We are always looking for fun and engaging ways to help our mental health. Board games have been played for centuries, the oldest known, The Royal Game of Ur is around 4,600 years old! Playing can be a great way to spend time, but what are the reasons why playing board games can benefit your mental health?
The short answer is there are many benefits. We are going to explore a few and every single one of them will be a boost to your mental health, we might also throw a few game suggestions in as we go!
The Social Benefit
With out a doubt being able to sit around a table with a bunch of friend is a great social activity. Spending time with people you care about is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. Friends can lift your mood and lower anxieties, just by being in the same place as you.
Socialising is bigger than that though. You are able to enjoy the company of likeminded people, whatever you might be doing. Playing games at the same time is a bonus. Laughter is great medicine, your are receiving dopamine and that helps to ease anxiety and stress.
Your mind gets distracted, even if it is just for a few hours, you can be in the moment. You build better relationships and trust with those around you, it can boost your self-esteem, social skills and confidence too.
Unless you are playing a solo game, all games are social. They might pit you against the other players, or perhaps get you working with them, above all they are fun! For socialising, we love games like Cards Against Humanity, Dobble and Sushi Go. Okay, so they are all technically card games, but we’re including them.
One other area of gaming to explore is Table Top RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, these are incredible ways to not only socialise but get all of the benefits we talk about in this article. We will be exploring them in more depth very soon, watch this space!
The Mental & Educational Benefit
Playing games can impact a lot in regards to how you use your brain. Think about a game such as Monopoly, most people have had an opportunity to play that one. It’s not just about going around the board, there is much more involved.
There is a fair amount of maths involved, counting moves, using money to buys, pay fines and so on. Then managing your resources, not just money some games have other items you collect, trade and use. Then you have decision making, is it the right time to buy that property? Can you afford a hotel? Not to mention learning to have patience and cope better with distractions.
Next there is problem solving and strategic planning. Even in probably the most well known board game, you need to think strategically and look at the problems facing you. If you buy that property, does it stop another player getting a full set? If others have hotels, are you able to buy Piccadilly and afford to land on their hotel?
There is a lot that goes on in your brain whilst you are playing. All of it helps improve your brain functions and stimulate you in a positive way. There are a bunch of strategic games around, we love Takenoko (which is also stunning), Santorini and Pandemic.
The Physical Benefit
Getting physical is also something that games bring to the table, pun absolutely intended. Aside from benefiting coordination, fine motor skills and dexterity, some games require a little more involvement.
Twister is a grand example of this, left foot yellow, right hand green! Then you have games such as Gutterhead that include using charades hilariously, or Ugg Tech which demands you behave like a Caveman grunting, building and using and inflatable club.
Some of our favourite physical games include Ugg Tach mentioned above, Rhino Hero and Jenga.
The Hormonal Benefit
Many of the articles you will read on The Wonderment talk about the neurotransmitters that our brains produce which make us feel better. Here is a quick run down…
Dopamine – when feel pleasure dopamine is released which makes us feel happy, so playing a game helps to release that chemical and improve your mood.
Serotonin is similar to dopamine, but has a longer lasting effect. This means the benefit of playing games gives you the short term boost from dopamine and the longer lasting serotonin. This is why after a night playing with friends, you may still feel that happy buzz you had when you were actually there.
Endorphins are also released when you are feeling pleasure. They help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as relieve pain at times. Enjoying a games night therefore can be an absolute tonic for your mental health, and might even ease your pain a little if you suffer with any.
Oxytocin is another neurotransmitter and you get this when you are with people you care about. It helps to regulate emotions and behaviours, leaving you feeling at peace.
Overall games night can give you a better sense of wellbeing for many reasons, so what is stopping you? Organise a night with friends and let us know what you played. What would be your top pick to play if you were enjoying a games night? Let us know on our TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter, don’t forget to tag us!
If you want to find out how other activities could help boost your mental health, check out our Entertainment section.