Board Games Are Not Just For Kids!

Recently I spoke to a mother who lost her son to suicide a few years ago, at the very young age of 19. During our conversation we talked about the impact of positive wellbeing influences outside physical sport, activities that you may not consider to be as impactful, yet research shows this not to be the case, actually the opposite. I will call the lady Judy for the context of the blog and to protect the individual. 

Judy went on to explain the journey of her son and that in the later months he had started to improve his confidence through attending a cafe bar that played traditional board games, in fact he started to talk about new friendships made from this experience. Sadly he lost his fight against depression, However Judy is convinced that his connection with a new world through playing games helped him, even if it was for a short time. So much so, Judy went on to explore the impact of board games against an individuals wellbeing. The report and findings were and are impactful and thought provoking.

One analogy described to me around the effect of playing board games with new friends, “it’s like sitting around the table with your family at teatime”, that statement alone gives a great insight into the positive environment around such experiences.

I decided to visit a new games cafe bar in Nottingham called Ludorito and spoke with the founder and MD Nicholas Higgins, what an inspiring and insightful conversation. Whilst the cafe is a business there is no doubt it’s also a passion for the owner. We also talked about wellbeing, the groups that attended the cafe. What was very noticeable whilst I visited the cafe was the laughter in the room along with most in attendance not using their phones, everyone was engaged in conversation and pure communication with each other, it was a rare sight to see in public, especially when we are all used to seeing individuals scanning their phones looking through social media. Have you been to a restaurant recently when a couple are sitting at a table, not taking too each other because they are engrossed in their phones? Well this environment is the opposite, everyone engages with each other.

Board games can have a very positive impact on your well-being, recent studies say. Because they behave differently than online game, they can help you in many different ways. What makes them special is that you don’t have to sit in front of a screen to get all the fun. It looks like they are adopted more and more by schools and the results are fascinating because students are very excited about playing them. And we’re talking about a generation that is practically obsessed with online gaming, smartphones and technology. So here are the surprising benefits of playing board games!

1. Board games are social.

This is probably the most significant aspect of playing board games. Unlike being immersed in a video game by yourself, board games require interaction with your peers. The reason they’re so cool is because they can help you meet new people but also strengthen your bond with older friends. Spending more time with people you care about and have this fun activity in common is obviously awesome for your health.

2. They can help you take a break from technology.

This is incredible, if you think about today’s society when we tend to spend most of our time in front of our computers. In that sense, board games can seem like a breath of fresh air. They can also give you a chance to relax your eyes.

3. They can improve your memory and help you with creativity.

Because you are forced to pay attention to what’s going on during the game and keep track of everything, board games can make wonders for your memory. There are many other skills that you can improve with playing board games. And creativity is just another one of them, but also problem-solving and story-telling.

4. They can help with anxiety and depression.

Board games are known for helping people, especially teenagers break down barriers and start interacting more with their peers. It’s especially important for people dealing with social anxiety and any other mental issues.

Board games are experiencing somewhat of a golden age at the moment. I’m not just talking about classics like Monopoly,  Scrabble and Cluedo. If you go into your local Waterstones for example, you’ll find the type of board games that used to be consigned to the dusty shelves of specialist hobby stores – Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, and Pandemic are all now hugely popular. The mix of people playing board games is widening, and there’s a whole world of youtube channels, web pages and podcasts devoted to the hundreds of new board games released each year.

Getting together with groups of friends, such as when playing a board game, is supportive of your mental health. BoardGameGeek.com has a depression, anxiety and gaming support group, where people share their stories and support each other, amongst discussing the board games they love. In this vein I thought I’d look into the benefits of board games from a mental health perspective.

5.Board Games keep your brain younger for longer

Playing games, especially as you get older is beneficial as an active brain is at lower risk of cognitive decline. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that playing board games was associated with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The old adage ‘use it or lose it’ seems to have some truth after all.

6. Board games help with children’s cognitive and social development

Useful social skills can be taught through board games, skills that  can lead children to  happier and less isolated lives. Games teach social skills such as following rules, taking turns and sharing with others. Board games support cognitive skills, from simple number and pattern recognition to the most complex calculations and estimations. In some games you’ll use a mixture of logic, mathematical skills and abstract thinking, whilst also planning out your next moves, and coming up with ways to counter your friends’ actions. With so many different types of board games, there are thousands of ways to give your brain a workout.

7. Board games help reduce isolation

Most board games are designed to be played with a group of people. Having a regular group of people to play board games with helps stave off loneliness, and builds positive relationships with others, all things that are associated with good mental health.

Isolation has been shown as a contributing factor in worsening mental health, and those with mental health issues tend to report increased loneliness. However, it can be difficult for those suffering with issues such as depression and anxiety to step out and make new friends. Board games solve a lot of these problems as they offer a structured way to meet others. Instead of needing to strike up a conversation from scratch, having a game as the focus of the activity allows friendships to build slowly in a less formal or pressured way. Board Game Cafés are springing up around the country and all you need to do is turn up, talk to the staff and you’ll soon find someone to have a game with. Even for those that struggle to leave the house there is an online board game simulator on ‘Steam’ where you can play hundreds of board games with others online.

8.Board games help family cohesion

There are now hundreds of board games out there aimed at families, or that are sufficiently well designed to be enjoyed by adults but simple enough for your 10 year old to get to grips with (and then beat you mercilessly).

A board game is an opportunity for the family to take part in something together. Board games offer the opportunity for more face-to-face interaction with others, which in itself is supportive of mental health. All too often in family situations, while everyone is physically present, the focus is either on the TV or individual mobile phones, tablets or laptops. While playing a board game, whether competing or collaborating you’re engaging with each other actively in person. Families who spend time together on enjoyable activities have a better emotional bond, and better communication between family members.

9.Board games help to reduce stress

A study from Realnetworks Inc showed that games help us to reduce stress, support mental balance and help with relaxation. I imagine this is because board games offer escapism, a chance to take leave your daily worries behind for a while and do something completely different. You can build civilisations, construct railways, control vast armies, hunt zombies or even try to take over the world. There’s no need to worry about the minutiae of life for a few hours, or perhaps the structure of a clear set of rules is a safe bulwark against the chaotic world outside.

That’s why The Links Foundation will build a programme that not only includes a sport programme but also alternative programmes that help an individuals wellbeing in different ways, wat to be part of The Links Foundation Wellbeing Project then email TheLinksFoundation@gmail.com for further information.

Board games are a great way to connect with others, to take you away from the normal troubles of life for a few hours, and to give your brain a workout. Why not see if there’s one out there that will suit you?

Marcus Jones

Founder of The Links Foundation 

www.marcusjones.co.uk

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