Mindful Jenga: A Simple & Fun Gratitude Game


First of all, I’d like to say I’m grateful you’re here!

This year, I’ve been focused on making mindfulness a core part of my life. Along the way, I’ve come to appreciate the unexpected ways mindful practice manifests in daily life — often as pleasant little surprises.

One of the main reasons I started Oddblocks is to explore the intangible benefits of wooden blocks and thoughtful play. I’ll go out on a limb to declare — I believe wooden blocks support mindfulness in many undiscovered ways.

I admit there’s nothing inherently mindful about any old chunk of wood. But the more I explore the concept of thoughtful play, the more I’m convinced there’s something special about playing with blocks. And that’s what i’d like to share with you today. Jenga as a fun way to express gratitude with family and friends is one of my newest discoveries.

By tweaking the rules ever so slightly, you can turn the classic game of Jenga into a mindful gratitude game, and take the game you know and love to a heightened level of meaning.

Next, I’ll teach you how to try it yourself, and explain why I think it works so well. Let’s jump right in!

How to make Jenga into a gratitude game

three jenga blocks stacked

How to play? It’s simple! The official Jenga rules state that each player on each turn should follow these steps:

  1. Remove one block from any level of the tower
  2. Place the block on the topmost level of the tower
  3. The game ends when the tower falls

Jenga rules for mindful gratitude

The mindful Jenga rules are the same, just with one added mindful step. After you remove the block from the tower and before you place the block back on top, hold the block in your hand and say something you are grateful for.

What should you say you’re grateful for? Anything at all, whatever comes to mind. If you’re struggling to get started, try starting small. Or if you need a little push in the right direction, try searching online for some beginner’s gratitude journal prompts.

Even though they’re made for writing a gratitude journal, they work just as well for playing a gratitude game like mindful Jenga.

Who’s the winner?

So that leaves the final question about how to play mindful Jenga — what to do when someone accidentally topples over the tower?

This is perhaps the greatest part of using Jenga as a gratitude game – everyone’s a winner.

You’ve explored positive things in your own life. Just like mindful journaling, saying it out loud helps you define what you are thankful for, which makes it easier to recall and recognize this nugget of positivity in the future.

Not to mention you’ve shared an experience with people who you care about, so you understand them on a much deeper level than you would have playing by regular Jenga rules. You likely mentioned the other person when you said what you’re grateful for and vice versa. Mindful Jenga has brought you even closer together, and that’s very special in my opinion.

Why mindful Jenga works so well

There are various reasons why I think mindful Jenga works so well.

I think lots of people are looking for new ways to play Jenga, and lots of other people are interested in new ways to practice mindfulness in daily life. I would be rather surprised to learn someone is actively searching for a way to incorporate mindfulness into their Jenga play. But that’s what happened to me, and if you keep an open mind, I think it could work for you, too.

The Power Of The Mindful Circle

First, mindful Jenga has the power of speaking in turn, in a safe space with people you care about.

I have been attending regular mindfulness sessions, and one theme I noticed is talking in turn around the circle. In other scenarios like work or social gatherings, there’s a lot of pressure to be right, to be clever, to be concise, or to portray an image of confidence.

But during mindfulness classes, I felt the exact opposite and it was liberating! It was an eye-opening moment when I realized I wasn’t rehearsing what I was about to say. When it was my turn to speak, I spoke in the moment and from the heart — without the social anxiety and the fear of being judged.

The Natural Flow Of Emotional Intensity

Second, I’ve observed that Jenga’s progressive intensity perfectly coincides with greater emotional intensity.

In regular Jenga, removing the first few pieces is easy, but it becomes more difficult as the game progresses. For those first few pieces, you don’t take too much time because there’s little risk of toppling the tower over. Later in the game, the tower becomes less stable, and removing each piece requires greater focus and precision.

In my personal experience, this mirrors the perfect energy for people to express their gratitude turn by turn. In the beginning, participants get a warm-up period to start expressing gratitude about the little things. Later in the game, people naturally take more time to express gratefulness for deeper and more abstract concepts — probably because they’re so relieved that the tower’s still standing!

The physical act of holding pieces in your hand

The third reason I think Jenga makes for a perfect gratitude game is the physical act of holding the piece in your hand.

Even though the Jenga block is just a block of wood, my experience is you hold on to it in a special way. Kind of like the way you’d hold on to a crucifix or other religious relic, there’s something more going on in that grasp. Almost like you’re transforming a physical object into a symbolic mind block that represents your emotions and intention. Try out this gratitude game for yourself, and you might see what I mean.

Over to you!

The benefits of gratitude are well documented and backed up by scientific research. Jenga as a mindful gratitude exercise may be a new idea, but in my own practice I’ve found that mindfulness is whatever you make of it — it’s whatever works for you.

If you’ve gotten any kind of inspiration out of this blog post, I’d encourage you to try mindful Jenga out for yourself.

I’d love to hear about your experiences playing this gratitude game, or any other variation you’ve come up with on your own. Let me know in the comments below!

Header Image Credit: dumbmichael on Vecteezy

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