Benefits of Boosting Brain Power

Crossword puzzle

Boost Your Brain Power with Games and Puzzles

Winter is a season spent mostly indoors, due to short cold days and long frosty nights. While it’s important to maintain a regular exercise program for your body throughout colder months, it’s equally vital to flex your brain power daily.

Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. If you don’t regularly exercise, you lose valuable muscle strength that impacts overall health. This also applies to brain function. If you don’t regularly challenge your mind, similar losses can decrease cognitive brain function, severely impacting your quality of life and limiting your independence.

December 21 is Crossword Puzzle Day and the official first day of winter. Your local Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals wants to share important information about the benefits games and puzzles have on brain health and functionality; types of games, puzzles and other creative pursuits plus the brain health benefits of each and some additional brain-boosting tips you can incorporate to ward off brain decline and boost its overall health, especially important as you age.

Importance of Games and Puzzles

Giving your brain a regular workout with a variety of puzzles and games is a scientifically proven way to maintain and boost your brain power.

Flexing your brain muscle with favorites like crossword and jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, word and board games and other such activities offers several noted benefits for your brain, especially during the senior years, a time when brain function can quickly and drastically erode, severely impacting overall health and quality of life.

Experts relate games and puzzles are important activities because they:

  • increase brain focus, concentration and memory.
  • encourage more presence and mindfulness doing day-to-day activities.
  • and help slow or delay age-related cognitive decline and dementia per recent studies.

The Brain and Its Functions

Studies indicate it’s important to use and engage every part of the brain to prevent it from weakening over time. To effectively flex brain power and cognitive function, experts state both hemispheres of the brain need to be equally challenged regularly, with challenges increasing in difficulty to avoid boredom while building engagement and focus to optimize brain health.

The left brain performs tasks related to logic and analytical thinking, like science and mathematics. Doing puzzles helps retain and enhance problem-solving skills that can be applied within your daily life. The right brain is more visual and intuitive. Engaging the right hemisphere through crossword or jigsaw puzzles improves both your visual and spatial reasoning skills which can transfer over to real life situations, like becoming a safer driver, learning new activities or simply avoiding potentially harmful falls or injuries.

The right side of the brain is more visual and intuitive and requires different activities to maintain and hone its capabilities. To engage the right side of your brain, you want to keep emotional intelligence sharp by engaging in conversations where you evoke and attune to others’ emotions, experts state.

Creative hobbies like painting, photography, creative writing, playing music or learning to play a new musical instrument or activity like cooking or dance also are excellent ways to stimulate and engage the brain’s right hemisphere.

The enjoyment derived from puzzles, games, and creative pursuits, especially when progress occurs, initiates the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, memory and concentration.

What’s more, the singular focus on games, puzzles or creative pursuits allows the brain to achieve a meditative state, resulting in having a better mindset and increased ability to initiate effective stress coping skills.

Finally, prioritizing time for a brain workout boosts your personal productivity, resetting the brain so you achieve fresh stores of energy to tackle other responsibilities, projects or work.

Benefits to Optimize Everyday Life

Enjoy a variety of fun games and puzzles to maintain and hone your brain power that sharpen skills you use each day of your life:

  • Jigsaw puzzles are a great brain-boosting activity that incorporate using both left and right sides of the brain, encouraging logic, tuition, spatial awareness and creativity.  Puzzles reinforce the connections between our brain cells and help to form new connections to improve short-term memory, according to research. Studies show the growth of newly formed brain connections help reduce amount of brain damage in Alzheimer's patients.

  • Recent studies indicate through engaging in word puzzles (like Scrabble® or Wordle®), older adults are able to keep their brain level functioning up to 10 years younger than their current age while expanding vocabulary.

  • A recent study showed “speed of processing” can decrease one’s risk of dementia by almost 30 percent. In the study, participants played a game where they had to quickly identify objects as they flashed onto a screen, with objects flashing faster and faster and looking more similar as the game progressed.

  • Number puzzle games, like sudoku, hone critical-thinking and concentration skills.

  • Clinical findings show crossword puzzles help delay memory decline onset in those who develop dementia. This brain activity also helps to improve verbal skills and deep thinking.

  • Studies prove physical games with movement can improve working memory plus quicken response times and processing speed. Evidence also suggests people learn and retain information better when movement is involved. Incorporate physical activity into game play, especially if you have young children. Play jump rope games, try hide and seek, or dodge ball and tag, all activities that demand engaging both body and mind.

  • Playing chess results in better brain function, improved memory and cognitive abilities, strategic thinking and increased focus and attention spans. In a 2019 research review, scientists found chess’ cognitive benefits could help protect older adults from dementia.

Other Tips to Boost Brain Power

In addition to adding a variety of puzzles and games to your daily schedule, there are lifestyle changes you can make to optimize brain function and health:

  • Add “superfoods” to your diet. Incorporating foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients, like blueberries, avocados, wild salmon and nuts, into your snacks and meals can help maintain healthy brain function. Eat less saturated fat, red meat and sodium to also help boost your brain power.

  • Continue exercising. In addition to other benefits for your body, aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping is also good for your memory.

  • Go to bed early and maintain a set sleep schedule every night. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night gives your brain time to store new memories, helping you retain and recall information better.

  • Embrace your busy schedule. Research shows those with busier lives tend to have better mental function. If you have some down time, make plans to see a friend or volunteer or enjoy a puzzle or game time with family and friends.

Your local Capital Women’s Care team of compassionate, highly skilled women’s health professionals is here to answer your questions and address your concerns regarding brain health and function or any women’s health issue. Our doctors, nurses, specialists and support team prioritize your health with comprehensive personalized treatment and care so you can enjoy a long quality life.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/games-and-puzzles-to-exe...
https://www.goodnet.org/articles/7-surprising-ways-puzzles-are-good-for-...
https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2019/01/08/why-puzzles-are-brain-boos...
https://brainhackerexpert.com/can-solving-puzzles-improve-your-brain/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/make-your-brain-smarter/201403/d...
https://www.henryford.com/blog/2020/06/brain-games-benefits-of-boosting-...
https://www.verywellmind.com/top-websites-and-games-for-brain-exercise-2...
https://floridaindependent.com/how-jigsaw-puzzle-games-can-improve-brain...
https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2018/03/01/the-truth-behind-brain-gam...

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