Puzzles and Games Are Fun, But Are They Good for Your Brain Too? 

As a kid, nothing was more fun than a marathon game of Monopoly with your friends. But as an adult, playing games and completing puzzles can provide more than a good time. They can actually help to preserve and enhance your brain. Want to know more about how games are good for your health? Then keep reading.

How Games Help Your Brain

It’s no surprise that the stress relief you get from games and puzzles can help your health. Too much stress leads to anxiety, mental health issues, and other chronic problems. Some research even suggests that high levels of stress in middle age can lead to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in later years. Stress damages the connections in the brain responsible for memory and cognition, which leads to severe problems in seniors. Recent studies have also shown that adults who engage in puzzle and game play have increased memory retention and cognitive function. This also means that these adults may be less susceptible to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. While games may not prevent these issues for everyone, they can certainly delay the onset or severity of these conditions for most people.

Memory Boosting Games

Since dementia and Alzheimer’s are conditions that deplete memories, it may be helpful for adults to incorporate games that enhance recall ability. For seniors, certain memory exercises may work better than others. Online brain training software from companies that have the research to back up their claims can be extremely helpful in building cognitive integrity and enhancing memory. Brain HQ has shown a high level of promise for helping older adults boost their brains. But adults of all ages can enjoy fun, memory-enhancing games by themselves or with others. Crosswords and Sudoku puzzles are extremely supportive of memory systems, and they are a fun way to pass the time in waiting rooms, airports, and long lines. Many newspapers still contain these brain games, but you can also download puzzle apps for your smartphone.

Other Brain-Boosting Activities to Try

If puzzles and games are not your things, there are still ways you can help protect your brain. Stimulating your mind can be as simple as changing up your regular routine to break your brain out of boredom. Opt to use your opposite hand for an hour or so for a simple way to challenge your cognition. If you spend some time alone, try having a discussion with yourself about what you plan to eat or tasks you need to complete. Be really descriptive and detailed as you vocalize your thoughts. Writing is another effective way to train your brain. Keeping a journal helps boost memory and comprehension in addition to a whole slew of other benefits. Writing your worries on paper instead of keeping them in your head can also reduce stress and make you more mindful, both of which are powerful tools in preventing early-onset dementia.

Additional Steps to Take to Preserve Your Brain

Puzzles, games, and cognitive activities are all instrumental in preserving your brain function. However, to help fight off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, you will need to commit to other healthy habits too. First off, fitness is imperative in preserving your overall health as you age. Exercise benefits your body by helping you retain muscles and flexibility, but it can also ward off dementia in the process. One study found that women with more stamina during exercise had up to an 88 percent reduced risk of developing dementia. Another study points to a link between your diet and dementia and Alzheimer’s risks. Adults who stick to a Mediterranean diet may have a substantially reduced risk of developing either of these conditions. Since these diets are centered on lean proteins, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats, you may also see other health benefits as well. 

Kent Elliott

info@athomeaging.info

Coaching: Exploring the Possible, Together

We all could use a little help in our lives – not just to survive, but also to thrive and find true fulfillment. Right now, I’d like to talk a bit about the primary needs we as individuals are trying to meet, the challenges to meeting them, and how we can utilize a coaching relationship to most effectively support ourselves in overcoming these challenges and expand our belief about what is possible in our lives.

The 3 Primary Needs

Security, satisfaction, and connection.

These are the 3 pillars of each of our lives.

It’s easy to get lost in thinking of all the myriad choices involved in building a good life, that’s why it’s helpful to remember that it all comes down to this – security, satisfaction, and connection.

(Security) We want to feel safe – physically, financially, emotionally.

(Satisfaction) We want to be happy – doing meaningful work, learning, and growing.

(Connection) We want to love and be loved – in both our relationship with others and our feeling towards ourselves.

Simple enough, right?

The Challenge

Unfortunately, we know this is often easier said than done. We may have some challenges (both internal and external) arise which can impede our meeting one or more of these primary needs.

Here are some common examples:

  • You live in an expensive city and you want to improve your financial situation so you don’t have to worry about money all the time. (Safety)
  • You’ve lost motivation and you’re looking for a hobby, project, or career that will re-energize and fulfill you again. (Satisfaction)
  • You find yourself being critical of other people and yourself, causing you to feel isolated. (Connection)

If we want to thrive, we have to work out solutions to these types of challenges.

However, this can feel extremely daunting as we juggle all the various responsibilities we have just to keep life going. So oftentimes, these larger self-improvement projects get lost in the whirlwind of day-to-day concerns. We end up doing what we’ve habitually done, taking the familiar road, which maintains the results we’re currently getting.

The Solution

Good news!

In my experience as a life coach, there are two areas that have the most impact in helping people overcome their challenges: perspective and execution.

Many times, what limits us is our lack of perspective. We each carry around narratives about ourselves or about the world. These can be formed early in life, and might not always be serving us well in the present. They could be beliefs like “I can’t win, no matter what I try” or “I have to be a success or nobody will want me”. These stories are often operating just below the surface of our consciousness, informing our decisions and behavior at an imperceptible level. We can become rigid in our responses to a problem, seeing only certain solutions – usually only what has worked in the past.

But, we can widen our perspective – providing ourselves with more options and thus a better chance at discovering a solution to a longstanding or novel problem. With the help of another person inviting us to question our narratives and assumptions, we can explore strategies that may never have occurred to us. In doing so, we open up to the possibility of a better way. Suddenly, that wall blocking you becomes a staircase, new opportunities emerge, new mental connections are made and you’re able to put resources around you into the service of your goals.

The other area we stumble is execution. We may have a killer strategy for how to make more friends, save for retirement, or learn to play the guitar, but it won’t matter if we don’t actually put that strategy into consistent action. We tend to create goals that are either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. The first kind usually crater in frustration after a few weeks and the second rarely get off the ground for lack of enthusiasm. Goal setting is an art and we too quickly give up on when really all we need to do is adjust our plan so that taking action becomes sustainable.

Here again, having someone to work with can be beneficial. Firstly, if you’re accountable to someone, it greatly increases the likelihood of execution. You don’t want to let that person down. Secondly, this person can act as a mirror for you, reflecting back your actual results, and helping you to face what is or isn’t working as you put your strategy into action. In this dynamic, you can feel you aren’t alone – you’re part of a team dedicated to manifesting the kind of life you want to lead.

Coaching

For these reasons, coaching can be a very powerful tool for supercharging our ability to overcome challenges to meeting our 3 primary needs.

Why a coach though? Why not just reach out to friends and family?

Two reasons. Firstly, friends and family have an incentive to prioritize their relationship with you over sharing honest, but sometimes difficult observations and feedback. And these difficult observations are often the information we could most benefit from. A coach, on the other hand, has the impartiality to offer this criticism without the conflict of interest. They can say what needs to be said.

Secondly, friends and family have their own lives. The power of having another person to talk with is the consistency, knowing that every week that person is with you and ready to listen – to pick up where you left off and keep you on track. Also, your listener is 100 percent focused on you. You don’t have to devote half of the conversation to going back and forth between your goals and their goals. Also, it’s very easy for friends and family to see you struggling with a goal and want to end your discomfort, so they offer advice rather than thoughtful questioning which may enable you to arrive at your own answers.

A coach will be there every week ready to talk exclusively about your dreams and goals and help you find answers and support within yourself, ultimately empowering you to be more self-reliant.

See for Yourself

The Liberation Institute has recently started offering life coaching services to current and perspective clients in addition to its wonderful services in psychotherapy.

For more information click here and make a mention in the form that you’re interested in learning more about coaching.

Here’s to exploring what’s possible with more security, satisfaction, and connection!

                                                                                                                                                             Derek Orth           ICF Certified Professional Life Coach