Can Solving Puzzles Improve your Brain?

Can solving puzzles improve your brain you ask? Without mincing words the answer is literally yes. Over the years, the importance of puzzles have grown beyond merely entertainment for bored kids or adults. Puzzles are linked with improving brain functions like short term memory and increasing your problem solving capacity.

Jigsaws, Rubik’s cubes, sudokus, puzzle boxes and others can indirectly improve cognitive function in your brain. Depending on the puzzle it can improve memory, spatial awareness, problem solving, mathematical calculations and other cognitive benefits.

During the course of this article I am going to explain how puzzles will improve your brain power and quite possibly even your IQ level. I am also going to talk about the types of puzzles that are good for your brain.

Can solving puzzles improve your overall brain power?

Some lifestyle experts claim that all puzzles can do is teach you how to solve them better and that they have no real life application. However, studies have shown that overtime solving puzzles can improve your concentration by exercising both hemispheres of your brain.

Puzzles help with sharpening your memory, especially the short-term memory. Puzzles like jigsaws requires the players to remember colors, shapes, sizes and how they fit in together.

More recent studies have also shown that these brain exercises make the brain form new connections and retain the old ones. A major advantage of this is that frequent players have reduced chances of getting common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It reduces brain cell damage that causes the diseases and it also promotes new nerve cell growth in the brain. Puzzles improve your overall brain power in so many other ways like improving productivity, cognitive reasoning and critical thinking. I will talk more about these as we progress.

Can solving puzzles improve memory?

As I mentioned earlier, puzzles are great for your short term memory. Regularly exercising your brain improves your cognitive abilities and reduces brain aging that eventually leads to memory loss in dementia patients. Using puzzles for this purpose are especially helpful to young children when you are trying to build a better holding memory for them or for your ageing relatives.

The elderly can use puzzles as a form of staying alert and exercising their brains.

Puzzles may have no effect on your long-term memory- except as an impact of having an overall sharp mind- but studies carried out only suggest they are helpful with short term memory.

Jigsaw puzzles are especially helpful with memory improvement because they require you to remember things like the color of the pieces, the sizes, the shapes, where they fit in and how they fit in. Not only is this enjoyable, it keeps you sharp and alert. It takes you one step further away from dementia and memory loss and one step closer to having a better memory.

Can solving puzzles make you smarter?

Puzzles like math puzzles, word puzzles, crosswords, rubik’s cube and a whole host of others are said to help make players smarter. There are critics who claim that puzzles cannot make anyone smart, and that you can only get smarter at playing that particular game and winning the puzzle.

However, brain exercise studies tell us that applying the mechanics of puzzles into everyday life management or even career management and maneuvering proves that players learned and grew as a result of puzzles.

There are puzzles which test judgment ability, mental agility, math or numerical reasoning ability and your observational skills. These are all skills that are required in the everyday real world, in our social life, career life and so on.

Puzzles increase your visual and spatial imaging. Visual and spatial imaging ability is when a person has a good grasp and understanding of spaces between objects or spatial relations and the memory of them. This skill is important in our everyday lives but even more so for professions like artistry, surgery, driving, engineering, architecture and lots more that require you to know how objects are spaced and the relationship between them. Puzzles will test this ability and build it if you are lacking in that area.

Puzzles increase your perception, cognitive prowess and your reaction time to problems. In other words, it could make you react faster in crisis or under pressure. It increases your awareness and improves your critical thinking capacity.

Some may argue that these don’t make you smarter. That is, it doesn’t increase your intelligent quotient (IQ). But we cannot argue with the fact that those attributes listed above are all attributes of smart people. You may not be smart now but with those attributes under your belt as a result of playing puzzles you are on your way to gaining more insight.

Will it improve your IQ?

This question has become quite controversial. To clarify this, we have to look into a couple of things.

Intelligent quotients are determined by IQ tests. These tests have different aspects like vocabulary, mathematics, memory capacity, general knowledge, visual and spatial imaging. People who usually excel at these tests score about 120 – 200. They are then regarded as HIQ, high intelligent quotient. This test has to be taken often to determine if you are getting smarter or not.

Now back to puzzles, you would agree with me that puzzles like:

  • Word jumbles and crosswords increase your vocabulary.
  • Math centered puzzles improve your numerical ability and some general problem-solving skills.
  • Jigsaw puzzles increase your perception and improve your memory by building your visual and spatial imaging.
  • Brain teasers and word puzzles can also increase your general knowledge and critical thinking ability.

These all require you to pay attention to details and to notice slight shifts and changes that others may miss at a glance. 

If puzzles can’t make you smarter, as some would like to say, how do you explain these attributes I mentioned above? They sure do make you act smarter and the brain is like a muscle. The more you flex it with puzzles, the stronger it becomes, and the smarter you grow to become. Do puzzles increase your IQ? I cannot say that it does but what I can say is that it improves your brains capacity thereby giving you a better chance of having an improved IQ.

Do puzzles improve problem solving skills?  

Do puzzles improve your problem-solving skills? The answer is a definite yes. The truth is that some people become stuck with old ways of solving problems. They forget that most times what works for problem A will most likely not work with problem B. Some people also develop tunnel visions especially when they are stuck in a rut or routine.

What puzzles do is force you to look at the bigger picture when solving a problem. It makes you develop new and different mechanisms for solving them. Eventually, problem solving becomes fun and exciting because you continuously find new ways to solve problems. It increases your reaction time and reflexes by making you more alert and aware.

Having a view of the wider picture makes you perceptive and conscious of where problems may arise from. This prepares you for how to respond and counter them. So, not only do puzzles improve your problem solving skills, they could also make you know how and when to avoid and prevent problems in the first place.

Solving problems is like a game of chance. It may backfire or you may be greatly rewarded in the end. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like a puzzle? Puzzles are problems that we take different chances and approach to solve. We may fail or we may be rewarded with success in the end. Eventually, you become really good at strategies and the probability of solving problems in the future and succeeding is greatly increased. It also increases your persistency and consistency; which problems require on some occasions.

Someone who would be persistent enough to continue trying to crack the code and fix it until he or she succeeds is more likely the one who solves the problem. Keeping the bigger picture in mind and armed with an open mind to new ways and solutions, you are well on your way to becoming a highly valued and skilled problem solver in any field you find yourself in.

Do puzzles relieve stress?

Puzzles are known to ease anxiety in patients and improve their mental well-being. Some puzzles promote interaction between two or more people. This is a form of socializing and it helps to ease a stressed player. It aids relaxation and enjoyment and promotes socialization. Even solo puzzles have a way of making you think clearly when you are in a fix from real life problems. It gives you clarity in such a way where you are critically thinking and clearing the cloud in your mind without actively realizing it.

Playing with puzzles is like having stolen moments of peace in our crazy world. They make you happy when you complete or solve one. They take your mind off of your troubles and give you the clarity of mind to solve it when you are done. Successfully completing a puzzle boosts a player’s confidence and this improves their mood considerably.

Puzzles are a great way to unwind and reboot, especially in work places. Many employers are taking the initiative to include puzzles to their work environment. They encourage stressed and burned out workers to relax and play. And the employees return to work refreshed, with a clear mind and increased productivity. It also builds better collaboration and socialization skills using multiple player puzzles.

Why playing puzzles makes you feel good (Dopamine hit from success)

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter known for its association with attention, movement, learning and it is also most commonly known as the brain’s reward and pleasure system. Dopamine is known for improving moods and feelings of optimism and motivation.

When you play with any kind of puzzle, you are optimistic to excel at it or solve it successfully. Making a right move or inserting a right play triggers the brain to release this neurotransmitter. It not only motivates you to complete the whole puzzle, but also uplifts your mood and makes you feel good about yourself. This pushes you to challenge yourself.

Many puzzle players return to puzzles because of the dopamine hit they get from it every time they succeed. It’s like having your own cheerleader in your head. Getting this dopamine hit is also a great stress reliever. It boosts self confidence in your problem-solving ability or general knowledge skills and uplifts your mood.

What puzzles are good for your brain?

Puzzles are great exercises for building and improving the brain. However, you have to be selective in choosing the kinds of puzzles to focus on for this exercise. As some critic’s claim, some puzzles will only serve to entertain you temporarily and not make any meaningful impact in your life. This is why you have to be selective when choosing a puzzle. When choosing a puzzle, you should consider one that is challenging. You should also consider puzzles that test your memory, your observational skills, your numeric or math skills.

There are puzzles that are also great for languages, learning new words and their meanings and generally improving your logical abilities. There are puzzles that test your general knowledge level and teach you new things. Some puzzles challenge you into deep critical thinking and coming up with new ways of solving problems, and arms you with a wider perspective of things. I put together a list of puzzles that are good for your brain. They also serve as entertainment where required. This list has general knowledge, numerical, logical and word, critical thinking and perception in the category level.

Are Jigsaw puzzles good for the brain?

Jigsaws are now very common around the world today. They promote socialization and communication when you play with other people. Jigsaw puzzles improve visual and spatial imaging ability. It is also a great puzzle for improving short term memory because players have to remember the colors, shapes and sizes of the pieces and how they would fit into each other. Generally, a jigsaw puzzle is a great exercise for the brain. It makes players learn different approaches to things and always keep the bigger picture in mind, literally, instead of getting stuck with a tunnel vision.

Jigsaws improve attention span and problem-solving ability. They actively engage both hemispheres of the brain. The left side of the brain is for logic and promotes linear drive and the right side is for creativity and intuition. It is also a great way of relieving stress and anxiety.

Some researchers claim that however great jigsaws may be, they are not as benefitting for the brain as other puzzles like Sudoku and brain teasers are in the long run.

Are Sudokus good for the brain?

Sudoku poses as a challenging puzzle that is meant to exercise and keep your brain alert and sharp. A study showed that people over 50 who engaged in puzzles like Sudoku were cognitively sharper than those who don’t. They also had better brain functionality.

Sudoku improves your mental alertness, increases your problem solving ability and promotes self-motivation. Actively engaging in puzzles like this greatly reduces mental decline, especially in old age. It improves reasoning and numerical abilities and you will learn new ways of solving problems.

Are Rubiks cubes good for the brain?

Rubiks cubes can be a very frustrating puzzle for impatient players. Other than the brain exercise it offers, it will also teach you important life lessons like persistency, consistency, patience and how to remain focused.

Rubiks cubes have always been a great way for people to unwind and have fun almost always absentmindedly. It is a good stress reliever, and promotes clear and strategic thinking. It also improves problem solving skills and cognitive skills. The cube also promotes learning to solve a problem with different techniques and always keeping an open mind. 

There are afew methods to solve the rubiks cube regardless of how jumbled up it is. Memorizing even one of these methods is great for your brain as you can always pick up someone’s rubiks cube and solve it within afew minutes

Essentially, the rubiks cube is good for the brain.

Are Puzzle boxes good for the brain?

Puzzle boxes are boxes that can only be opened by successfully solving a puzzle. Some puzzle boxes only require simple moves while some involve several complicated moves and discoveries.

They were originally created as a great source of entertainment. However, research tells us that they are a great source of a reward-motivation kick. Players are greatly motivated to keep on playing and to successfully solve each puzzle posed by the box just so they can get the reward in the end – opening the box.

The dopamine kick gotten from these puzzles is probably more than any other puzzle on the list as it is a very physical activity

Are Brain teaser puzzles good for the brain?

Brain teasers are thinking and logic puzzles, they encourage and promote critical thinking in players. It encourages vertical or creative critical thinking. It improves grammar and general knowledge and it’s a great brain exercise that tests your verbal and logical reasoning skills.

Final Words

In conclusion you would agree that puzzles are more than just a way to relax and have a good time with friends and loved ones. They do have some effect on us, young and old, male or female. Just be sure to pick the right puzzle and you’re on your way to increasing your cognitive ability and the several other mental benefits.

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