Crossword Puzzles — Are They Good For Your Brain?
Since January 29th is National Puzzle Day, I decided to research the idea that doing crossword puzzles is good for our brains. We’ve all heard it said; but is it true?
Can crossword puzzles keep you from getting Alzheimers?
According to the Alzheimers Association, keeping your brain active every day is key to warding off dementia. They list seven activities that are useful to this end., among which is working crossword puzzles.
- Stay curious and involved — commit to lifelong learning
- Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles
- Attend lectures and plays
- Enroll in courses at your local adult education center, community college or other community group
- Play games
- Try memory exercises
Will it improve your verbal skills?
In research published in The Irish Journal of Psychology, crossword puzzles improve verbal fluency. Ann Lukits, who wrote “Puzzles Boost Verbal Skills, Cut Dementia Risk” for the Wall Street Journal, is certain that this particular brain activity “improves memory and brain function in older adults.” The authors of a book entitled Teaching Applied Creative Thinking said in their chapter on crossword puzzles that the activity was “an amazing tool,” but have since its publication come to the conclusion that “solving a crossword puzzle by two or more people working together simultaneously” is even more effective. (They call this process collaborative cruciverbalism.) The boost is due to the fact that the participants talk to each other (verbalize) while solving the puzzle. This leads to a greater ability to think creatively in a more strategic fashion, according to a LifeHack post about how Science Explains Why Crossword Puzzles Are Good For Your Mental Health.
Can they help you develop problem-solving skills?
Well, yes, obviously. “It’s said that the people who are the best at these are musicians or people who are in math and science,” Tyler Hinman (five-time winner of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament) says. “What those fields have in common is they’re both about looking at encoded information and being able to translate it instantly into something meaningful.” Crossword puzzles work much the same, involving the same parts of the brain.
What about pattern-finding?
Newborn babies prefer patterns (second only to human faces). And as we grow, we tend to look for patterns in everything. Keeping the ability to see patterns sharp is one thing puzzle solving really does well. The more puzzles you solve, the easier patterns are to see. We strive for structure in our lives, looking to see how thing connect to each other. It’s a need we are born with, and it never goes away. Working puzzles can only help sharpen the skill.
Helping you destress.
Crossword puzzles really are Zen, taking you out of your hectic world for awhile and helping you destress. It’s a quiet, simple form of meditation, as it takes you out of your stress inducing life and allowing you to zone out while simultaneously doing something entertaining and healthful.
Improving your trivia knowledge
Are you good at remembering bits of trivial information? Yes? Then you’ll love working puzzles. No? Then you’ll love working puzzles. Why? Because trivia buffs have a wealth of information to call upon, and if you aren’t a trivia buff, you’ll be challenged with how those bits of information work together. It might even turn you into a trivia hound! Searching the internet for an answer may uncover something else you will find fascinating, and looking for a word in the dictionary may lead to finding a different word that leads you to another word…
What kinds of puzzles do you enjoy? Leave a comment and tell me!