Board games have a long and fascinating history, stretching back millennia. Boasting centuries-old roots in the classic board games of Pachisi, Ashtapada and Chaturanga, the origin of the modern board game can be traced back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where their popularity crossed economic and cultural boundaries. Board games were also beloved by both ancient Greeks, who believed that games could help to develop one’s critical thinking skills, as well as by Romans, whose public markets would play host to various board game tournaments. Board games were even enjoyed in China during its Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), which saw a large proliferation of such leisure activities among both urban residents and nobility alike. Over time, their development evolved with these societies until they eventually achieved widespread presence worldwide in the late 19th century when graphic boards using paper money proxies instead of coins began to appear.
Today, board games are still considered cherished pastimes around the world. But besides providing an entertaining way to pass the time with friends and family on lazy afternoons or during long holiday gatherings, they also offer potential mental health benefits as well—these include aiding with stress relief, fostering social interaction between players and building resiliency skills within those who engage with them regularly.
Health Benefits of Board Games
Research has shown that playing board games can provide a variety of mental health benefits. Playing board games increases serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain which is associated with improved mood and well-being. Board games also encourage creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills.
A study conducted by the University of Tennessee found that playing different types of board games improved cognitive functioning, abstract reasoning, and even verbal fluency. Additionally, a British study published in Personality and Individual Difference journal noted that regular board game players reported better mental health than non-gamers.
Other research suggests that, when played socially with family or friends, drinking tea while playing board games can enhance concentration, reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. In addition to these benefits, board games provide an escape from technology thereby making room for deeper conversations with family or friends which can be beneficial for those struggling with isolation or depression.
Types of Board Games Medically Beneficial to Mental Health
Classic analogue board games that are medically beneficial to mental health include Chess, Bridge, Backgammon, Mancala, and Checkers. Modern digital board games that are also advantageous include Catan and Ticket to Ride. Additionally, modern spin-offs of the classic game Scrabble like Words with Friends can also be beneficial for mental health. More obscure yet still intellectually stimulating games such as Carcassonne, Sagrada and Stem Bombs can help improve memory, social interaction and problem solving skills. Even quick action strategy dice games such as Yahtzee or Roll For It are great for relieving stress while improving communication.
How to Invite Games into Your Relaxation/Mental Health Routine
One way to make come game nights more enjoyable is to plan ahead and prepare for the event. Take some time before the game night and make sure everything is ready. Gather snacks, beverages, and materials needed for the game. Set up the playing area, either in a cozy corner or around a large table, with enough space for people to sit comfortably. Create creative rules and regulations so everyone can have fun and feel comfortable participating in the game. Ambiance is essential; consider setting an easy mood with calming music or decorations that inspire a magical atmosphere of playfulness.
Another great way to make game nights memorable is to add surprises into the mix. Whether it be prizes or secret alliances, implementing twists throughout the game will keep everyone engaged, on their toes, and having fun all night long! As this activity is meant to provide a safe space away from stressors; use this time as an opportunity for socialization, laughter and relaxation – especially if you’re usually active during most of your day. Invite members of your household or friends online and create special events each time by rotating what games are played each week. And finally, don’t forget to always end each event on a positive note by recognizing good sportsmanship no matter who won – because ultimately having fun should be one’s main priority!
Help a Friend in Need
1. Approach the person with an open, non-judgmental attitude and listening ear. Take your time to understand their situation in order to better equip yourself to help them.
2. Create an affirming space where they can feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves. Let them know you are there for them during difficult times and try to really hear what they are saying.
3. Make yourself available and show genuine interest in how the person is feeling and coping with the challenges that their mental health may present.
4. Encourage the person to try board games as a way of coping with mental illness – ask if gaming might be something helpful for them as playing board games can help distract, reduce stress, increase concentration, provide a sense of community, facilitate communication/team work, and strengthen relationships between players.
5. Model behaviours that demonstrate positive interaction while playing a game – such as remaining calm even after loss or frustration, showing empathy towards one another when necessary, celebrating successes together, etc.
6. Be patient with the person’s learning curve if they are new to board games – offer subtle guidance when necessary but remember that everyone plays at different speeds – everyone has something valuable to contribute!
Board games are a great way to reduce stress, improve socializing abilities and develop tactical thinking. They offer interesting ways to bond with friends and family, stimulate the mind and can also enhance problem solving skills. Board games come in many different types including strategic board games like chess, Monopoly and checkers, as well as cooperative board games like Pandemic or Settlers of Catan. These types of board games provide hours of entertainment while allowing players to practice critical thinking, strategizing and decision making skills – all important elements for mental health. Additionally, playing in person allows for quality time spent with those close to us, enhancing relationships and providing an opportunity for meaningful conversations – furthering the positive mental health effects of playing board games. Although board games may have their own individual benefits, overall they can be incredibly beneficial for improving mental health by providing a good source of stimulation, reducing stress levels and strengthening ties with loved ones. For those needing more help managing stress or other mental health issues mentioned here it is important to consult with a professional for additional information or resources.
I love playing all kinds of games – from classics like Monopoly to modern favourites like Ticket to Ride.
I created this blog as a way to share my love of board games with others, and provide information on the latest releases and news in the industry.