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Playing Monopoly At Christmas Can Actually Be Bad For Your Mental Health

Ciara Sheppard


Playing Monopoly At Christmas Can Actually Be Bad For Your Mental Health

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

We've all been there.

You started off buying Trafalgar Square and things were looking good, but a few missteps, hefty parking fines and stints in jail have left you down on your luck.

Soon enough, all you're left with is three measly houses on Old Kent Road, a dwindling bank balance and, to make matters worse, you've just landed on your sibling's hotel development on Park Lane.

It's game over, but the worst part? Your smug older brother telling you "you should have spread your property portfolio wider at the start."

A fresh rage washes over you, and you have to restrain yourself from flipping the board or launching a metal thimble at said sibling's head.

Monopoly can cause wars over Christmas (Credit: PA)
Monopoly can cause wars over Christmas (Credit: PA)

Anyone who has played Monopoly with family knows the game rarely ends harmoniously.

In fact, research this year by Liberty Games found that more than a third (37 per cent) of Brits agreed was most likely to cause blow ups over Christmas. But ever considered how competitive board games like the Hasbro classic can impact your mental health?

And according to Ann Heathcote, a psychotherapy therapist at The Worsley Centre, partaking in games like these at Christmas have the potential to cause isolation, paranoia, and can be even worse for people with low self-esteem.

"Board games can easily spark arguments because they're designed to be competitive and they even divide into teams," Ann tells Tyla.

"We might just think it's a game but to our brains it's not that simple. Once the game turns on the competitive switch, we start producing adrenalin and cortisol. The more complex the game, the higher your chances of a family argument are."

Christmas isn't Christmas without at least one board game bust up (Credit: Pexels)
Christmas isn't Christmas without at least one board game bust up (Credit: Pexels)

"While these arguments happen you may feel as though everyone is against you which can lead to feelings of isolation. During this period you can become paranoid or convinced that someone is cheating or that things aren't working in your favour.

"Individuals with low self-esteem may take arguments during board games as a personal attack. While board games can appear to tear us apart at Christmas, these disagreements shouldn't last long unless they are due to an underlying more serious issue."

For leading UK Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist Nick Davies, games like Monopoly usually highlight power balances within the family.

"It's that time of year where the family is brought together and the board games come out to decide on the pecking order, with the strongest parent usually the most competitive, and the eldest offspring usually the biggest threat to their dice-throwing dominance," he tells Tyla.

Experts say boardgames can unearth upsetting feelings from the past (Credit: Pexels)
Experts say boardgames can unearth upsetting feelings from the past (Credit: Pexels)

"It all starts off as fun until your ego starts to enjoy the fake money and property empire you build quite quickly and you recognise the dominance you can have over this temporary game."

Nick, who regularly deals with conflict resolution within a family environment, says competitive games can lead to bad atmospheres, arguments and rising tensions.

On the worse end of the scale, he says that people who have suffered with things like bullying in their childhood might find these feelings resurface.

Monopoly can cause wars over Christmas (Credit: Pexels)
Monopoly can cause wars over Christmas (Credit: Pexels)

"Christmas games can trigger off those childhood memories, resulting to a person seemingly overreact to a simple game, rather than realising it triggered all those childhood traumas," he explains.

"My advice, prepare yourself to lose completely and laugh at your misfortunes, but if you do start winning recognise it's just paper, plastic and cardboard...and nobody made a fortune from Monopoly except probably Waddington's the manufacturers!"

But board games aren't the only thing that families war over during the festive period. Reuniting with siblings in a pressure cooker environment, tension around the big day, and bubbling pent up stress from work or relationships can all lead to arguments.

We can all relate to board game-based rows (Credit: Shutterstock)
We can all relate to board game-based rows (Credit: Shutterstock)

Nick gave Tyla his best tips for avoiding blow-ups around Christmas.

  • Be flexible and compromise - 'I have a saying I use with my clients "Rigid rules, create angry fools!", so my advice is to get the family to loosen their expectations of what they expect to happen and find a compromise for each of them, maybe even agreeing on a majority vote.'
  • Learn to be selfless - 'The festive season is about giving so focus on the happiness you can create in others without looking to get it back.'
  • Be grateful - 'Gratitude is important too, if you look for all the smaller things that you appreciate, maybe seeing all the family together and focusing on how that makes you feel you're more likely to be happier.'
  • Take time out - 'If things get too tough, take a few deep breaths and take a time out and if you need to.'
  • Be willing to admit you're in the wrong - 'Lastly, learn to say sorry and mean it, if you can nip something in the bud before it escalates it's easier to resume peace within the home. You could say something like "Could I have a quick word? I know I appeared to jump in and say X but what I really meant was X and I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."'

Topics: Christmas, Life News, Life

Ciara Sheppard
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