Hobbies are known to be a way to reduce stress and can improve feelings of anxiety and depression. Board games are, of course, no different. In this article, I want to look at how playing board games can help your mental health.
Let's look at solo games first of all. Very much like the classic game of patience, many modern solo games can give people some "me" time, during which they can focus their mind on solving the puzzle that the game presents them with. Solo games, like other games, will occupy your mind to a lesser or larger extent. So there will be a solo game that gives you just the right level of challenge that you need. After all, sometimes your brain is already overwhelmed and for those times the perfect game will be something light, maybe something visually engaging, where you don't have to think too much, but your focus is still kept on the game.
Generally, all games can also give you a sense of achievement, which is probably more pronounced in solo games, because it's just you against the game, but multiplayer games can also give players the feeling that they've really had an effect on something and that their actions and decisions led to a positive outcome. It's not even all about winning, but could be a matter of improving on your previous score, discovering an interesting strategy or something similar that lets you feel that you've really achieved something.
Board games can also offer a social aspect. Sharing your problems and worries with others is often really helpful and board games can give you an excuse to meet up with friends and they can be the catalyst for conversation, not just about the game itself, but because everyone is probably relaxed, it will be easier for you to openly share your thoughts with the group.
Other times, you don't really want to talk, at least not about your problems. You just want to spend time with friends. You want to talk to them to distract yourself from your day-to-day worries. The game itself might become just a background to having fun and being silly with the people around you. The game can also become the focal point and lead to really exciting moments or real hard laughter. It basically becomes a form of escapism.
There is another social aspect to board games, which Tabletop_creature from Twitter shared with me. They said "joining a playtesting boardgame group really helped me to find new friends and going to these sessions has become a permanent fixture in my life." OK, maybe you're not a board game designer yourself, but I think joining a board game club can also be a really great way to use board games to deal with stress and anxiety.
On the one hand, you have the social aspect, that either allows you to switch off from your worries and just have fun with like-minded people for an hour or two. On the other hand, being part of a board game club also gives you something to look forward to every week or every month or however often the club meets. That's also true for regular game nights with friends, of course. Knowing that you will have a fun-filled evening ever so often can really help manage your stress or anxiety, because you have something to look forward to. You know that you will have fun again soon and you can put your feelings of stress and anxiety into perspective.
Of course, board games can't always help with stress, anxiety or depression. If you're struggling to cope and things you tried yourself aren't working, please reach out to a medical professional who will be able to advise you further. Your mental health is as important as your physical health and you're never alone - help is always at hand.
So, have you found that board games help you with stress or anxiety? If so, in what way? Are they a stress relief for you? Do they allow you to escape into another world far away from your day-to-day? Is it the social side that board games give you? Do you play solo games that allow you to focus on something else for a while? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. It would be wonderful to hear what board games offer you.