Who knew a crossword could do all this?

If you tackled this morning’s crossword, you helped your brain to a happier place.

A crossword could do all this?

If you tackled this morning’s crossword, or successfully completed a sudoku, congratulations. Your brain is in a happier place.

It may not be any smarter than it was last night when you went to sleep, but it’s better off than it would be if you had spent the time on social media.

There are varying opinions as to the mental benefits of puzzles such crosswords and sudokus.

Corporations that have developed alternative brain games decry the simplicity of crosswords and sudokus, pointing out that they don’t actually make you smarter, while their supposedly scientifically created games do.

Such criticisms are often commercially driven and ignore the fact that people who do crosswords may not want to get smarter. They do them because they’re fun.

In this case, however, fun may come with health advantages. The Alzheimer Association, America’s leading support and research body for Alzheimer’s, says that a daily crossword puzzle is a significant way to keep the brain active and sharp, and is especially beneficial for older people.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Ann Lukits under the headline “Puzzles boost verbal skills, cut dementia risk”.

In it, she argues that solving crosswords on a regular basis can “improve memory and brain function in older adults” and “improve mental functions in patients with brain damage or early dementia”.

Ms Lukits’ view is supported by University of California studies that have found engaging in problem-solving activities, such as crosswords, protects the brain from ageing.

Researchers found that “lifestyle factors found in individuals with high cognitive engagement (such as doing crossword puzzles) may prevent or slow deposition of beta-amyloid, perhaps influencing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

For those of us who love crosswords or sudokus, possible health advantages are not why we do them. And this brings in a whole host of other advantages.

For a start, they give us something to do and help overcome boredom, in the same way a golfer benefits from a weekly round or a gardener benefits from planting and weeding.

Have you ever sat around a campfire or the kitchen table with a group of friends or family and attempted to work through a crossword? There is no doubt it encourages social bonding.  

And, if you’re armed with a thesaurus, a crossword can increase your vocabulary.

Finally, have you considered how a crossword or sudoku can relieve stress?

Many people think that, once you turn 60 or 65, serious stress issues are behind you, but this is not always the reality.

There are the stresses related to financial survival, to declining health and doubts about self-worth.

For an hour or two every day, a crossword or a sudoku can envelope you in other thoughts, transport you to a different place – and sometimes that’s not a bad thing at all.

Do you set time aside for a daily crossword or sudoku? Are you a believer in its ability to help keep the brain ticking over?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    5th Dec 2018
    I have always been good with words etc, and English was my best subject at school.

    Reason for that is due to my mother. She started me off doing crosswords in the paper when I was about 10 years old. It helped my vocabulary no end.

    Many years later I was taught how to do cryptic crosswords - by a Russian guy at work for whom English was a second language!!

    I dispute the rubbish about not learning anything. I have learned lots of new words, and found out many interesting facts from doing crosswords. What I don't know, I go and find out. That's where the learning comes from.

    I know people here will rubbish this, and say that this knowledge is too esoteric and useless but no knowledge is useless or wasted. Rubbish you read on facebook is useless and a waste of time and requires no brain power.
    5th Dec 2018
    More rubbish research.
    Mother in law had book after book and magazines full of crosswords, puzzles, sudoko etc. and now has Alzheimer's problem.
    5th Dec 2018
    I love my daily sudoko (always do that first) and crossword puzzle. (A wee bit addicted to Words with Friends too.) When I was very very ill a couple of years ago it was something to really look forward to.
    5th Dec 2018
    At 76, I can't wait to do the daily puzzles in YOURLifeChoices especially the crosswords, wordsearch and the clueless crossword. They challenge me everyday.
    5th Dec 2018
    I saw some research that said crosswords and Sudoku will help your brain but only IF you like them. Forcing yourself to do something you don't like, won't give you any benefit. I hate them both, so would rather read a good book!

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