National Puzzle Day is celebrated on the 29thof January, every year to acknowledge the importance of puzzles. There are several types of puzzles for people of all ages. Puzzles are one of a kind, challenging and fun. We usually think of them as a way to pass time. Puzzles, however, do offer a wide range of benefits other than just being a leisure activity.
Toddlers and kids are attracted to play with puzzle toys, which is excellent, as they help growing children develop cognition and brain skills. While youngsters are wasting their time watching television, the same time if wisely invested in solving puzzles can do wonders for brain development. Solving puzzles ignite metacognition- thinking about one’s thinking, and trains the brain to explore various solutions.
Puzzles truly unlock creativity and get the creative juices flowing. Anyone who has never played a puzzle must spend a good chunk of time solving a puzzle. One gets a variety of ideas about the methods to learn something as metacognition comes into play. One builds awareness around one's thought process while solving. People who play jigsaw and crossword puzzles have longer life spans and are immune to mental illnesses. Every time one comes up with new and different ways to solve a puzzle, it boosts the brain’s neuroplasticity by creating fresh neural pathways, as though the brain learns a new skill. Modern neuroscience has enough research and promising evidence of neuroplasticity that comes from solving puzzles.
Importance of Puzzles
Puzzles Help in Mental ExercisePuzzles keep you mentally fit and active. When solving a puzzle, both left and right brains work together which in turn increases cognitive function. Working on puzzles not only strengthens neural connections but also increases the possibility of generation of new connections. It doubles up the thought processes and mental speed.
Puzzles Help Improve Short Term MemoryStudies have shown that doing jigsaw puzzles increases visual-spatial reasoning and improves short-term memory. Short term memory is very important and plays a major role in cognitive functions like planning, reasoning and language comprehension which are key to learning process.
Solving Puzzles Lowers StressAfter solving a puzzle, the brain produces a neurotransmitter named dopamine which acts as a messenger between nerve cells. It is responsible for regulating moods and emotions. An increase in the dopamine levels in the body, naturally decreases the production of cortisol, which is a hormone that acts as an alarm when the body is under stress. While it is a very important and useful tool for a healthy body, too much of it can hinder the overall function of the body. Hence stress busters like solving puzzle come in handy.
Increases Attention to DetailBe it putting the pieces of a jigsaw together or solving a word search or Sudoku, requires attention. This very fact gives an intense training to the brain to focus on the task and catch the little details of the puzzle. Generally, children have a shorter attention span but given an interesting puzzle, their brain becomes more capable of focusing for a longer time thereby increasing attention span which is essential for attention to detail.
Puzzles Increase IQPuzzles require a person to look at different shapes, colors and information in order to solve them. According to an article published by New Scientist, researchers from the University of Michigan, have shown that solving riddles and puzzles for at least 25-minutes a day can raise a person’s IQ by 4.
Puzzles and Metacognition
All the above benefits of solving a puzzle enhance the overall health of the brain as an organ and make it perform more effectively and efficiently, especially in areas of critical thinking and problem-solving. A regular will soon begin to notice patterns in the perspectives to problems, which is a heightened awareness. That is metacognition, an insight into how one perceives everyday experiences. This is the foundation for a great quality of life.
Puzzles are fun. A great hobby and a pass time. But it is clearly way deeper than that. While it tests a person’s knowledge, it gives an insight into one’s logic. Puzzles are as old as Greek mythology. Thanks to the riddles of the Middle Ages, we have more evolved puzzles today clearly attributed to human metacognitive skills. Let’s solve a puzzle or two today with this understanding, it’s National Puzzle Day!
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