Do you feel scattered, have trouble focusing, or experience forgetfulness? If so, you probably need a mental workout. Exercising your brain is essential. It can increase mental capacity, improve memory, and help postpone cognitive decline.
The good part is that brain exercises aren’t as complicated as you think. You can easily work out your brain by playing games! You read that right, and if you’re looking to rocket your brain’s performance, look no further than these seven budget-friendly and fun brain games.
Scrabble isn’t just a simple vocabulary and memory game. It’s not enough to just be able to place long words on words. There’s a need to strategically place correct letters on specific fields, which will grant you valuable word and letter bonuses and, in turn, higher scores. Plus, you must pay attention to the options you leave for your opponent. Even more important is doing all of these mental tasks within a very short given time.
There are also elements of tactics, strategies, and focus involved, mentally working out your brain throughout the game. It’s even found to be helpful to people with neurodegenerative disorders, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that Scrabble wakes up inactive parts of the brain. They suggested that frequently engaging in it can strengthen your mind and likely delay the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Interacting while playing scrabble can also keep your mind sharp. It forces you to compare your perspectives with those of others and helps you see things differently. Having fun with others also decreases your stress levels. It’s crucial since long-term stress negatively affects your cognitive performance, which may lead to irreversible changes in your brain.
Another word game to exercise your brain is Boggle. Like Scrabble, players must form words from a collection of random letters to play it. But Boggle has Scrabble beat. For one thing, Boggle is a game where luck plays no part. All players in Boggle work with the same letters, so it’s basically a pure test of wits. Another thing is that Boggle moves more swiftly. It usually ends within three minutes, while Scrabble ends approximately in 10-12 minutes.
As a word game, Boggle has the same mental benefits as Scrabble. It generally improves your vocabulary skills, concentration, and quick-wittedness. Since it’s a multiplayer game, interacting with others can also relieve your stress. One study revealed that adequate social support could increase oxytocin levels. This decreases anxiety levels and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system calming down responses.
Another mental health benefit that can be seen more in Boggle than in Scrabble is improved logical thinking skills. As mentioned, Boggle is more fast-paced than Scrabble. With a shorter time limit, playing in Boggle forces you to think and create connections between letters to form words more quickly and creatively. This practice helps you to think more logically and efficiently, sharpening your problem-solving abilities.
Sudoku is another game that can help prevent and treat cognitive impairments, especially in older adults. One study showed that the problem-solving and decision-making involved in sudoku could be a tool in neurorehabilitation and cognitive remediation therapy for Alzheimer’s and other neuropsychiatric disorders. The idea is activities requiring cognitive functions can keep your brain working better and for longer instead of declining as you age.
Another two cognitive skills to help your brain are memorization and deductive reasoning, which we often apply in sudoku. It’s a common misconception that sudoku needs excellent mathematical intelligence. What you need is to remember a set of numbers that go in certain places and then analyze what number should be placed to get the correct number placement to win. Hence, rather than mathematical skills, you need memory and logical skills.
Sudoku also enhances your concentration. Once you determine which number will make your puzzle complete, you’ll likely mind your space and time and avoid getting distracted at all costs. You focus on where to place the numbers, think critically to avoid making mistakes, and ensure no digits are duplicated in a row, column, or section. Otherwise, all the imaginary algorithms in your mind will likely disappear. This good concentration is another cognitive skill that doesn’t only improve your memory but also slows down cognitive decline.
If you’re experiencing mild memory problems these days, crossword puzzles can help you. One research has shown that people with simple forgetfulness (i.e., the “missing keys”) showed improved cognition and experienced less brain shrinkage after regularly playing crossword. Another study also found an increased mental acuity or mental sharpness in older adults who regularly did crossword word and number puzzles.
Crosswords don’t only make your mind active but also help make your brain younger. Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School and King’s College London found that participants who regularly engage in crosswords have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age. Specifically, they have better brain functions on short-term memory accuracy and grammatical reasoning speed tests.
Playing crossword puzzles can be helpful to your emotional health. It’s one of the invaluable ways to relax. While some may feel frustrated when they can’t find the answer, they feel great satisfaction once they complete the puzzle. Additionally, although most people play them alone, others like to play them with family members and friends. Having conversations and fun doesn’t only relieve stress but can also improve social bonds; both are great for the brain.
5. Jigsaw Puzzles
Another puzzle to include in this is the Jigsaw puzzle. Like sudoku and crossword, this puzzle game can give your brain a thorough mental workout session since it requires different mental processes managed by your brain’s left and right hemispheres. Several studies claimed that jigsaw puzzles could improve cognition (left hemisphere) and visual-spatial reasoning (right hemisphere).
Putting the pieces of a puzzle together can generally enhance your concentration, short-term memory, and problem-solving. It can also spark imagination, increasing both your creativity and productivity. Plus, the puzzle will constantly require you to think critically and analytically, giving you an immediate uptick in your problem-solving ability. All of these perks are found to benefit other skills, including originality, recall, and stress-management skills.
Apart from it, researchers from the University of Michigan also claimed that jigsaw puzzles and other puzzles could increase one’s IQ. They suggested playing puzzles for at least 25 minutes a day can boost your IQ by four points. Since puzzles can improve our vocabulary, memory, concentration, and logical skills, it shouldn’t be surprising that they can also raise our IQs. Besides, sharpening your mind also means delaying cognitive decline.
Rummikub is a game from the 90s, so many might haven’t heard of it. It’s one of those multiplayer games for people of all ages. Like any board game, it’s just another fun way to keep your brain active in a mix of strategy and luck.
To play Rummikub, players place colored numbered tiles in turns, usually in sets of three or more (runs or groups). It’s similar to the classic Rummy card game, except it’s a tiled spin. All players will build off existing combinations to make use of their tiles.
The person who can first use every tile on their rack wins. Although blind luck will get you through a game, and the rules are relatively straightforward for young kids to understand, it still requires brain functions to play the game. Since the board continually changes, you must pay close attention to the game.
Rummikub requires you to keep your eyes on the tiles and constantly generate ways to rearrange and add tiles to the board. These actions can eventually sharpen your sequencing, pattern recognition, basic math, and planning skills, which can all sharpen your brain.
7. Online Games
When it comes to improving your brain, online games are an often-overlooked option. In fact, like any game mentioned in this list, online games can also improve your brain by boosting your confidence, increasing social engagement, relieving pain and trauma, improving your mood, and giving you a great sense of accomplishment. In addition, gaming can do wonders for your memory and concentration.
Online games are also found to provide a defensive measure against cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. One research suggested that strategy-based video games can improve cognitive control, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive skills in older adults, consequently staving off cognitive decline.
Specifically, the researchers found the most significant gains in global cognition (a test to detect potential cognitive impairment) and executive functions, such as brain-organizing skills (or inhibitory abilities) and working memory. However, even if an online game isn’t strategy-driven, such as online slot games or word games, it can still provide mental stimulation.
When you play, almost every part of your brain functions to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Even if you simply think about what to do next, it’s already working with deeper parts of your brain that can improve your development and critical thinking skills.
Like any workout, brain exercise is something you need to maintain. However, it doesn’t have to be boring. There are countless ways to juice up your brain power. The key isn’t only to figure out what works but also to what works best for you.