Our New Years resolutions often include exercise, but how many of us include exercising our brain in that list? Sometimes the mental challenge can be even more important than the physical. Keeping ourselves mentally challenged pays off in a variety of ways. It helps us stay connected to others when playing board games like Monopoly or card games like Rummy.
Mental fitness helps keeps us in tune with the world. Since slang phrases and words are often included in things like crossword puzzles, it helps give us a reason to stay current with the news. Brain activities also discourage diseases like Alzheimer’s – something many of want to avoid at all costs.
Many games can be incorporated into our busy schedules with ease. Like crossword puzzles? Buy a book and complete one during your lunch break. Like solitaire? Buy an electronic version you can play while waiting at the doctor’s office. Enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Keep the mess to a minimum by playing online – there are tons of beautiful pictures to choose from, and you can even vary the number and shape of the playing pieces.
Games and puzzles help stimulate thinking, making us feel alert and aware. They also produce positive habits by helping us pay attention to words, spelling and everyday information. Mental exercise can strengthen our neural pathways and improve our concentration, as well as helping memory, sensory input and speed up our information processing abilities. In this age of information overload, that can be a highly valuable skill.
Whatever your reasons for playing games, there’s no time like the present. Start out with one or two that you think you like, and then a try a new one every month to keep your mind sharp and to find new favorites. (I personally used to get sick of all the puzzle pieces I’d loose from jigsaw puzzles, but I love doing them online – no mess, and lots to choose from.)
Here are a few sites to get you started:
Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids – including your favorite cartoon characters
Brain Bashers – puzzles, brain teasers, illusions and more.