10 Ways Playing Board Games Can Benefit Your Mental Health by Gabe Nelson

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In one of our latest episodes of the New Level Cap Podcast, we discussed some of the effects and causes of burnout throughout the development process. To follow this up, special guest writer Gabe Nelson steps in to show us how playing board games can help with your mental health in general! Take it away!


10 Ways Playing Board Games Can Benefit Your Mental Health

When you’re looking for ways to relax and have fun board games are a natural choice for many people. They give you a chance to have some fun and just enjoy the company of others around you. They can take the pressure off of social situations by giving your entire group something to enjoy together so conversation flows more naturally. 

There are so many types of board games out there that you’re sure to find a great match for your personality and the types of games you enjoy. You can play strategy based games like mahjong or you might enjoy games that are more group-oriented like Monopoly or Risk. 

With the internet at your fingertips, you can even play mahjong online or find a group chat about strategies to solve a game of solitaire. There are countless ways you can take some time to relax and enjoy board games in your life. There are even some benefits to be found when it comes to playing board games and your mental health. 

If you’re curious about mental health benefits of board games you may not know about yet, you’re in the right place. Here are 10 benefits of playing board games when it comes to your mental health. 

1. They Are Natural Stress Reducers

Board games are a fun thing to do, and having fun gets your mind off of things you may be worrying and stressing over. When you’re focused on the board game and not your job, or budget, or whatever else might be going on in life, you’re giving yourself a break. You’re taking some time to breathe and reset your mind. 

When you’re playing a board game you’re pulled into another world almost. This is especially true if you play tabletop role-playing games. So if you find yourself stressed and unsure of how to handle it, try playing a game. It could help more than you realize. 

2. You Can Play While Increasing Your Mental Agility

Board games aren’t all created equally. While some are just focused on having fun, others really do require a lot of skill and focus. When you’re playing Yahtzee you’ll need to use math skills to make sure you’re choosing the best roll for each slot you’re filling. 

Card games like solitaire require you to use your memory in order to win more often than you lose. You’ll be keeping track of the patterns you start to see in the cards you’re dealing out as you flip through your deck. Things like this really help you increase your mental agility without even knowing it. It’s all just fun and games, literally. 

3. You’ll Increase Your Self Confidence

Are you someone who worries about your skills in life not being up to par? Maybe you struggle with knowing if you’re a good decision maker, or you aren’t sure if you are able to develop strategies to solve problems effectively. If that’s you, then board games may help more than you realize. 

Every time you’re playing a game and you make a decision you’re gaining confidence in your abilities and talents. When you’re working on a winning strategy and it works, you start to see yourself as a capable person who is able to make a good plan. All of these things help you increase your self-confidence. The next time you need a little boost to your self-esteem, try breaking out a board game. 

4. You Can Make Great Social Connections

Like you read about earlier, board games give you a way to interact with a group without the pressure of coming up with topics of conversation. Sometimes mental health issues can cause you to want to isolate yourself. Playing a board game is a way to work through that without a lot of extra social pressure. 

Focus on games that require group interaction but won’t force you to spend a lot of time thinking of what to say or when to say it. Things that you can just really immerse yourself in the experience are the best option. Playing in a group setting and working towards a common goal, like a cooperative play game would be great choices when you’re trying to stop isolating.

5. You Get To Have Fun

Laughter reduces cortisol, a hormone that occurs when you’re highly stressed out. Although this is related to the reduction of stress you learned about earlier, fun in and of itself is its own benefit. When you play a game that’s all about having fun you’re allowing yourself to really let go and just enjoy life. 

Don’t underestimate the power of laughing and enjoying some time with a group of friends. Choose a game that encourages you to act silly, like a game similar to Charades. Anything that gets you to break out of your shell and just be in the moment, having fun. When it comes to having better mental health time spent having fun is never time wasted.

6. Board Games Help You Unplug

When it comes to technology you have a lot of screens in front of you at all times. Whether it’s for work or for something like interacting on social media, 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. You’ll want to choose a real board game this time and not an online version, but as you’re playing 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 a board game regularly.

7. You Can End A Fight

Have you ever been bickering back and forth with a spouse or friend for so long you’ve forgotten why you were angry in the first place? It happens to a lot of people, and it’s a very common thing to experience. Surprisingly, board games can be a great way to fix this situation. 

If you find yourself in a stalemated fight with a loved one, try playing a game together. Focus on the fun and strategy involved in the game and you’ll find that you are losing the energy to keep being angry or continuing to fight.

The more fun you have together the more likely you are to end a fight that seemed like it would last forever. You’ll give each other the chance to be seen in a more positive light and remember why you enjoy being together. Give a boardgame a try the next time you aren’t sure how else to end a fight with a friend or partner.

8. You’ll Get An Energy Boost

When you’re struggling with mental health issues like depression it can feel like you have no energy at all. Sometimes even getting out of bed really feels impossible. It’s understandable and you don’t need to be ashamed of that. When you’re ready to try and break that cycle you may be left wondering where to turn.

Real life chores might still be too much for you but a board game could be a great place to start. It’s an activity that’s enjoyable, built for having fun, and while you’re doing those things you will start to gain more and more energy naturally. As you go about playing if you really put your heart into it you’ll find that being involved in something interactive gives you the boost you’ve needed.

9. When You’re Overwhelmed, Try A Board Game

This builds on the self-confidence you read about earlier but it’s also a little different. Life can throw a lot at you at one time and getting overwhelmed can stop you from figuring out the best decisions to make to move forward. A great way to practice quick decision-making skills is through board games that use a lot of varying play types and strategies. 

As you watch yourself make decisions quickly even if you’re being asked to do two or three things at once, you’ll be gaining skills you can transfer to your real life. It’s like practicing for the big show. The sharper your on the fly decision-making skills are, the less likely you are to get overwhelmed. Think of board games as a way to keep your skills honed and ready to go.

10. Board Games Can Teach Social Skills

When a child plays board games they can learn about social skills that transfer to other areas of life. Board games can teach you about effective communication, patience, waiting your turn, and how to be a graceful winner or loser. 

All of these skills are essential to doing well in the real world, so board games are a great way for children or adults with limited social skills to learn these types of things. Most people will just see it as a fun time playing, but the things they’re practicing will be useful for the rest of their lives. 

By now you’re probably very clear on some of the best benefits of playing board games. You can see that although they are really meant as a tool to have fun, there are great things that can happen when you’re spending time fully involved in a game. The skills and benefits gained will help you out in your life in many ways. 

Now that you know, you’ll never have to discount the time you spent playing a board game as time you could’ve been doing something productive. Playing a board game is productive all on its own, so go enjoy being productive… by playing.


Author Bio

Gabe Nelson is a content specialist of over 7 years of experience, currently working for Arkadium. Just out of highschool he set off crab fishing on the bering sea in Alaska. From there he went back home to finish his college degree at the University of Montana. He has a passion and keen understanding when it comes to board games inside and out. He has written hundreds of content pieces in numerous niches. Currently, he lives in Missouri with his wife and kids enjoying the peaceful town of St. Joseph.