Keeping The Game Going (Free Online Games)

I used to play card games in the sixth form common room between lessons. Now I prefer online games.

Collaborative post (AD)- All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When you work from home you need to find time to take your mind off of that long list of monotonous jobs that are always waiting for your attention. Similarly, when you are sat on a train on your way back from a meeting or after commuting back and forth to work it is always great to have something fun to do. For me, playing online free games is one way that I can give myself a brain break.

Previously, I mentioned my recent interest in Wordle and Battleship, but I also really love traditional card games and online versions of these. Games which are easy to pick up and complete in minutes are generally the most appealing to me.

Apps are always handy.

One of my games apps that has kept me busy during train journeys over the past couple of years is Wordscapes. I like the challenge of linking letters together to form words. What I mean is there are six letters in a circle and you have to connect them so they make meaningful words. The words then fill crossword type boxes at the top of the screen. The only downside with such games is that the apps use up storage space on your phone. They also seem to drain my battery more than online games -although that could just be me.

Taking the games with you.

As I have mentioned before, I like to be able to use websites that are easy to access, load quickly and don’t take up lots of space on my phone or iPad. One online game site I have been enjoying lately is Solitaire.org which houses a range of fun games including card ones such as Solitaire, Blackjack and Gin Rummy.

I am currently hooked on a three-in-a-row game. It reminds me of Tetris, even though it is slightly different in that you have to switch two items around so that one of them completes a row of three. This loads in under ten seconds and is really good fun. I can play a game in a matter of minutes, so it makes a good distraction when I am between jobs.

I was only going to show one example of a Solitaire.org game but I cannot resist sharing the Hidden Numbers Game too. The reason I like it so much is because you have to spot various numbers which are made to blend into a particular background, such as this medieval one. I genuinely love it and it was a very recent discovery, but I have a feeling it will become a regular time-filler for me.

Summary

I know that a lot of my readers are interested in free games and I have tried to share ones which cost nothing. Of course, when using apps you have the option of paying for extra games and treats so I prefer to play browser games, especially using sites like Solitaire.org which don’t have adverts interfering with your play.

The Relationship Between Art, Psychology, and Wellbeing

I am delighted to share a fascinating guest post with you by ‘The Wellbeing Blogger’ which explores how art and wellbeing interact. I was pleased to read this as I have a keen interest in art and always wondered how it linked to psychology, as it does seem to stimulate calmness and satisfaction in me. Read on, to find out more about the importance of art.

A historic painting that I (Jamie) discovered in a Luxembourg castle.

Guest post by Vanessa Dias, thewellbeingblogger.com

Art has been a primary form of communication between human beings for hundreds of years. A piece of art, whatever it may be, can carry many ideas, experiences, and values. How did art come about though? Does our brain play a role in the Arts? And what can the Arts do for our psychology and well-being?

Scholars believe the Arts are exclusive to mankind, and I believe there is an Artist in each one of us, ready to be uncovered and liberated. It seems, however, that Art in all its manifestations is a recent event in mankind’s history. Despite the existence of hand stone tools linked to Homo erectus and Homo habilis, it was only with Homo sapiens that Art became part of humanity’s heritage.

Starting out

The first objects of Art being produced were fine hand tools, small statuettes made from ivory, bones, beads, and pendants. There was also body painting and jewelry, which are thought to have been used as a way to evidence social status and group identity. Only much later did Art become a source of beauty and awe to human beings. 

Scholars also believe the evolution of art and its cultural purpose reflects the evolution of the human brain. Increased hemispheric asymmetry, interconnectivity between specialized areas, neuronal density, and brain size are thought to have contributed a great deal to the increased practice of art. 

Unlike Language, which seems to be located in the left hemisphere, Art can’t be reduced to a single brain region or cerebral hemisphere. It’s a rather complex phenomenon and it has the capacity to affect the brain itself. Our nervous system can be positively impacted whenever we find ourselves involved with art. Whether that means producing or appreciating art, we can benefit a great deal from it.

This eye-catching mural is in Salzburg, Austria.

What does research show?

Research studies have shown that visual arts interventions (e.g. drawing and painting) have positive effects on our psychology by regulating our levels of stress, self-reflection capacity, self-awareness, behaviour and thinking patterns. These effects are also reflected in our physiology. When we engage with art, and especially when we produce some sort of creative work, our heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the stress hormone) are normalised.

On a daily basis, contact with artistic outlets can help us cope with reality setbacks and difficulties. It seems to function as a stress buffer, protecting us from the negative consequences of high arousal states. If it means being involved in the production of creative work, the better. A 2020 study showed that arts participation enhances mental health and increases life satisfaction.

So how can you incorporate these findings into your life?

There are several pathways you can choose from, and my advice is to pick an outlet without thinking too much about it. Just allow yourself to go with the experience and invite your explorative spirit into action. You have painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, cinema, music, and theatre. Select one of these forms of art and explore different ways you can engage with it.

For instance, let’s say you choose painting. You can try watercolor, oil, or acrylic painting. You can also focus on different styles of painting, and learn more about each one of them: modernism, impressionism, cubism… but if you want to start small and collect some immediate benefits, you can start with colouring in. I have a ready-made colouring workbook that you can download and use for free. The act of colouring directs our conscious attention away from ourselves and into the present moment. This way our mind gets a break and the chance to relax. Give it a try and start witnessing the benefits of art in your well-being.

This is a beautiful painting that gets you intrigued and keeps you amused. I (Jamie) saw it in a London gallery.

Thank you for reading Vanessa’s informative and thought-provoking article about art and wellbeing. If you enjoyed it then please give her lovely blog a follow.

Ten Nice Ways To Fill Your Holiday Time

As Christmas approaches quickly and some people are lucky enough to get some well-deserved time off from work, I thought I would share some ideas of what to do with this free time. My own holiday to France has just been cancelled due to the French government closing the door to British travellers, so now I am determined to enjoy my holiday in a different way.

Here are my ten suggestions for using the Christmas holidays effectively and enjoying some down time, alone or with others.

1) Workout regularly

Even if it is just a 15 minute workout twice a week, make sure you don’t become too sedentary over the holidays, especially if you are eating more than usual (as I definitely shall be). A fast walk or a Youtube cardio session can be enough to give you a boost and keep your heart healthy.

2) Read a book or short stories

It is no shock that I recommend more reading at Christmas time. My other posts suggest lots of books and stories worth checking out such as these. I have changed my book choices so that I am just reading festive books until the New Year and I am absolutely loving it. In January I will return to my other novels.

3) Do some craft work

My friend has become obsessed with making cards and is actually very good at it. It is interesting to see a new hobby become a part of someone’s life. For me, writing has become my main passtime but I am also challenging myself in other ways, such as with exploring baking.

4) Have a deeper clean

We frequently hear people asking about spring cleaning but for me, the Christmas break provides a good opportunity to give the bathroom a good spray and wipe as well as dust in the places you normally don’t get round to.

5) Do something musical

A few years ago I bought myself a cheap electric keyboard and had a few lessons with a local piano teacher. His father became ill and he flew back to Australia but I wasn’t confident enough to teach myself. I have recently started spending some time reminding myself of those skills so that I can pick up lessons again where I left off in January. Learning an instrument is great for dexterity and can be incredibly therapeutic.

6) Watch ‘West Side Story’

I just cannot stop gushing about this. I was lucky enough to see this Spielberg masterpiece last weekend and am returning to watch it again in a few days. The soundtrack is constantly playing in my car and I genuinely think this is one of the best movie musicals I have seen in years.

7) Go for a walk with a friend

A walk in the country is always fulfilling.

In the holidays, rather than just meeting up with friends for dinner, I prefer to go for a walk with people who I wish to catch up with. Sometimes this is followed up with a coffee and snack but the walking is my priority, mixing exercise with socialising. I love this kind of catch-up.

8) Listen to a Podcast

I am hooked on Davina McCall’s ‘Making the Cut’ podcast as well as Jane Horrocks’ ‘Queen Bees’ one. Over the next two weeks I will be having more baths, which are my excuse to listen to these podcast episodes in a relaxed way.

9) Have a massage

In the past, I have had some wonderful getaways to health spas and when that is not possible I pop to a local spa for massages during my vacations. Nothing beats a hot stone massage and prices can be very reasonable if you look around.

10) Cook something new

This is a fun one. I bought some baking trays and bits and bobs two years ago and had a few failed attempts at baking sponges but I am determined to step back into the kitchen this Christmas. Why not have a go at trying a new recipe or baking a simple cake this Christmas?

These were just a few suggestions for how to use your holidays well. I hope that you enjoyed this post and may consider following my blog for similar future articles. Have a lovely Christmas and keep reading and supporting the blogging community.