We may not realize it while we’re just “having fun,” but playing a good board game with family or friends can have significant life-changing affects on our minds, bodies, and hearts, especially if we make time to play frequently like at a “weekly game night.”
Here are some of the more significant impacts board games can have on our lives:
1. Laughter is the best medicine: Numerous studies have linked laughter with a reduction in stress levels, cortisol, blood pressure, inflammation and an increase in blood flow, memory, mood, dopamine (the brain’s “pleasure” chemical), and endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller). Regularly playing fun games, then, can have direct effects on your overall health and quality of life.
2. You’re making memories to last a lifetime: All that laughter and togetherness you feel when you make time to play games with the people close to you means more than just a few hours of fun; you may not realize it now, but you’re actually creating special moments that will turn into memories you’ll hold dear for a lifetime. And this is especially true if you’re playing with your kids or grandkids, who will for the rest of their lives remember the good times you shared around the table. And even the “fights” or “tantrums” that competition can sometimes inspire become fond memories or funny stories in your family lore.
3. Reduces your risk of certain diseases: For older players, board games can have significant health benefits, lowering the risk for and effects of depression, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Board games that require the matching of shapes and colors seem to be especially effective at combating age-related cognitive disorders (like dementia).
4. Improves cognition and critical thinking skills: In our blog, “Can board games make you smarter?,” we talk in more detail about how board games help to improve brain function and cognition. In short, there’s ample evidence from researchers and educators that playing board games, especially strategic games, can have a marked impact on cognitive and critical thinking skills in both children and adults. Important life skills like problem-solving, conflict-resolution, decision-making, deductive reasoning, strategic planning are all being exercised and strengthened when you’re playing a good game.
5. Gets you off the screen: Recent studies estimate adults and children spend on average anywhere from 7 to 11 hours a day in front of a screen, and for many people this number is much higher. But this behavior is not without serious risks. Too much screen time has shown to increase risk factors for sleep problems, depression, anxiety, cyber-bullying, attention disorders, and obesity. Board games are a welcome (and fun) alternative to this screen overload, encouraging face-to-face, in-the-flesh quality connection time with friends and family. And, no, there’s no app for that.
6. Reduces stress: Typically, when you’re having a good time with the people you love, you’re not very stressed out. Your cortisol (stress hormone) levels are lower and the feel-good hormones (like dopamine and endorphins) are activated, making you calmer, happier, and less stressed out. Regularly engaging in activities, like playing games, that reduce your stress level can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life.
7. Promotes family bonding time: This is one life-changing benefit that you truly can’t put a price on or attach a study to. We all feel it when we play a good game with our loved ones, even if we can’t quite explain it: bonding time. Whether for a few minutes or a few hours, there’s something about all sitting around a table or board, laughing and talking our way through a fun game, that just feels good and brings us closer together.