“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” This saying is almost 400 years old and still rings true today. For adults and children alike, there’s no better way to release stress and boredom than through playing games. It may even decrease your chances of burn-out and depression.
Playing improves your mental wellbeing
Working relentlessly can cause tension and stress to build up in the body. When you’re at work, your mind is focused on serious business. That’s fine for a while, but your brain needs a healthy balance if you want to avoid burn-out and depression.
That’s where playing comes in. When you play a game – whether it’s a board, card or video game – your body releases endorphins. These natural feel-good chemicals combat stress and make you feel happy. You’ll instantly feel more productive and in the long run, you may be less likely to burn out.
A study on the effect of casual gaming showed that playing for as little as 20 minutes can improve the player’s mood and reduce stress. It’s one of the main reasons why so many people turn to games to unwind after a long day. According to an online survey by RealNetworks, Inc., 53 % of people play games to release stress.
The pitfall of perfectionism
Board game designer Rob Sparks (Board Game Bud) has had a number of burn-outs throughout his life: “As a creator and a bit of a perfectionist, my main challenge with mental health is burn-out. And I think a lot of people can relate to keeping a lot of pressure on themselves. Since recovering from these burn-outs I take my mental health seriously and I try to slow down when I see the early warning signs.”
A game a day can keep the doctor away
Lower stress levels, more endorphins and productivity and a lower chance of burn-out and depression: as health benefits go, that’s impressive. But there is more. Playing games helps us stay young and energetic, improves memory functions and stimulates the production of BDNF, a protein that supports the growth of brain cells.
You’ve heard people say that “laughter is the best medicine” and in a way, that’s true. A fun game with friends will make you giggle or even howl with laughter, bringing along more health benefits. Laughing has been known to decrease inflammation and improve vascular health. “It makes your blood pressure go down because you release dopamine,” explains Dr Bowen White, physician and founding member of the National Institute for Play.
Games have a strong social component as well. They help you connect with others, says Seb Van Deun, owner of Belgian game store and café De Kolonisten. Three evenings a week, board game enthusiast come together at his shop to discover new games and rediscover favourites. “When you meet up with people to play a game, it forces you to really spend quality time together. Through games, we strengthen our bonds with friends, family and coworkers. Ultimately, games are all about having a good time with good people.”
Playtime at work: do or don’t?
Do you and your coworkers sometimes take a break by cracking open a new board game? Maybe your workmates are more into crossword puzzles or basketball. No matter your game of choice, having a play culture at work definitely has advantages for employees and employers alike.
Playing together is an excellent form of casual teambuilding. You get to know your colleagues on a more personal level and that will help you understand each other on the job. What’s more, playing a game is also a great way to put your creative cap on and rearrange your thoughts. Time spent playing at work isn’t lost: you’ll make up for your playtime in increased productivity.
45 minutes of work, 15 minutes of play
Creative consultant, card magician and writer Deej Johnson has some best practices on when to take a break from work: “Broadly speaking, every 35 to 45 minutes needs to be followed by around 15 minutes of relaxation. Or at least a break from that intense concentration. Some people say they work best under pressure. But to them I say: ‘Sod off’. (laughs) It’s very stressful and unhealthy to go through these continual peaks of tension.”
“After about 45 minutes of work, you get messages from your body. You need a glass of water, you need to go the bathroom, you find yourself standing up, stretching your back and legs. It’s your body saying: ‘I’ve had enough, take a break …’ It’s tempting to say: ‘I’m nearly finished. I’ll take a break when I’m done’. Well, don’t! You will end up far more productive as a result of taking those 15-minute breaks, because you won’t need to overcome the stress as well as face the work.”
Matt Leacock is an American board game designer and creator of the popular game ‘Pandemic’. According to him, games have the power to connect people. As he wrote in The New York Times: “Board games have comparatively low stakes, but I’ve learned they have much to teach us: we all need to play to our strengths, balance short-term threats against long-term goals and make sacrifices for the common good. If we can communicate, coordinate and cooperate effectively we might better overcome this relentless opponent.”
If your breakroom isn’t stacked with board games yet, don’t despair. Just start small and bring a deck of cards or a sudoku to work on Monday. Before you know it, you’ll be having the best and most energizing lunch break of your life.
Do you want to find out more about the benefits of play? Also read:
Playing together is…