Studies have shown that word search and other puzzles can help improve memory, focus, vocabulary, and overall mental acuity.
Searching for Patterns
Word search puzzles emphasize pattern recognition, a key cognitive tool. A 2007 Harvard Business Review article by Gilkey and Kilts, discusses the benefits of puzzle solving to develop our skill at pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the brain’s ability to find order and create meaning from data around us.
Studies have found that word search is effective at helping to teach a second language. Even if you don’t want to learn another language, there’s always room to expand your vocabulary. Most English speaking adults have a 20 to 35 thousand word vocabulary, while there are over 1 million words in the English language.
The Dopamine Connection
Dopamine is naturally produced in our brains. Touted as the “reward molecule”, neuroscientists are linking dopamine to perseverance and the sense of accomplishment. When we finish a task, like finding words in a word search puzzle, our brains reward us with a surge of dopamine. Keeping this dopamine flowing can keep us motivated in other areas of our lives.
We’re All Getting Older
Doing word search and other puzzles can help to keep our aging brains fit. A study published in the March-April 2001 issue of the “American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias” found that a simple cognitive activity like bingo can benefit older adults. Bot the AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association suggest that puzzles can be part of a healthy lifestyle.