I’ve always personally enjoyed mental exercises and games. They can be great time fillers, keep you alert and in the moment. I believe they offer some level of personal improvement and improve mental acuity.
It turns out the research and writing around this subject area offers some useful additions to my personal perceptions.
A whole industry surrounds the training of the brain. It’s generally accepted that improvements can be made in personal function for Flexibility, Speed, Memory, Problem Solving, Learning Power etc. Progress can be measured on these fronts and dozens of exercises and games can be readily found in books or on-line.
Healthy lifestyle advocates promote Brain Fitness, which includes Proper Nutrition, Sleep, Physical Exercise and Stress Management.
Similarly, it’s accepted that cognitive skills are harmed by Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Aging, Air Pollution and internal Chemical Imbalance (both hormonal and drug induced).
Cognitive Training (aka Brain Fitness) promotes the idea that skills can be developed or maintained by exercising the brain in much the same way physical condition is improved by body exercise.
Scientific material rarely supports or advertises the concept of brain fitness, but personal development materials have promoted the idea with products and books since the 1980’s.
In practice, mental exercises can have measurable benefits; even more so the lower the starting base of the trainee. Any way you look at it, you can improve your brain function to some degree by practicing and training appropriately.
There’s recent evidence that mental training leads to a decrease (33% reported) in the risk of dementia onset. And, training children for academic improvement only appears to have benefits where the specific training is obviously and directly applicable to the specific area of study involved.
So, there is no silver bullet here where one approach fits all needs.
Certainly, some games and puzzles are fun and I personally enjoy a sense of accomplishment taking on new challenges and becoming more skilled and proficient over time.
Many people turn to outlets such as Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku, Solitaire, Bridge, etc. as a more productive use of otherwise dead time. It’s common to see people engaged in such activities in waiting areas, when travelling etc., even where other (such as TV) entertainment is present.
There is undoubtedly an increasing cultural search for alternative occupations that often more directly physically engage and personally challenge us. And there is a huge proliferation of available options.
Whatever our reasons for doing a little personalized brain-training (or self-entertainment), it typically provides us an enhanced sense of accomplishment and is usually a lot more fun than the other immediately available choices.
So, as another alternative suggestion, let me offer you a brain teaser to consider over time. You may solve this in a few minutes or be working on it many weeks from now. Either way, consider this…
There are twelve (12) natives stranded on an otherwise deserted Island.
Eleven (11) of the natives are the same weight, but one (1) weighs slightly less (or more) than the others.
Also, on the island is a see-saw (teeter-totter) that you may use in your investigations, but only three (3) times.
Your challenge is to discover which Islander has the different weight AND if that weight is more or less than the other eleven Islanders.
End of Challenge.
Whatever your predilection for cognitive development, let me recommend its benefits to both your practical personal development and self-esteem. Wishing you the best on your chosen path!