Published on April 20th, 2019
Your brain needs to be worked, and there are recent studies that show even exercise has the ability to enhance the size of the brain. But memory games have also been shown to keep a person “sharp” into old age.
Improving your memory is possible, but you need to keep working at it.
This means playing a variety of games, or at least playing a game like chess that has complex strategies and really puts your brain to the test.
Why are brain games important?
Problem Solving Skills Are In Use
Problem solving skills are honed in school, and after a while, it seems like we all start to take a more relaxed approach to life. Perhaps you’ve done the same task at work for a decade, so it no longer requires you to use your problem-solving skills.
And when you retire, there’s a good chance that you’ll spend less time learning and more time sitting.
Brain games are a good way to work these problem-solving skills, keeping these skills sharp even into old age. Complicated puzzles or games are able to work the areas of the brain involved in problem-solving.
There have also been studies done on video games that show certain games can help you boost problem-solving and creativity.
When you play complex games, you allow yourself to:
- Learn from the mistakes that you make
- Go deep into thought
- Adjust strategies to win at the game
There’s also the benefit of sticking to a task and not giving up. You’re never too old to improve at problem-solving.
Deep practice is also experienced when you lose at a task or can’t complete an objective. When you engage in deep practice, you’re continually using your mind to complete a task successfully. It may be frustrating, but you’ll learn to focus on a singular task – learning to correct many mistakes that you’ve made in the past.
Maintain IQ, But Probably Not Boost It
A major brain game, and I won’t mention which one, made drastic claims that it can boost a player’s IQ in as little as one hour. Researchers have found that this isn’t possible, and for the most part, IQ stays rather steady throughout a person’s life.
IQ can jump due to education, and a person will find that every year of education will add 3.7 IQ points.
If you were to immerse yourself in the game of chess, you may see a positive boost in your IQ in a 4-month period.
But there is a ceiling on how much a person’s IQ may rise when playing chess or any other brain game.
The studies are conflicting.
One major study found that chess players, in general, had a higher IQ than non-chess players. The difference was a half deviation higher. Another study out of Australia found that in 14 weeks, children were able to significantly increase their IQ score when playing chess.
Now, remember that your IQ won’t keep improving to unrealistic limits.
You’re not going to boost your IQ score every day, but you can definitely increase your IQ score if you’re not already an avid chess player.
Older people that continue to use their brains at a high level will be able to stave off brain plaque, too. Brain plaque is what can lead to dementia and issues with memory.
Opportunity To Get Out And Meet New People
Trying to get out and meet people is good for anyone of any age. Seniors especially need to be able to get out of the house and meet new people. There are studies that show socialization is important as a person gets older.
And what better way to socialize than with a fun, new game?
When a person meets new people, it’s a way to:
- Learn new things
- Expand one’s circle of friends
Spending time with friends has been shown to boost oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland. While this hormone is often associated with pregnant women and the contractions that they experience, there is evidence that oxytocin is also responsible for helping alleviate stress and anxiety.
A person who is anxious or stressed can help alleviate many of these feelings by just getting out of the house and spending time with friends.
Lower stress and anxiety will also result in fewer restless nights.
What Brains Games Should You Be Playing?
Brain games are good, but you don’t need to pay a monthly fee to start strengthening your brain. There’s a lot that you can do, today and for free, that will help you keep your brain sharp. A few of the games that you may want to start playing are:
- Chess – Whether online or in-person, chess is a great way to stimulate the brain and sharpen your critical thinking skills.
- Crosswords – A crossword puzzle may be simple to complete, but there are some studies that show even crosswords can help fight against dementia and memory-related problems.
- Video games – Yes, even video games have been shown to sharpen the brain and engage critical thinking skills.
- Sudoku – A game that’s difficult for many people. Often found in newspapers and relies on a series of numbers and grids, Sudoku will force you to think critically and keep your brain sharp. Don’t worry if you’re not good at Sudoku at first – it will become easier with time.
- Puzzles – A game for the entire family. Puzzles may be simple, or they can be complex. The goal is to use puzzles as a fun way to work your brain while also socializing with the people that you love.
There are a lot of other games that can also help keep your brain sharp:
- Board games
Physical games have also been shown to boost mental health. Aerobic exercise, for example, has been shown to increase the hippocampus in as little as a few months. So, play a game of soccer or tennis with friends, play chess – do anything you can to keep your brain sharp, young and healthy.