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How to Boost Your Memory and Problem-solving With Games and Puzzles

Brain games, memory games, and puzzles for adults? It seems almost too good to be true that playing a game could actually be good for your brain. But research seems to indicate that having some fun with games might positively impact cognition. That’s right, kids aren’t the only ones who get to have fun — adults can engage in game night and play on their phones with zero guilt in the name of brain function.

All sorts of games — from the type you play on brain training to apps to sports and poker can help your brain to work better. So why not try putting a jigsaw puzzle together this week? Or plan a family game night?

Puzzles, memory games, and brain games could improve your memory. Playing regularly and increasing difficulty is the key to seeing the most benefits.

What Are The Benefits Of Brain Training?

Did you know that your brain can be exercised, just like the rest of your body? Yep, your brain has the ability to grow and change — even as you age. This is a phenomenon known as brain plasticity. And one of the ways to encourage brain plasticity is called “brain training.”

Brain training, or cognitive training, is the process of encouraging your brain to improve memory and recall through a series of exercises. You engage in a series of challenging activities in order to keep your mind sharp and possibly help stave off cognitive decline.

You know the old adage about old dogs and new tricks? It’s simply not true. The more you work on increasing your brainpower and memory, the more you’re able to potentially improve cognitive function. So, learning new tricks is actually great for you.

In fact, research generally shows that brain training activities (especially the longer and more often they’re practiced) could help to improve cognition and bump up intelligence quotient (IQ).[1]https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-015-0967-4[2]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00221/full[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2884087/

Sometimes, however, scientists disagree about the efficacy of using brain games to improve memory and brain function. In fact, in 2014, a group of researchers issued a statement saying that brain training seemed to have little benefit.[4]https://longevity.stanford.edu/a-consensus-on-the-brain-training-industry-from-the-scientific-community-2/ And then another group of scientists issued a counter-response arguing that the same data the first group of scientists analyzed show that brain games to improve memory and focus are effective.[5]cognitivetrainingdata.org/the-controversy-does-brain-training-work/response-letter/[6]https://www.ontwerpenvoordementie.nl/assets/simonsetal_2016-braintraining.pdf

Bottom line: while there’s not a ton of research spelling out exactly what type of brain training works for whom — have you ever felt worse after completing a difficult puzzle or learning a new skill? At the end of the day, it’s likely that you can have fun, engage your mind, and keep your mind sharp all at the same time by doing a little brain workout.

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How To Improve Memory And Recall

Brain training includes any workout for your brain — exercises that could help improve memory and concentration. In effect, learning a new skill, like playing an instrument or studying a new language, qualify as activities that can improve memory and focus.[7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154531/#R13 Other activities, like brain teaser games for adults are great brain games to play too.

It’s important to note that once a game or activity has become too easy for you, it’s time to challenge yourself a bit more. It appears that brain training may be most effective when it increases in difficulty.[8]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00183/full

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular brain games for memory.

Brain Games For Adults

There are so many brain games online, from simple sticker-by-number games to apps and websites with brain games. And, if you prefer offline pursuits, there are also books chock full of brain games.

However, some of the best “brain games” for adults involve complexity. The more challenge you introduce to your brain training sessions, the better the results you’ll likely see. One study concluded that adults aged 60-90 who engaged in difficult tasks like quilting or digital photography did better on memory tests than study counterparts who stuck with simpler activities like reading or crossword puzzles.[9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154531/

Memory Games For Adults

So, can you really play games to improve your memory? Might an app improve your memory? Even though it seems too good to be true, the research seems to indicate it could be possible.[10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5930973/

And, there’s no shortage of apps to improve memory. Plus, there are tons of fun memory games for adults online. But even old-fashioned games in real life can improve memory and concentration. Traditional strategy-heavy board games like chess, backgammon, and checkers are wonderful brain games. In fact, studies indicate that people over 75 that play chess and checkers regularly appear less likely to develop dementia.[11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12815136/[12]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6617066/

Card games are also a great choice for improving brain function. One study indicated that playing cards can not only improve memory and cognition, but it could also preserve brain structure in patients with signs of Alzheimer’s disease.[13]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417099/ So, yes, that means a game of rummy, poker, or crazy eights could boost your memory function. Go ahead and schedule that game night in the name of your brain health.

Puzzles For Memory

Puzzles are another great way to work on training your brain. Jigsaw puzzles for adults (especially when completed regularly), in particular, seem to positively impact cognition.[14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174231/

You don’t have to take up your entire dining room table with a puzzle anymore either. There are actually jigsaw puzzles you can work on online. These even allow you to share the experience with other family members and friends, too.

Other brain game puzzles like sudoku, crossword puzzles, and even classic memory matching games (the ones where you flip over the cards and try to remember where the matching pictures are) are an excellent brain workout. Again, there are plenty of puzzles like these you can complete in real life, and others you can play online (with or without friends).

Sports For Memory

Maybe you’re the more active type who enjoys playing physical games more than puzzles and card games.

If so, great news. According to studies, playing sports games can also positively impact your memory and cognition. Intense physical exercise, even in bouts as short as 15 minutes could boost memory.[15]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32948800/

And the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK has reviewed literature and concluded that playing sports and engaging in physical activity can have some pretty impressive protective benefits for your brain. They found a 30% decrease in the risk of dementia and a 45% decrease in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in those who regularly exercised. Exercise didn’t just include playing sports, either. It appeared any type of activity, including walking or gardening, did the trick.[16]https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/physical-exercise

Supplements To Improve Memory

While brain training and games are a great way to boost your memory and cognition, they aren’t the only way.

Certain supplements, known as nootropics, can also be a great tool in your toolbox to help boost your memory, too.

But they can be kind of confusing to get started with. Even though these supplements have a great track record of helping people to sharpen focus and memory, certain ones work better for some goals — and some nootropics work synergistically with others to create the results you’re looking for.

The easiest thing to do is to take our quiz here to find out which ones might work best for you and your brain. That way, you don’t have to dig through mountains of internet message boards to get to the recommendations you’re looking for.

Click here to take the quiz and get started on your nootropics journey.

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