Happier Jump-Starts: Tips For Game Night

happier-jump-starts-gaming-092114There’s little I love more than a game night either with my family or a group of friends. These days we’re likely to spend time with loved ones doing things in parallel rather than truly together, and a few hours of group gaming changes the dynamic and forces a more intimate interaction. I never laugh as hard as I do during game night!

If you’re not already doing game nights, try it out! Even if you already are, hopefully you can pick up a few ideas for making it even more awesome. Here’s how we do it:

Game time is festive snack time. We could get into the philosophical implications of most social occasions being paired with food—that’s a different discussion, entirely—but the fact remains that some “special” food during a group activity just makes it more fun. No need to bust diets, either; just have fun nibbles that feel special (popcorn is always a hit at my house), pour your seltzer into a fancy glass, whatever makes it feel like a party.

Mix it up. My son would—and does—happily meet up with his fellow Dungeons & Dragons nerdlings for their weekly adventure, but when it comes to a mixed group of game-lovers, change it up each week. Do Pictionary one week, Taboo the next, etc. Part of the fun is learning new games, finding out who’s good at which ones, and learning new things about your fellow players.

Be competitive, but only as long as it’s fun. There’s a certain amount of fun inherent in competition—you don’t want a group that doesn’t take the game seriously—but do be mindful of not crossing the line into a place where those who are losing stop having fun. (This is more of a concern if you’re playing with kids.) Play for real, in other words, but not to the point of bloodshed and/or tears.

Practice kindness while you play. It may seem odd to suggest game night as a good time to practice kindness, but think about it—it’s a controlled environment with clearly-defined rules, and a great opportunity for young and old alike to demonstrate good sportsmanship and encouragement. Someone else made a fantastic play? “Wow, that was epic! Well done.” Again, this is the kind of thing you might think of while playing with kids, but who doesn’t like being complimented? You can be competitive and complimentary, and everyone will have even more fun.

Step out of your comfort zone. We know that trying new things and having novel experiences make us happier. Invite a new friend to join you. Try a game no one has tried before. Offer to host when usually you have game night somewhere else. Have game afternoon instead of game night—it’s up to you. Find a way to make it different, each time, and maybe surprise yourself how much you enjoy the change!

Go forth and enjoy your game night. And don’t forget to share a happy moment about it with the Happier community, too.

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