What comes to mind when you think of board games? Some first thoughts may include Sorry, Monopoly, or Uno. Those games are only the beginning. Today, you can find a game for any age, taste, or occasion. But here’s the best part. Did you know that games may actually help to grow and develop your mind? Sadly, board games tend toward a reputation as mere child’s play. In reality, they can provide great benefits to both kids and adults. Check out some of these ways that board games keep your brain sharp, and you might find yourself scheduling a game night very soon!
Play For Your Health
As adults, we tend to forget to have fun. Sometimes we just need to let loose and embrace our inner child through play. Helpguide.org says “Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing …is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.”
Remember the saying “Use it or lose it?” Sure, it’s cliche but in the case of your brain, it’s true. Just like any muscle in your body if you don’t exercise it, you lose strength. SixWise.com quotes a study from the New England Journal of Medicine. The study looked at seniors who did mentally stimulating activities, including board games. It showed that “Seniors who participated in such activities about once a week for a 20-year period reduced the risk of dementia by 7 percent. Those who engaged in these activities more often reduced their risk even more — by 63 percent!”
Games like chess and checkers are great for stimulating the mind. But any game that causes you to strategize confers brain benefits. Just learning the rules can promote healthy brain activity and memory retention.
Increase Your Vocabulary
If you’ve ever played Scrabble with someone with a huge vocabulary losing against them can be quite grueling. But try to start picking up on the words that they know. As you question what may or may not be an actual word, you learn the word’s definition. Games like Bananagrams and Balderdash work the same way. A lesser-known example is Paperback. This deck-building word game feels a little bit like Scrabble but also allows you to come up with ideas for different types of words.
What’s even more fun is to start incorporating these newly found words into your own daily usage.
Improve Your Memory
As I wrote in an earlier article, memory loss can be attributed to many different things including stress. To help lower your stress levels and exercise your memory, play a game!
Trivial Pursuit and its many knock-offs improve memory retention. It encourages players to pull out the random facts they know, and quickly. Concentration is another oldie-but-goodie. The object is to remember cards as they’re flipped over and then match them together. A more contemporary twist on it is called Code Names. You have to really concentrate and pay attention.
If you’re suffering from stress, stop and think for a moment about the last time you had a good laugh or acted silly with your friends. If you can’t remember then you’re missing out on an important outlet for your stress. I’ve talked before about how socializing can benefit your health.
High stress levels that go untreated lead to long-term effects like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, says The Mayo Clinic. It can also cause headaches, anxiety, muscle tension, and social withdrawal. There is a lot to be said for the healing power of laughter. It releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, and boosts the immune system. So what are you waiting for? Go find a game that makes you laugh! Some ideas to try are Apples to Apples and Quelf.
Boost Your Creativity
There are times in life when thinking outside the box comes in handy. For instance, sometimes work can create some interesting problems. When this happens it’s helpful to have unique ideas on how to overcome the situation. If you’re not used to thinking creatively, it can be hard to come up with a good solution.
Creative thinking can encourage initiative and optimism. Knowing that there is more than one way to solve a problem can really change your entire outlook on life. Creativity keeps you from being a problem finder and turns you into a problem solver. Some games that inspire creativity include Dixit or Telestrations. They let anyone become a storyteller or artist.
There’s a reason that games are usually labelled with a minimum age but not an age limit. You’re never too old to play! Keep in mind that if none of these games tickled your fancy there are many game developers out there. Search the internet or ask friends for suggestions. Your brain will benefit.
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