Want Less Stress? Try Puzzles!

April 13 is National Scrabble Day

My favorite board game, second to Monopoly, is Scrabble. Growing up, Scrabble was a family staple. At some point during family get-togethers, the Scrabble board would appear. And that is when four family members got down to business.

Scrabble is still popular today, enjoyed by millions since its invention in 1931. Some competitive players participate in tournaments and clubs around the world. People love Scrabble because it is essentially a puzzle involving strategy and competition. (And a decent vocabulary!)

I’ve been playing Scrabble since I was a teen. Today I play Scrabble using a game app. After trying many apps, the current one I use is WordWars. It uses a Scrabble-type board, but double and triple-point tiles are located differently than the traditional Scrabble board. Also, the points on the letter tiles have different values than traditional Scrabble. Like Words with Friends, you can connect with Facebook to challenge those you know or play against an unknown challenger or the Bot. The Bot plays against you according to your abilities, so it’s a good way to practice.

Courtesy of Brett Jordan via Unsplash.com

There are several similar games in the App store, but these are the best 5 Scrabble-type games recommended by TechPrate:  

  • Classic Words Solo
  • CrossCraze
  • Scrabble Go
  • Word Crack
  • Word Master

Surprisingly, WordWars and the tried-and-true Words with Friends didn’t make their list.

Who is playing puzzles?

I’m not alone when it comes to choosing puzzle games to play on my phone, and I found some fascinating information. According to a Pew Research Center study, 62% of American adults who play games (with smartphone apps or other video games) prefer strategy and puzzle games during their downtime. They also found that many more women than men prefer puzzle games, and they were more popular with those ages 65 and older. (I’m not in that category just yet!) Also, puzzle games were more likely to be played by those with at least a bachelor’s degree than those with less education.

Why Puzzles?

Besides being a popular way to relax and unwind, puzzles provide many benefits for your mental health and well-being. Here are 5 reasons why puzzles help relieve stress:  

Improves your mood.

Doing puzzles engages your brain, releasing dopamine. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is a mood enhancer that regulates emotions and motivation. When you complete a puzzle, the sense of achievement and satisfaction you feel boosts dopamine levels and makes you happier.

Reduces anxiety.

Puzzles can provide a distraction from negative thoughts and emotions. Studies have shown that puzzles can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels and provide a calming effect. Puzzles also help you focus on one task at a time, blocking distractions and other worries.

Improves cognitive abilities.

The benefits of puzzles on our thinking abilities and visual-spatial reasoning are encouraging. For instance, different puzzles can offer various advantages:  

  • Jigsaw puzzles improve memory by helping you remember shapes, details, and colors.
  • Number and word puzzles enhance concentration skills.
  • Logic puzzles and board games increase focus.
  • Brain teasers and word puzzles boost general knowledge and critical thinking.
  • Crosswords expand the vocabulary by learning new words.

Puzzles are a recommended pastime as we age because of their therapeutic value. Working on puzzles helps prevent cognitive decline and dementia by keeping the brain active and healthy.

In addition to entertainment and relaxation, puzzles are just another tool for that self-care toolbox. They will help you cope with stress, improve your mood, and sharpen your mind. So next time you feel overwhelmed or bored, why not try doing a puzzle? You might be surprised by how much it can help you relax and feel better.

Do you have a favorite puzzle? Let me know in the comments!

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding
– Proverbs 3:13

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