Crossword puzzles are more than just an airplane boredom buster – they may actually be beneficial to your social, emotional, mental, and physical health. Research suggests that these portable brain teasers may help to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as improve overall brain and memory function. Surprisingly, though, these puzzles have benefits that extend well beyond the brain. They can also relieve stress, and, if solved in a group, trigger a strong sense of bonding. Here’s why we should all be doing more crosswords in our spare time:
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For Our Brain
We already understand how crossword puzzles can increase vocabulary and enhance problem solving skills. However, the effects of crossword puzzles on our brain functionality may actually go much deeper. According to a UC – Berkeley study, crossword puzzles may help to ward of Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid is a toxic protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s, and is the main component of the brain plaques that characterize the disease. Researchers found that the more often someone engaged in mentally stimulating activities such as crosswords, the less buildup of beta-amyloid they were likely to have in their brain. In another study, crossword puzzles were found to delay the onset of dementia by offering leisurely stimulation of the mind.
For Our Happiness
The benefits crossword puzzles present to our sense of happiness go far beyond killing time in a dull moment. For many of us, the stressful nature of our lives is the biggest hurdle standing in the way of our happiness. Crossword puzzles help to relieve stress by engaging our minds deeply, leaving us little opportunity to focus on our everyday worries. They do so in a lighthearted, low-stakes way, making them the perfect escape when our brain needs a bit of a vacation. Completing a difficult crossword puzzle also gives us a sense of accomplishment, boosting our confidence and sense of self-esteem.
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For Our Relationships
Solving crossword puzzles as a group provides even greater benefits to brain functionality. Working in a team, research has shown, improves the speed of thinking and talking. Not only will your puzzle be completed more quickly, but you will strengthen your ability to collaborate strategically and manage disputes. Solving puzzles in a group can also strengthen social bonds by creating a shared memory and a concrete group accomplishment.
Next time you find yourself bored, this research suggests, you should find yourself a newspaper and attempt to tackle crossword puzzle. Pull a friend in to help if you can. It will not only help the moment to pass more quickly, but may strengthen your brain and your bond, as well!