For many in the area, Spring Break has arrived! Whether you are a student or a member of the faculty or staff, it's time to take a deep breath and relax.

For some the week off from work or school is an opportunity to travel, but for others it often includes sitting in front of the TV or computer more, likely endlessly posting to Facebook.

With our current society plugged in 24/7, it's difficult to see more time in front of a screen as a "break."

What ever happened to playing board games with your friends and family. That's old school, you say! Nobody does that anymore, right?

According to www.healthfitnessrevolution.com, playing board games can positively affect you in a number of ways, including:

- Family time: Sitting down with family with no interruptions may feel like an impossible thing in your home, as everyone has different schedules which pushes them to opposite directions. But playing games with your kids, or with your friends, is a perfect way to spend time together and build learning skills at the same time.

- Memory formation and cognitive skills: Allowing your kids to play a board game helps them practice essential cognitive skills, like problem solving.  Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age too.

- Reduces risks for mental diseases: One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive decline, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising it and building it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of losing its power.

- Lowers blood pressure: Along with laughing and increasing your endorphins, they can help you lower or maintain your blood pressure. This release of endorphins help muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which evidently will lower your blood pressure.

- Child development: Board games play a very important role in child health and brain development. Board games help children develop logic and reasoning skills, improve critical thinking and boost spatial reasoning. Encouraging children to play different types of board games can also increase verbal and communication skills, while helping develop attention skills and the ability to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time.

So, break out the "Scrabble" or another favorite board game and turn off the TV and computer!

Another way to unplug while on Spring Break is to get outdoors. According to www.goodrelaxation.com there are many benefits to being outside, including:

- Fresh air is good for digestion.

- Improves your blood pressure and heart rate.

- It makes you happier.

- Strengthens your immune system.

- Fresh air cleans your lungs.

- You will have more energy and a sharper mind.

In East Texas, a new website – EastTexasOutdoors.org – helps East Texans and visitors to the region plan an outdoor adventure.  The 79 trails featured on the website come from three categories – hiking trails, paddling trails and urban trails. 

 “East Texas has so many beautiful places that people are unaware of,” said Richard Donovan, author of Paddling the Wild Neches.  “Texas Conservation Alliance put this website together to make it easy for us to access and enjoy the magic of the streams, forests, and wildlife areas right here near us – some of which are also important historic sites.”

EastTexasOutdoors.org can be indexed from the home page in several ways – by region, by county, by type of trail, or by amenities offered.  Each trail has its own webpage, giving a description, location, a map and/or directions to the trailhead, and website and contact information when applicable.  Paddling trail entries estimate the time to canoe or kayak the trail, and give information about paddling.  Tags at the bottom of each page list the amenities found at the trail site. 

We hope everyone has a nice Spring Break, no matter what you choose to do. But hopefully you will take our suggestion and unplug!

Jacksonville Progress