In today’s fast-paced and digitally saturated world, finding ways to recharge and repair our mental health is often quite hard. There are so many distractions that draw us into a bubble that seems comforting at first. Modern life is all about speed and work, while our own health and life are often seen as secondary. However, among the hustle and bustle, there is one activity that can really help with mental health: board games. In this article, I want to look at how board games can foster connection, promote cognitive skills and provide a much-needed respite from the stresses of everyday life.

Building Connections and Social Support

I know that board games aren’t the panacea for mental health. In fact, board games can lead to their own problems. Yet, on the whole, I would say that our hobby is very much about bringing people together and fostering meaningful connections. In an era dominated by digital communication, board games create a space for face-to-face interactions, encouraging genuine engagement and deep relationships. Sitting around a table, people can engage in friendly competition, cooperative endeavours or otherwise spend time together. It doesn’t matter whether you like solo games or multiplayer ones. You are bound to meet like-minded people who share your interests.

These connections serve as a vital buffer against feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Engaging in shared experiences and forming connections with others not only provides emotional support but also enhances our overall well-being, creating a sense of community and fostering a positive outlook on life.

It doesn’t even necessarily have to be face-to-face, even though that tends to be more helpful when it comes to mental health. Playing games online together also allows you to create new connections or strengthen existing bonds. For example, one of my friends moved away recently, so our games group is now online. It’s not the same as when we met up in person, but it still keeps our friendship going. Playing online is as much a time for respite and recharging your mental batteries as playing in person. I would even argue that for some people playing remotely is preferred.

Escaping and Recharging in a Digital Age

Of course, board games are able to provide a respite from technology. Board games offer a tangible and tactile form of entertainment, free from the constant notifications and digital demands that often contribute to feelings of stress and overwhelm. Playing board games offers a chance to disconnect not only from the virtual realm, but our day-to-day stresses and responsibilities. Our hobby allows us to immerse ourselves in a shared, analogue experience that takes us away from the real world to somewhere away from everyday pressures. As we focus on the game at hand, our attention shifts away from the pressures of work and life. This respite allows our minds to unwind, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.

Additionally, many board games encourage mindfulness. They require us to be fully present in the moment, attentively observing what’s happening, anticipating opponents’ moves and contemplating our next steps. It creates an almost meditative state that allows us to temporarily set aside our worries and concerns. It provides a much-needed mental escape and an opportunity for rejuvenation.

Some games are better at taking us away from the day-to-day, but all games have the potential to make us focus on something else for an hour or two. You have to find what works for you, but I love games that are visually appealing and really make your brain work quite hard, without being too tiring and overwhelming. I love spending a few hours just focussed on playing board games with friends or family.

Enhancing Cognitive Skills and Mental Agility

Board games also offer a unique way to sharpen your cognitive skills and boost your mental agility. Many games require strategic thinking, problem-solving and critical decision-making. That provides a stimulating mental workout. Whether it’s formulating a winning strategy, managing resources or deducing hidden information, board games challenge our minds and promote the development of valuable cognitive abilities.

Additionally, board games encourage us to think flexibly, adapt to changing circumstances and analyze complex situations. All of these skills are useful beyond the gaming table. By engaging in these mental exercises, we can enhance our cognitive resilience, improve our problem-solving abilities and cultivate a more agile and adaptable mindset. These skills are not only beneficial in the context of gameplay but also in our daily lives, empowering us to navigate challenges and find creative solutions.

So board games can help with mental agility as much as anxiety or loneliness. Our hobby doesn’t only bring people together, but it also keeps our brains active and flexible. It’s a great way to exercise your grey cells.

four people playing a board game together, all look excited, while one looks aghast (Photo by Big Potato on Unsplash)
(Photo by Big Potato on Unsplash)

Promoting Self-Expression and Emotional Well-Being

Board games also serve as a platform for self-expression and emotional exploration. In the magic circle of a game, players can embrace different roles, experiment with various strategies and explore different facets of their personalities. It’s this freedom of expression that allows for self-discovery, which in turn promotes self-confidence, nurturing a sense of identity.

Board games can provide a safe space for emotional expression. Players may experience moments of triumph, setbacks or even conflict. These experiences allow for the expression and processing of emotions within a controlled and supportive environment. Through gameplay, individuals can learn valuable emotional regulation skills, developing resilience, empathy and improved emotional well-being. While losing a game can be frustrating or even upsetting, there is no real-life impact of the loss itself. It’s an opportunity to understand that these negative feelings are going to be time-limited. At the same time, winning a game can feel exhilarating. Learning to manage both extremes of feeling in the safe space of a game can be really beneficial for someone’s personal development. It can help make the person more emotionally resilient in real life.

What About You?

As always, I would love to know what you think. Do board games help your mental health? If so, how? What games do you find are especially beneficial? Are there games that you steer away from when your mental health isn’t in a good place? What are they? Do you have any other suggestions for how board games can help people’s mental health? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Afternoon by DreamHeaven
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