Staying healthy as we age is a full time job! I should know as I am entering senior citizen territory myself. Eat a clean, colorful , organic diet, exercise daily and get plenty of sleep. Easy tenets of good health but not always easy to stick with consistently. There is one step toward good health that protects us as we age that I truly enjoy and that’s playing games. Many have heard that doing crossword puzzles is good for the brain and warding off memory problems, but there are many other games like Scrabble, Bridge and Soduku to challenge the brain as well.
I am lucky that I have a 5 best friends with whom I get together every week to play Mahjong. American Majong is a very challenging game that requires a gin rummy player’s memory and a poker player’s luck! Three or four people play together, using 13 tiles instead of cards. You draw tiles from a wall, trying to create pre-determined complex patterns of suits displayed on your card that are infuriatingly hard to create. You also need to try and figure out what the other players are doing so you don’t inadvertently discard and give them the tile that will complete their Mahj!
The best part about this game for me is playing with friends who I truly love and enjoy. Knowing that once a week I will be surrounding by love and support is the best medicine for stress, depression and anxiety. I also believe my weekly connection to loved ones boosts my immune system and keeps me healthy. Studies actually support this. Studies have shown that people with a network of supportive friends have a better chance of fighting off major illness than those without many close friends. Recovery from major illness like cancer or heart attack is easier for those with rich social connections.
A well respected study done at UCLA in 2000 looked at women’s social and emotional lives and the importance of their circle of friends. This study found that a woman’s circle provided a natural stress reliever and prevented the “fight or flight” hormonal response so many experience in reaction to stressors.
Women gathering together to care and calm each other was called the “tend and be-friend” response that women create with their circle of friends. Women nurturing one another release oxytocin, the mother love hormone. This hormone gives everyone a feeling of blissful relaxed feeling.
Other studies have shown increase in longevity for those with larger friend groups. Another study of 500 women with coronary artery disease symptoms found that close friendships decreased rates of hypertension and diabetes as well as less abdominal fat!
So playing games can be beneficial for the brain and for the heart both physically and emotionally. I encourage you to call up a few friends and start a weekly game. For more about the health benefits of friendship, look up the article The Health Benefits of Friendship by Victoria Moran at clevelandclinicwellness.com
Play with your friends and reap the health benefits!