Written by Tiffany O'Brien, Director of Product Development at SimplyFun
When the glow of the holiday lights and the sparkle of the new year starts to fade, we find ourselves in the dark days of winter. I find myself struggling to get through my to-do list that I put off until January, and getting myself motivated to leave the house when it is cold. I am not a big proponent of the New Year's resolution either, but I do support making plans so that I have something to look forward to. My first instinct is to book a fabulous trip to somewhere sunny and exotic, although that’s not always feasible (or the most responsible idea).
Snuggling up with a book is my go-to comfort zone. And nothing says hide under the covers like January in the Pacific Northwest. However, I know that there is joy and light to be found in the company of others. I also think creating opportunities to be social, even in micro-doses, can help push back some of the clouds of seasonal affective disorder that sometimes creep up this time of year.
Thus, a far easier (and slightly less expensive plan) is to schedule a game night! I find planning a party or gathering can be a little stressful, but a night filled with happy brain games is far more doable. The social burden and expectations are low because the activity is already decided and, bonus, no one needs to cook! (Although, providing some healthy snacks that leave clean fingers, is always appreciated).
Feel Good Games to Mood Boost Your Whole Crew
I have been playing through all of the SimplyFun games, so it won’t be any surprise that I am going to recommend my favorites from the line for game night. For a high-speed rush of excitement, here are a couple of dopamine-boosting games:
- Pelican Cove is a 4-player game (that can EASILY be expanded to 8 if you have two games handy). There are a set of rules that each of the Pelicans needs to conform to, and your task is to meet as many of the requirement on your own board as possible before the time runs out. The super-secret tidbit on this game is that it can just as easily be played by yourself if you want to challenge your brain with a little mental exercise without the hoopla of having friends over.
- Save the Pie is a collaborative game where everyone is working together to beat the time. There are so many activities that you need to accomplish (some that can be done at the table, and some encourage you to get up and move around) that make this game perfect to inject some energy when we need it the most.
- The third game that rewards quick thinking and can easily be played over and over again is Corner Center Match. This card game is compact, easily travels to a friend's house, and focuses on our quick observation skills.
Keep in mind, that you might not be ready to invite a bunch of people over, so you might want to start with just your family or roommates. However, if you do branch outside of the house, I recommend learning how to play the game before guests arrive so that you can get right into the joy. All of the SimplyFun games have easily accessible how-to-play videos so you can hop right into play.
Cozy Games for a Night in with the Family
Perhaps “cozy” is not quite the word to describe my next recommendation. First, I’m going to share a little secret I have for helping me when I’m feeling gloomy, anxious, and struggling with the reality of the outside world. My sure-fire solution when I’m stuck in a bad place is to figure out a way to bring joy to others. There are countless opportunities every day, large and small, that we can do to make someone else’s day just a little bit brighter. And that is why I think a great feel-good game is Triage. This game starts out with everyone needing help as disaster has struck across the board. I know there are multiple ways to play, and the game was not originally intended to be collaborative, but there is something about an emergency that always has my family and me working together to bring as many people to safety as possible. Triage lets you and your family be heroes without ever needing to change out of your pajamas (so maybe a little bit cozy?).
After you’ve saved the day, it might be time for a bit of an escape, and for that, what better way than to take to the high seas or explore the great unknown?
- Phantom Seas is a charming adventure to sail the ocean blue, navigating the unknown depths, all while coveting the most treasure that you can. I’m not saying you have to dress in your best pirate gear for this one, but I’ve also never lost while wearing a puffy white shirt and bandana.
- Do I also own a NASA onesie? You’ll have to come over and play Planet Voyagers to find out. I love a good theme night, and if journeying through space and learning all about the planets in a cozy space suit doesn’t get you out of the winter blues, I don’t know what will.
Take Care of Yourself
I really do believe that playing a game can be healing in more ways than one. Giving your brain a workout, engaging with others, and challenging yourself to think differently can be its own type of medicine. I like that a game can bring strangers together, bridge the gap between generations, and provide a platform for shared joy. Gaming is just one of the many things we can do to pull ourselves out of a funk. Waking up 20 minutes early and going on a walk, packing yourself a healthy lunch, and drinking an extra glass of water every day are all little ways we give our bodies some love. Even if you’re not ready for a regular game night, I encourage you to reach out to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, just to check-in. Connection, whatever its form, is shared light in the darkness of winter, and I wish you many sunny moments of joy no matter the season.
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