Staying Mentally Fit

puzzles help improve your mental fitness

I will admit to not having much “down time” most days. On the rare occasion when I am not scheduled to be away on assignment, in a meeting or on my computer frantically trying to meet a deadline, the default forms of relaxation I turn to involve physical movement outdoors. And while exercise is crucial to maintaining one’s health, our mental fitness is equally as important—especially as we age.

Which was one of the reasons I was so excited when a friend in book club introduced me to Wordle. It is an online word game updated every day by The New York Times. I played it almost daily for three months straight. Challenging my brain to work in a different way was not only entertaining, but it also slightly decreased my tendency to suddenly lose my train of thought in the middle of writing.

Digital puzzles may not be your jam, but here are a few other activities that can positively impact brain health:

Jigsaw puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles are known to improve concentration, mood stability and attention levels. In addition, working on puzzles can reduce stress and anxiety.

Card games
Card games increase problem-solving skills, plus keep one’s mind sharp by having to make strategic and mathematical decisions. For those who also struggle with social anxiety, two- to four-player games may be a less intimidating environment to interact with others and make new friends.

Chess requires a wide range of cognitive functions: memory, logic and pattern recognition, as well as analytical and critical thinking. And if having a long attention span is a personal superpower, this is a mental “work-out” worth trying.

Other activities known to boost brain power are Tai chi, knitting and number puzzles such as Sudoku. Got another suggestion? Drop it in the Comments section below so that I and the rest of the TOPS community can check it out.

Harness your power to be well this Wednesday,

28 thoughts on “Staying Mentally Fit

  1. I enjoy Crossword puzzles – find them challenging. I’ve also used the virtual option of sharing a puzzle with a friend – and that is very interesting as well

    1. THANKS for sharing here about the virtual sharing, Carol. I bet other members might want to try that out too.

  2. Your message today has given me hope. I thought I was losing my mind, but know that my depression could be age related..
    I will try this wordle and see if it helps me. Thank you!

    1. Appreciate your candor. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to the TOPS community at anytime for additional resources and support!

      1. I play Wordle with a group of family members. There are 6 of us that play. We try to beat each other every day. We have a group text that we share our games in. It’s a lot of fun! Today we also started playing Quordle You have to solve 4 games in 9 trys. Its a little more challenging and really makes you think..

  3. Yahtzee (a dice game) is a really fun game. Aim: the person with the highest points wins the game. You try to get the highest point with each round – if you get all 5 dice to reach the same no. you get 50 points. Naturally we all yell ‘yeh’ when we get that.

  4. Thank you I do a lot of those things including knitting and sudoku every day but you have got me thinking that I need to get some new jigsaw puzzles. I can spend a long time doing those. Always 1000 pieces. Thanks for the reminder. As for Wordle I have installed it but I can’t find the actual instructions so I lost interest pretty quickly.

    1. Have fun shopping for new jigsaw puzzles, Linda!
      And the first step of Wordle is spelling out any five letter word using the keyboard at the bottom of the screen. If the letters turn ‘green,’ it means that you have the right letter in the right place. ‘Yellow’ means the letter is in the word but is not in the right spot. Grey/white means it’s not in that word at all. So just keep trying to plug in letters (& move them around) until you figure out what the correct word of the day is. But you only get 6 chances. Hope this info helps.

  5. Great ideas! My partner loves word games, and he introduced me to Wordle. We do the daily puzzle on his phone every night. We also do crossword puzzles together. =)

  6. Like you i do wordle and suduko every day but it was my granddaughter that introduced me to a game called “weaver”…its a word ladder game and it to challenges your ability…try it you’ll love it

    1. That’s so cool, Lucile!
      Years ago, I tried learning how to play violin. And it’s a dream of mine to one day have the time to take cello lessons.

  7. Rachel what an interesting article. Found it so helpful and motivating. Thank you so much for your inspiring weekly articles. So important to provide exercise for our thought process also.

  8. Hi rachel,

    I haven’t tried wordle. But I love shape fitting. This is why quilting is my hobby. Puzzle catcher- you have to fit geometric pieces into puzzles. I have a quest to get three stars on all puzzles.

    Thank you for interesting topics. At my hubbys neurologist they had a poster to remind of B-12 deficiency, when memory issues are new. Not all age related forgetting is dementia.

    1. REALLY appreciate you sharing that information about B-12 here, Peggy = because that’s definitely true. And VERY cool that you’re a quilter as well.

  9. I LOVE jigsaw puzzles, seek and find, I try to play chess with my husband. It’s enjoyable and thought provoking. He wins every time as he has played since a child. Recently a TOPS friend introduced me to Cross Cross word puzzles.

    1. I’m not the strongest chess player either, Dale.
      And a close friend and her father are really into word puzzles so I’ll have to inquire if they’ve heard of Cross Cross (because I had not until now).

  10. I picked up needle tatting (an old lace making art) about 13 years ago. It helped me get off of antidepressants and anxiety medication. I had a psychologist tell me that trauma creates a trough in the brain, but when you do anything that requires both hands, such as crochet, knitting, playing a musical instrument, tatting, etc, it heals the brain and fills in that trough. I have witnessed this first hand. I also make paper beads and then create works of art to keep my hands and head active. Jigsaw puzzle, word search, sudoku and cross word puzzles stretch my brain also. I also work on memorizing.

  11. I really appreciate your candor, Malena.
    Any information one is willing to share about how they have coped with (AND healed) from traumatic experiences has the capacity to help another person else immensely. So THANK YOU for this very honest response.

  12. Quordle is another online game (Quordle.com) Very similar to wordle; but you have to guess 4 words in 9 tries! Very challenging!!

    1. I’ll have to try that as soon as I have a free moment, Betsy…Sounds like a good test of my vocabulary (& spelling) skills.

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