I’ve personally battled with depression and anxiety myself before this pandemic ever hit. From those experiences, I’ve learned two things. 1) Whenever I consistently stuck to a routine of exercise and meditation, I managed my mental health reasonably well, while whenever I didn’t, I would spiral right back into my depression and anxiety. And 2) whenever I fell into these depressive episodes, I always found comfort in cute, relaxing, games with small, achievable goals. They were approachable and palatable when everything else felt totally overwhelming.
And now, in the times of this pandemic, so many people are suffering with these issues that I've suffered from my entire life. And it seems that many of them are coping in the same ways I did.
With all of the stress and anxieties caused by everything going on in the current moment, people desperately more avenues for even brief moments of escape. And with the huge success of games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons in these times of crisis, it's clear cute and relaxing experiences are effective at providing people those moments of peace and rest that they're looking for.
Additionally, taking care of pets, plants even, has been shown to reduce rates of suicide and depression by giving people a reason to live, even if it is small. That's what made me interested in the virtual pet aspect specifically.
However, while experiences like those are great at providing coping through mental escape, it does little to encourage the physical health and mindfulness that is a foundation for any possible mental health. From my experience, this, more than anything else, is the most important aspects of cultivating good mental wellbeing. And this is what I aim to encourage.
That's where BeGrounded comes in. BeGrouded bridged the gap between what people want regarding their mental health in these times of crisis (cute, easy escape) and what they need (active physical and mindful cultivation) to create an experience that incentivizes physical and mindfulness practices in a way that is easy, approachable, relaxing, and endearing.
BeGrounded is an idea that came out of my own experiences suffering from anxiety and depression. It's a culmination of It is an app that I wish I had while going through all of that. Now, that so many people are going through similar experiences only in this hyper-intensified way, it is something that I want to create for the world right now.
Other successful apps that inspire faith my in this project are Headspace and Plant Nanny.
What it does
BeGrounded is a virtual pet app where users take care of their pets by taking care of their own mental health. In it, you take care of a pile of dirt with a plant growing out of its head. Every day, in order to fully take care of their pet, the user must perform all of three tasks: "tell" the pet something their grateful for, meditate, and perform some sort of physical exercise. After 3 days of optimal care, the plant in the pet's head will blossom into a flower that can be harvested and added to their garden. The garden will populate the home screen with bright and hopeful images of flowers and nature to foster a sense of belonging and peace when nature is deprived from so many people.
At this stage, the app has implemented the following features:
- Ability to tell the pet a gratitude
- Ability to verify meditation (using a timer)
- Ability to tell the app you've exercised (no verification yet)
- Ability to be rewarded for each task
- Ability to verify whether the user has optimally cared for their pet in the day, and reward for optimal care
- Ability to harvest a flower from the plant and add it to your inventory
- Ability to display inventory
- Dynamic menu and screens
How I built it
I built the app using React-Native.
Challenges I ran into
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
- I am very proud of implementing both the dynamic drop-down menu and the transition to the gratitude screen.
What I learned
- I learned how to effectively use React-Native's Animate Component.
What's next for BeGrounded
- Add verification of some sort to the exercise feature
- Implement resetting the trackers at the end of each day
- Add music to meditation and general screens
- Add background art
- Add art for the flowers
- Add art showing the pet doing various activities.