MAKES YOU HAPPY AND LAUGH
The first benefit of playing board games that most people probably think of is that they’re fun. They are a great way to pass the time and enjoy spending time with your friends and family.
A side effect of this fun is laughter. Laughing has been proven to trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. Endorphins have the power to improve conscious and unconscious mind functions, leaving a person feeling cheerful, compassionate and ultimately content.
Action Tip - Don’t underestimate the power of laughing and having fun with your friends. Choose a game that encourages you to be silly and laugh, like Blockbuster or Scrawl. Anything that gets you to break out of your shell and just be in the moment, having fun. Remember, when it comes to having better mental health, time spent having fun is never time wasted.
NATURAL STRESS REDUCERS
According to an online survey of over 5000 people by RealNetworks Inc., a casual games developer, found that 64% of respondents said they play games with the primary intention to induce relaxation, and 53% play specifically to reduce stress.
Finding the time in your day to relax and enjoy yourself, such as by playing a board game, has a major impact on both your mental and physical health. Feeling stressed doesn't just feel bad in the moment. If it isn’t properly managed, your stress can have serious implications on your overall health and life expectancy.
Playing board games can provide you with a much-needed release of energy after a stressful day of work. They help you to unwind, relax, and not let your mind be consumed by whatever negative things are going on in your life that may be leading to stress. Instead, you can have fun and escape into the world of a board game. There’s no need to worry about the trivialities of life for a few hours. Or perhaps the structure of a clear set of rules is a safe barrier against the chaotic world outside.
Apart from the distraction that playing board games can provide, a 2017 study on stress management found that playing certain board games can help train your body’s fight-or-flight response (the body’s natural response to stress). This means that by playing board games, you’re giving yourself healthy opportunities to practice facing stressful situations to develop your coping skills for when you feel stress in the real world.
Action Tip - If you find yourself stressed and unsure of how to handle it, try getting some friends together to play some games. It will help you relax and enjoy yourself and will take your mind off of whatever else is going on in your life and make you happy - even if only temporarily.
MAKES SOCIALISING EASIER, REDUCING ISOLATION
When you suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression, it can be extremely difficult to go out and socialise with others. Consequently, people who suffer from mental health problems tend to report increased loneliness, which is a contributing factor to worsening mental health. However, board games solve a lot of these problems as they offer a structured way to meet others and provide a social world in themselves.
Playing board games allows you to socialise with a group of people without having to worry about coming up with things to talk about. For people who have mental health problems such as social anxiety, playing games can be a great chance to work through their issues and socialise with others without the presence of any additional social pressures. Playing games also fosters positive relationships and can help fight off feelings of isolation by giving one a sense of community.
While you may not be an overly social person, and believe that you’re completely fine spending time by yourself, studies have shown that socializing with other people and experiencing more human connection is the most effective way to lead a happy and fulfilling life.
Action Tip - If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, reach out to a few friends and try to create a group you can regularly play board games with. Or, if you still live at home with your parents, start to play games with them so you begin to remember what it's like to interact with other people.
GIVES YOU AN ENERGY BOOST
When you suffer from mental health issues like depression it can feel like you have no energy at all. Sometimes even getting out of bed feels impossible. This is understandable and not anything to be ashamed about. When you finally feel ready to break the cycle of doing nothing you may wonder where to turn to.
Real-life chores or work might still be too much for you but a board game can be a great place to start. It’s an activity that’s designed to be fun, and while you’re playing games you will naturally start to gain more and more energy. If you really focus and put your heart into it, you’ll find that being involved in something interactive gives you the boost you’ve needed.
Action Tip - Consider board games as the first step on your road to better mental health. When you feel low and don’t feel like doing anything, try playing a board game to give you the boost of energy you need to start feeling better again.
INCREASES YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE
When you suffer from mental health problems like depression, you can lose confidence in yourself. You can struggle to believe in your abilities and feel useless. Board games can help more than you realise. Not only will board games make socialising easier, but they also help you to become more self-assured.
Each time you’re playing a game and you make a decision you’re gaining confidence in your skills. When you work on a strategy and it works, you begin to see yourself as a competent person who can make good decisions. All of these things help you increase your self-confidence.
The best way to practice and improve your decision-making skills is by playing board games that require you to use various types of play and strategies. As you get used to making quick decisions, you will also be gaining skills that you can apply to the real world, such as being confident in making a choice when you’re under pressure. The stronger your quick decision-making skills are, the less likely you are to become overwhelmed. Building self-assurance will help you build confidence.
Action Tip - Consider playing board games as a way to keep your quick decision-making skills sharp. Next time you need to boost your self-confidence, try playing a strategy-based board game.
STRENGTHENS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Playing board games brings together friends and families to connect and have fun. They encourage cooperation, laughter and silliness. They get players to engage with each other whilst also having a good time. Playing games is the perfect way to spend time with your loved ones and strengthen bonds with other people.
Action Tip - Next time you’re going to see your family or meet up with your friends, bring along a board game to play and enjoy together.
TEACHES SOCIAL AND COMMUNICATIVE SKILLS
Playing board games develops and refines your social skills by nature since they involve playing with other people. These skills can lead to happier and less isolated lives.
Board games provide a comfortable and relaxed space for people who suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression, or shy individuals, to stretch their social muscles. The structured nature of board games creates a safe environment to overcome your fears and anxieties and focusing on a game takes the more anxiety-prone individuals minds off the other people at the table. Reducing the pressure to interact helps encourage more introverted people to come out of their shells and start working on the important social skills they need to succeed in life.
HELPS YOU BECOME MORE RESILIENT
The amazing hidden message on resilience inherent in board games is: never give up. Just when you feel hopeless and discouraged, you might hit the jackpot and get back on top, if you stay in the game for a few more moves. Board games are also excellent at showing you that failure is not only inevitable but also temporary. If you lose a game, then there is always another opportunity to win.
This can be translated into your everyday life - when you have a problem or something that makes you feel disheartened, if you stick with it and don’t give up, things can turn around. Having a positive attitude towards life makes you a happier person that other people want to spend time with.
Action Tip - If you find yourself disappointed, try playing a board game. Focusing on the fun and strategy of the game will take your mind off your troubles and remind you that there is still a chance for things to get better.
UNPLUGS YOU FROM THE DIGITAL WORLD
When it comes to technology, you have a lot of screens in front of you at all times. While it’s true that some apps and television shows can be productive and educationally beneficial, and social media can be great to interact with other people, it’s easy to get too involved. What that can mean for your mental health is that you start to feel less grounded in reality. You can get lost in the world of tech and lose touch with real life.
This can be a pretty disorienting feeling but board games are a great solution. As you play you’ll notice that you probably feel more grounded. You might start feeling more aware of everything and everyone around you. You can start to enjoy the real things in your life a little more, and that’s a great thing. Don’t underestimate the power of unplugging and playing board games regularly!
Action Tip - If your evening routine as a family consists of being in separate rooms watching TV or scrolling through social media, choose three nights a week that you will play a board game. Everyone will still have time to themselves each night, but it replaces some of your screen time with a better activity that brings you all together to have fun and laugh.
KEEPS YOUR BRAIN YOUNG FOR LONGER
While sudoku and crossword puzzles can be good for your mental health, board games are even better as they are social. Loneliness and social isolation are some of the major causes of a decline in cognitive abilities, such those as associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. By playing a board game, you are keeping your mind engaged, exercising it and making it stronger.
Research has shown that suffering from mental health issues like depression and stress can negatively impact your ability to fight disease. Positive emotions, like laughing and having fun while playing games, help prevent these effects by releasing “happy hormones” that fight stress and boost your immune system. A simple board game can help trigger these “happy hormones” and activate them in your brain, making your brain cells live longer and helping to fight off disease.
Action Tip - Just like it’s a good idea to keep a good gym routine to maintain your physical health, maintaining a weekly board game night would be a good step to maintaining your cognitive health.
IMPROVES MENTAL AGILITY
Playing board games is a great exercise for your brain, especially for your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. These are areas of the brain that are responsible for complex thought and memory acquisition. Playing board games supports your cognitive skills, such as decision making, abstract thinking, and problem-solving. These are all crucial thinking skills that are valuable to your mental health.
A study that followed over 1,000 participants in their 70s for almost a decade used statistical models to analyse the relationship between how often a person played games and their cognitive function. The research showed that those who played more games had a better cognitive function in areas including memory, thinking speed, problem-solving, and general cognitive ability compared to those who didn’t engage in game playing. This shows that cognitive decline doesn’t have to be inevitable and that you can protect your cognitive health by playing board games regularly.
Action Tip - Just like you exercise to stay physically fit, it’s also important to exercise your mind to maintain your mental health. Try to regularly play a variety of board games to keep your cognitive skills sharp.
THEY’RE A CONVERSATION STARTER
Playing board games with your friends and family often produces great memories. These great experiences act as bookmarks in your minds, giving you something to chat about time and time again.
All too often, we are with other people, but our focus is not on each other. It’s on our phones, tablets, or the television. In 10 years, you aren’t going to remember that episode of EastEnders or that level of Angry Birds you finally beat. But, you will remember laughing at that terrible drawing someone drew in Scrawl, or the positive way you felt when someone made a strategic comeback or spun that lucky number.
Action Tip - Find a game that your friends and family love to play by trying a variety of games or by getting some recommendations from the internet or your other friends. When you find one, you’ll all become addicted to it, making playing the game a new tradition.