Puzzles are for kids, right? They’re fun, they’re entertaining, and they’re a good way to kill time. Hey, Sudokus were great for when I was a kid and needed to pass the time during class without being noticed, but as an adult, it seems puzzles are a relic of the past.

If you think that’s true, think again.

Whether you enjoyed playing puzzles as a youngster or are curious to try them out now, there are many reasons why you should put puzzle solving on your list of things to do. You can do them while the tech company puts you on hold (again), or when… What was I saying? Was that a senior moment? Help!

Those Senior Moments

“Senior moments”, that frightful minute or two when you realize you’ve forgotten something important, can feel scary. If you’re older, you know what it feels like, and if you’re younger… well, you don’t want it happening to you.

But there’s good news for those who want to maintain their strong brain processor and memory into old age (don’t we all?). Some fun exercises and games may be all it takes to give that cerebrum a little boost.

Focusing on puzzles like Sudokus, Boggle, crossword puzzles and the like can help boost or improve brain function. It has been shown to help in areas like improving mood, memory, spatial reasoning, and even in delaying the debilitating effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, it helps to lower stress levels, increase productivity, and increase your IQ.

Wow, that’s a lot of benefits! How does it work?

It turns out that as you’re stretching your mind to try to figure something out in that tough jigsaw puzzle of yours, your brain is making new neural connections and strengthening old ones.

Your brain works like a massive interconnected web, with neurons being the pathways that connect one section to another. The more connections you have, the faster your thought-processing will happen and… voila! The smarter you are!

So when you crunch your mind over a crossword puzzle, trying to figure out what a male nurse would wear, your brain is actually making a new connection: “Yes, male nurses wear men’s scrubs”. From now on, should you need to know this new piece of information, your brain will be able to access it much more quickly than the first time.

But there’s more: whenever you work hard on a puzzle, you’re training your brain to look at one situation in multiple different ways. This later improves your cognitive functioning, as you have learned to become more analytical in your thinking.

There is much evidence to show that those who regularly engage in puzzle solving – even if they start at a later age – will have a higher IQ and consequently, even if they do begin to experience mental decline as a result of old age, it will have begun when they were at a higher starting point and they therefore won’t be hit as hard.

The thing with puzzle-solving is that it utilizes so many different aspects of our brainpower. So many various skills are needed and used: analytical thinking, logic, quick thinking, and problem solving.

With puzzle solving (such as crossword puzzles), you’re not just jumping haphazardly from one activity to the next like so many multi-taskers are so proud of doing (this kind of work actually tires the brain, rather than exercising it). Instead, you’re focusing intensely and deeply on one specific task. This gives your mind the opportunity to think deeply, deepening and broadening your horizons and making new connections where there were none before.

This kind of challenging, even tough, thinking is what expands your brainpower! It’s the ultimate in muscle-boosting brain exercise (minus the Charlie-horse). Who knew exercise could be so much fun?

An Excellent Exercise

Of course, other aspects of your lifestyle will affect brain health, too. Don’t forget to sleep well, eat a proper and healthy diet, and keep up relationships with friends and family. All of these are not only beneficial, but necessary, in getting the most out of your wonderful brain.

Still, if you’re looking for an enjoyable and satisfying way to up that IQ score? Puzzles are the way to go. They’re fun, fulfilling, and you may even discover a new hobby you never knew you had!

Keeping it Up

Now that you’re convinced of the incredible benefits of puzzle-cracking—no matter your age—why not make it a part of your daily schedule? Many newspapers, especially daily ones, have a page of puzzles or brainteasers for your enjoyment. Or even if you don’t subscribe anywhere, there are scores of free activities available online. Sudoku puzzles are cheap in the dollar store. So no matter your situation, there are always puzzles to do.

So… what are you waiting for? Let’s get cracking!