Every year, my whole family spends a vacation week in Ocean City, New Jersey, thanks to the generosity of my grandparents who rent a house for us all to share. Large clans of my family take up a section of the beach – some people can be found reading, others listening to music, talking, or just relaxing.
My grandpa is the exception. Underneath his umbrella, he sits in his beach chair playing logic puzzles out of a game book he bought from the boardwalk dollar store. Sudoku is his game of choice.
When I was about 8, I asked him to teach me the game, and he explained in detail the precise strategy he uses. It’s a lot harder than it looks, I thought. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was fun. And when I finished a puzzle, I felt that I had accomplished something.
My mom joked that I should make Sudoku a habit during the summer when school is out. I used to laugh at her suggestions. Now, as I’ve grown older, I see the value in these games in a way I hadn’t when I was a kid.
After retiring from a full-time career or even experiencing the quiet of empty nesting, your brain is no longer exercising as often or as intensely as it once did. We all know the saying “practice makes perfect.” Well, the more we practice our logic and memory skills, the sharper our brain is.
I’ve heard my grandparents commenting many times about having a “senior moment” when misplacing car keys, birthday presents, or other items. Memory loss is a real part of the aging process. While not always a cure, exercising your brain can help to avoid, postpone, or lower your risk of more serious outcomes.
Dementia is one common disease that is found often in older adults and often results in a progressive decline in memory. Believe it or not, brain games can actually improve your chances of avoiding this disease. A study performed by the New England Journal of Medicine found that adults who regularly practice mentally challenging activities are 63% less likely to develop dementia than those who don’t.
Memory is one of our brain’s primary functions, helping us to recall people’s names, important dates, and where things are. According to a University of Michigan study, adults who play brain games everyday for several weeks can dramatically improve their memory.
Crossword puzzles are a popular game option to exercise your memory skills. They activate your memory by asking you to recall specific name of things based off of clues and require logic when fitting words and phrases into a puzzle. Crosswords also pair well with a Sunday morning and cup of hot coffee!
For our tech savvy readers interested in breaking away from the traditional puzzles found in the newspaper, there are an endless number of games found online or on apps. A website called Lumosity offers over 50 games that aim to improve participants’ cognition. Each game theoretically targets a specific brain function such as memory, attention, speed, and flexibility. Lumosity also comes in the form of an app!
An article by the health website Life by Daily Burn discusses the health benefits of brain games and lists the best apps to use to benefit brain health. Among these apps are Personal Zen, Brain Fitness Pro, and Happify.
Games are meant to be finished. There is little to no benefit of beginning a game that won’t be completed. Finishing a game, whether it is individually or in a group, feels satisfying. For brain games to work, don’t call it quits before it’s over. The longer you’re engaged, the more exercise your brain receives. Working on a puzzle or game from start to finish makes your brain concentrate. Stretching your attention span with brain games will translate into concentration in your everyday life as well.
When choosing a brain game that’s right for you, make sure it’s not a walk in the park. A game so easy that requires minimal brain stimulation will not improve the sharpness of your brain. If the game isn’t difficult, either advance to a higher level or choose a harder game. Straining your brain could produce health benefits. Pick a game that challenges you – your brain with thank you!
You’re never too young to start exercising your brain. Brain games are fun, rewarding, and could enhance your mental health. Why not give them a try? Submit Your Story about your favorite brain games!
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