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The health benefits of playing backgammon

Last updated on April 14, 2021

That old backgammon set collecting dust on the bookshelf could be key to keeping your mind active and healthy while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Backgammon provides a competitive form of entertainment in a social environment. However, backgammon offers a lot more than just entertainment. In fact, backgammon can have a positive impact on health, both physical and mental. In this Deluxe Backgammon post, we will take a look at the health benefits of playing board games, such as backgammon.

Improve memory and cognitive skills

Board games, such as backgammon, help people of all ages to improve their memory and practice essential cognitive skills such as problem-solving. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially benefit from playing board games. These areas of the brain are responsible for memory formation and complex thought processes. The complex tactical and strategic planning required in backgammon helps the brain to retain and build cognitive associations. In some sense, the brain acts like a muscle, so complex thought processing is like exercise for the brain.

Endorphins

Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to laugh? This “high” is caused by neurochemicals released by the brain. These neurochemicals are called endorphins. Endorphins are involved in our natural reward circuits and are related to important activities like eating, drinking and exercise. They minimize discomfort and pain and maximize pleasure. This helps us to continue functioning despite stress or pain. Since humans naturally seek to feel pleasure and avoid pain, we’re more seek out activities that make us feel good.

One of the side effects of playing backgammon is laughing. Laughing has been proven to release the flow of endorphins, which are the neurochemicals that bring up the feeling of happiness. Sharing laughter and fun can promote empathy, compassion, and trust with others. Of course, you might not be laughing, when your opponent snatches victory from the jaws of defeat after rolling three consecutive double sixes. After all, backgammon is not known as the cruellest game for no reason.

Double six.

Backgammon helps reduce isolation

Backgammon is a two-player game meaning that playing involves social interaction with other people. Even if this is online, it helps reduce the sense of isolation that can occur with the social distancing restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic. Isolation has been shown as a contributing factor in worsening mental health and those with mental health problems tend to report increased loneliness. However, the very nature of depression and anxiety makes it difficult for those suffering to reach out and socialise. Backgammon can help solve these problems as it offers a structured way to meet others. Having a regular group of people to play backgammon with reduces loneliness and helps build positive relationships with other people. These are all things that are associated with good mental health.

Reduces risks for mental diseases

One of the primary benefits of playing backgammon is reducing the risk of cognitive diseases. Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising your brain and making it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of becoming susceptible to conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some recent studies even suggest that there is a pattern between board game play and a decline in dementia.

Lowers blood pressure

 The release of endorphins triggered by laughing helps muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which will lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of artery damage, heart disease, and stroke.

Childhood development

Backgammon is a great way to teach maths and probability to children. The complexity of the calculations will increase as their age and skills increase. Backgammon provides a healthy social outlet for children. It provides a fun and educational pastime to share with other children. However, backgammon also offers a unique opportunity for children to meet and interact with adults on an equal basis. It gives the child a pastime that they can share with the entire family. Backgammon will also teach children about luck. Learning to cope with a string of unlucky rolls or losing a close game will help them learn to cope with the bad luck and misfortunes that life throws at all of us.

Frans Francken, Monkeys Playing Backgammon.

Increases confidence

If you are someone who is lacking in self-confidence, backgammon, or board games in general, could help you build your self-esteem. Not only does playing backgammon create a structured social environment, but it can also help you become more confident.

Each time you make a calculation whilst playing backgammon, you are building a series of reference points that make your future decision making faster and easier. As time goes by you will start to the results of your hard work, practice and decision-making skill. This will build faith in your own abilities. Also, when you learn the various strategies required to win at backgammon and you learn to adapt them during play you will begin to see yourself as capable of making an effective and intelligent plan.

As you get used to making calculated decisions, you will also be gaining skills that you can transfer to the real world. This includes being confident in making decisions when you’re under pressure. The more confident you are in your decision-making skills, the less likely you are to become overwhelmed. The cumulative effect of these factors will help you build self-confidence.

Summary

Backgammon can be played at home among friends and family. You can also participate online in backgammon competitions and tournaments or perhaps join a backgammon club. You can practice your play online against bots or on standalone apps. If you’re into strategic games like chess and appreciate the health benefits of board games, backgammon could be the perfect pastime for you. Backgammon is a great way to socialise with others and provides a temporary escape from the pressures of life. In addition, with complex problem solving and maths involved it is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Put away the mobile phone and the tablet, switch off the TV and relax with a game of backgammon. It provides opportunities to practise positive social skills whilst stimulating vital areas of the brain. The benefits to your mental health are well worth the effort.

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