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Sharpen your pencils, Sharpen your mind!

What͛s black and white, and healthy for you? A crossword puzzle! What was once just a great Sunday afternoon pastime has now been shown to produce real benefits for our cognitive health. In addition to being fun, the top three reasons why you should be kicking back with a good puzzle are:

Keeping your brain sharp and possibly helping prevent cognitive decline: A recent study by the University of California at Berkley shows that engaging in problem solving activities, such as solving crossword puzzles, can help protect the aging brain. The findings indicate that, lifestyle factors found in individuals with high cognitive engagements (such as word games) may prevent or slow deposition of beta-amyloid, perhaps influencing the onset and progression of Alzheimer͛s disease.”

Reinforcing memories: Nostalgia, according to Dr. John Medina, Neuroscientist, is one of the most powerful forces when it comes to maintaining a healthy brain. As we connect with our past, we strengthen neural connections and give ourselves a happiness boost. When we search our memories for a word or connection as we solve our crossword, we force ourselves to go back in time. The ‘trips down memory lane’ triggered by the word games help keep our brains active and healthy.

Relieving stress: Like meditation and breathing exercises, crossword puzzles can help us quiet the noise in our heads and allow us to relax. When you sit down to work on a puzzle, you tend to shut out the world and concentrate on the task in front of you. As studies have shown, this downtime can help us feel happier and calmer.

Crossword puzzles are a great workout for the mind. Whether you go old school with a newspaper puzzle, or on line with the digital version, one thing is for sure -your brain will thank you!