It’s all about practice
Mightier helps children develop improved emotion regulation by teaching the brain and body to respond differently under stress. Through a process of repetitive calming during gameplay, children develop an ability to remain in better emotional control from the start, return to a state of calm more automatically, and think and communicate more clearly despite stressful situations in real life.
Here are the steps Mightier walks children through.
- Play games. While children play Mightier, they are engaged in a gameplay environment that is fun and rewarding in its own right. This is how Mightier engages children in a therapeutic activity.
- Heart rate visibility. Children wear a heart rate monitor while they play Mightier. The monitor connects with the Mightier system, and to a heart rate gauge (the Gizmo) that lives on their screen at all times. This allows children a real-time glimpse of their changing heart rate state.
- Heart rate zones. As children play Mightier, their heart rate will inevitably go up. This could happen because of excitement, frustration, anxiety, or because they’re physically jumping around. We need children’s heart rates to go up while playing as this provides the opportunity to practice bringing it back down.
- Increased challenge + regulation. Practicing regulation strategies during moments of early limbic system activation is key. When a child’s heart rate enters their red zone, the game they’re playing becomes more difficult (inhibitor is activated). This could mean that smoke covers the screen, it’s difficult to steer or aim, or that a timer speeds up. Along with this increased challenge, there are many visual cues to let children know that their heart rate is in the red zone. These things are the prompt and encouragement for children to bring their heart rate down in order to continue to play normally.
- Cooldowns. Cooldowns are the core component for building automaticity. Every time a child brings their heart rate down from an elevated state it is considered a cooldown. Mightier will prompt children to go through this process, and provide various calming strategies (deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, crossing the midline, tracing) for them to follow along with.
- Experimentation is part of learning. Mightier sets a track of some key actions children should take while playing. Exactly how they do that, however, as well as the experimentation process they take along the way is totally up to them. Most children will play around with different ways to get their heart rate down, or test the system to see how far into the red they can push things. Everything they do is part of their learning process, as well as an important step in establishing trust and belief in their own abilities.
- Rewards. Every time a child pauses the game and successfully brings their heart rate back to their blue zone they earn rewards within the Mightier system. This is Mightier’s way of recognizing children’s efforts and abilities. It is also our way of encouraging them to continue going through this cooldown process.
- Repetition. Just like any skill that takes practice in order to become second nature, retraining the brain and body to develop a different automatic response to stressors takes repetition. We recommend children play Mightier for at least 45 minutes a week for at least 90 days.
- Translation. Improvements in emotion regulation take two forms.
- Changes in reactivity. Because children are developing a different automatic process for how their brain and body respond to stressors, caregivers will see improvements in frustration tolerance, intensity of reactions, and recovery speed after getting upset or overwhelmed.
- Awareness and intentional use of skills. Because developing automaticity means, at its core, that children are building up their limbic system’s tolerance to stressors, it means they are also allowing their frontal lobe to stay online for longer during stressful situations. This means that children will be better able to think clearly, communicate their emotional state, and remember to intentionally use calming strategies in real life situations.