It’s No Puzzle: Play Is Good for Your Brain

Jamie Hughes avatar

by Jamie Hughes |

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I don’t know why, but for some reason, two people in my family decided to get me puzzles for Christmas this year. Granted, one is a rad picture of 30 or so classic book covers, and the other is covered in cats. But still, it’s weird.

When I returned home after visiting family, I put both puzzles on a shelf with a few others we had bought for the kids a while back. However, I’ve been home alone a good bit lately because my husband is away caring for his father, who is in his last days, and my children pretty much stay glued to their electronics.

So, rather than bingeing Netflix or watching endless reels of college football, I decided to pull out the 1,000-piece literary puzzle and give it a go. (This requires a little forethought when you have kleptomaniac cats, but a fitted sheet draped over the table does a wonderful job of keeping all of the pieces safe and sound.)

For the last few nights, I’ve spent a happy and quiet hour or two working on the thing. I usually turn on some relaxing music, grab a glass of cognac or rye whiskey to sip, and slowly let my eyes roam over the pieces, looking for what might fit on the current quadrant of the board I’m working on. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes, but it’s so satisfying when a piece clicks into place. Also, working on a puzzle with someone else has the added bonus of social time, something many of us get far too little of these days.

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Believe it or not, puzzles are very good for your brain. According to Reader’s Digest, they stimulate different parts of the mind and reduce stress. And they are especially good for those of us with multiple sclerosis, since they can help us work one of the areas of our bodies most directly impacted by the disease.

Games like dominoes, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and hunt-and-find games like word searches are also beneficial. And if you’re not into old-school puzzles, I have some good news. There are tons of electronic puzzles and games you can play on a phone or tablet. (Speaking of which, have you tried Wordle yet? It’s absolutely addicting! Thankfully, there’s only one puzzle a day, or I’d spend way too much time on it.)

Like playing music, engaging in physical activity, spending time outdoors, or learning a new skill, puzzles really do have their place. I think they’re an undervalued tool for folks who are dealing with MS. So, if you’re still feeling a little blah after the holidays, a little tired and listless, and pretty much uninterested in anything, go grab a puzzle or two. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying it, and I think you might be as well.

Whatever you do, dear reader, please have a happy new year and pass on a little kindness whenever and wherever you can. We can all use some of that right about now.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Glenda Shine avatar

Glenda Shine

My mom hooked us all on puzzles at a young age. She is now 83 years old and you can never catch her without a puzzle out on her sunroom table. She is still smart as a tack and meets with two different groups of friends each week to play dominos and games. Friendships and games keep her mentally and physically a happy lady.

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Glenda, I love this! Tell your mom I said hello and great job!

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MADELINE l NEWTON avatar

MADELINE l NEWTON

YES ,THEY ARE GREAT FOR USING THE BRAIN AND HAVE LOTS OF RELAXING TIMES..I HAVE USED THEM FOR YEARS AND THE NEW ONES ARE MORE OF A CHALLENGE AND EVEN HAVE THEM IN SHAPES OF ANIMALS FOR ONE EXAMPLE...THEY ARE HARD BUT FUN STILL.. REALLY USING THE BRAIN

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Keep up the great work, Madeline!

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