never thought about doing, but after reading some of your posts on Role Magazine and your blog, I’m very intrigued by it now. I can see how role-playing someone completely different from yourself can also expand your world significantly! It also makes me wonder about role-playing my fictional characters — how that might help me get deeper into their minds and write about them more authentically. (Oh dear, now I’ve got another “excuse” to be in SL.) Seriously, I really appreciate the inspiration, and look forward to learning more about role-playing now.

8 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) August 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

Wow, Gando, what a great story about going from shy to party guy!! It’s amazing how SL helps us express more of what we really are. I, too, think of myself as shy, but I’ve become so much more talkative and interested in meeting other people as a result of my SL experiences. Thanks for your comment!

9 Allison (1 comments.) October 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm

You know, if I ever needed that extra little push to join Second Life, this was it! lol

Well, either that or the freefalling with wings. Not sure which one appeals the most 🙂
Allison´s last blog ..Just twelve articles left to go… My ComLuv Profile

10 Jobs for Felons (1 comments.) November 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I love SL. I have beaten my fear of flying because of SL. Not sure what the “science” is behind it but I know it’s very similar with your experience. I have actually gained weight though 🙁
Jobs for Felons´s last blog ..Easy Solutions My ComLuv Profile

11 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) November 10, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Hey Allison! I hope you do come into Second Life. If you do, drop me a notecard or IM (to Alas Zerbino). And the freefalling just can’t be beat — with or without wings! Thanks for the comment! Joan

12 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) November 10, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Sorry to hear about the weight gain, but thanks for sharing your experience! Joan

13 Virginia from Tips to Lose Weight (1 comments.) April 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Looks like I am the only one here who doesn’t know about Second Life (well, I do now thanks to this blog).

On my way to check it out 🙂
Virginia from Tips to Lose Weight´s last blog ..Unexpected Gains of Weight My ComLuv Profile

14 denise(new comment) February 25, 2011 at 7:57 am

oh, i didnt know Second Life has got such power! lol

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