I am sometimes asked why people do puzzles, especially by non-puzzling people who can’t understand why we spend time struggling with crosswords or sudoku puzzles when we don’t have to. It’s a good question, and finding the answer to that is a puzzle in itself.
First of all, humans have an innate urge to discover patterns and to solve problems. We like to test ourselves and hopefully improve our skills. Some people prefer golf, abseiling or training dogs.
When rising to the challenge of a crossword, the brain increases the release of dopamine, a chemical mainly involved with learning and memory.
When absorbed with a crossword, we feel more alert, our concentration increases, and we become more creative, sometimes even entering a calm, almost meditative state. Some puzzlers see it as the mental equivalent of going for a long walk in the countryside.
The left side of the brain thinks logically and follows sequences while the right side is creative and intuitive. We need both of these qualities to solve a crossword. The intense activity that takes place while puzzling certainly exercises the brain cells and increases their efficiency and capacity too.
All kinds of people like doing crosswords or word puzzles. Some like to work in a group with family or friends, others prefer solving alone. It’s a gentle form of escapism for some, while others find their brains are hungry for learning new facts – either adding to their vocabulary or to their general knowledge.
There is a huge feeling of satisfaction when the words start falling into place – it feels like winning a race. The benefits are manifold – your memory is sharpened, your brain function improved, and you feel quite pleased with yourself.
So, puzzling is stimulating, relaxing, satisfying and beneficial to your health – do we need any more reasons? There is one more – you can win great prizes too.