A Puzzling Way to Grow a Better Brain*

Brain puzzleA Puzzling Way to Grow a Better Brain*

Remember when your kindergarten teacher used to say “Alright class, I want everyone to put on their thinking caps? I have to be honest—that used to really bug me. You see I took her remark as insult, as if I was just sitting on my nap mat, dull as my pencil, waiting for snack time. (Yeah, I know, I was a cynical five year old!) Well, if my teacher was still alive today, I’d have to call her up and apologize for my bad attitude. What Mrs. Hall was preparing for us to do was to deliberately challenge our brains’ capacity. I should have been grateful.

The effect that intentional “higher learning” and “mental manipulation” has on the brain is critical for amassing ample brain cell reserve. Mental exercise builds brain power by manufacturing new connections between individual brain cells and by strengthening existing ones. This practice enables us to think faster, learn more, and forget less. In order to be effective, mental exercise must challenge your memory, focus, and concentration.

Here is an amazing study finding which was sponsored by the National Institute of Aging at the National Institutes of Health: Seventy year old seniors who were put through a 10-session cognitive training program remembered things more clearly, processed information more speedily, and reasoned more efficiently—equivalent to knocking off seven to fourteen years from their brain age for the next two years! And guess what, five years later they still maintained a mental advantage over their peers [1].

There are many ways this sort of brain training can be achieved—but the one which is the most fun is mental manipulation! Puzzling, analyzing, and problem solving are all potent vitamins for your brain matter. So play the game Concentration with your children or grandchildren, work on the crossword puzzle in your daily paper or do a word search, or visit your local bookstore and pick up one of the many “brain power” books and workbooks available. Remember, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


[1] Bendheim, Paul E., MD. The Brain Training Revolution. Naperville: Source Books, 2009. p.56.

*Today’s Monday Morning Health Tip is excerpted, in part, from my book, Get Healthy…for Heaven’s Sake.


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