I am a long time lover of word games with crossword puzzles ranking high on the list of my favorites. So hearing that science is increasingly finding proof that exercising the mind is a very important aspect of maintaining clarity into our old age had me very excited.
Sigh, my enthusiasm was not to be long lasting. Unfortunately crossword puzzles don't fall into the category of games which will extend the life of cognitive brain function. These puzzles do have their own unique advantages but with limitations as to the benefits they will provide to your mind.
So for lovers of word play let's look at the why and how of getting the most benefit from our favorite games. I'll also offer up a few game tips for getting added benefit for the cognitive workings of your mind.
Play is Work and Work is Play to Your Brain
There are a number of factors which keep your mind alert and functioning. The foods you consume, environmental exposures, oxygen levels, hydration levels, and the tasks that you expose your mind to all work to improve your brain health.
As we age our brain cells slowly die off, the brain visibly shrinks in size, and most of us begin to have some slow down in our mental capabilities. Some individuals will lose a severe degree of brain functioning and move forward into the various stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Others will remain alert and intellectually active well into their old age.
Science now knows that we have quite a degree of influence over how fast our brain ages. Although we cannot control some factors such as accidental brain damage, there are things which we are able to do to help our mind maintain its maximum functioning abilities.
Diet, physical fitness, and keeping the brain active are each very important ingredients in brain health. Just as your muscle requires exercise to strengthen and retain its form so does the brain require stimuli to keep it mentally alert and functioning at peak performance. Of course not all exercise is created equal and different types will give you considerably more health benefit, this rule also applies to mental workouts.
So Why Don't Crossword Puzzles Improve Cognitive Function?
Studies indicate that when your brain takes on new or increasingly challenging tasks that it can open previously unused or under utilized brain cells within itself to store this new information.
Word puzzles can be very challenging but when we work on a crossword we are using a specific area of the brain which specifically handles language and speech.
Although the first few we work on can teach us the new task of how to solve a crossword after that time this type of game simple works to increase our vocabulary and other word facts knowledge.
Play a Variety of Games to Keep Your Brain Fit
Challenge your mind. In order to substantially increase our cognitive ability we require games which consistently challenge us to learn new tasks, follow new directions, or find new pathways to the conclusion.
Adding a set time allotment to the tasks or games we undertake can also substantially improve results as it increases the means by which we must learn to solve the task. So when doing crossword puzzles add a timer to the mix.
Although crossword puzzles may not be the greatest way to prevent future brain drain they do provide other benefits. These games are an enjoyable way to relax, de-stress, and increase your word power.
Wrapping up a Gift for a Puzzle Loving Friend?
When wrapping gifts it is always fun to create a specific theme and games are always a fun one to select. For a crossword lover you can wrap his gift in old puzzles and attach a fancy pencil or eraser set to the outside of the package.
A gift basket filled with puzzle books, a dictionary, pencils, fancy erasers, a pencil sharpener, nuts or chocolates to munch on, a coffee mug, and perhaps a package of hot chocolate or some packets of herbal tea is amusing and delightful all at the same time. A small plush or beanie toy could also be put in as a puzzle buddy.
You can also find many fun crossword theme gifts that will have your puzzle loving friend chuckling as he or she unwraps them. Get creative and have fun with your decorating ideas (it may help you exercise those brain cells you are striving to keep.)
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