I love doing crosswords. I don't get around to doing one every day or even every week, but when I finally do get my hands on one from the local paper, I have to finish it. Occasionally, I will look an answer up if it's a proper noun and I know I've never heard of it. I don't feel guilty because, hey, I just learned something new! After finishing yesterday's crossword, I began to wonder, are there any health benefits to doing crosswords?
I figured there had to be some kind of benefit to
my brain. Crosswords, especially the clues, challenge your brain to think outside the most obvious answer. There are definitely certain conventions and lingo that crosswords use which take some getting used to. But once you've solved a few puzzles, you start to feel like one of the "in-crowd."
As I did some research on the subject, I found conflicting theories. Some say crosswords ward off the onset of Alzheimer's. Some say crosswords have no mental benefit at all. As is often the case, both sides of the issue had numerous studies supporting their claims. So I decided to share only the ways that I have benefited from doing crossword puzzles.
1. Increased Vocabulary & Spelling - To become good at doing crosswords, you have to not only know a wide variety of words, but also synonyms or other ways to use all those words. You might have to look at the wording of a clue in several different ways before finding the meaning. Maybe you know a word that fits the definition of the clue, but it's not the right number of letters long. Slowly, you start to learn more words and how to spell them, even if you have to look up the answers a few times. No shame in that! Mistakes are part of the journey.
2. Increased Knowledge of History & Current Events - Crosswords often use proper nouns, which I find to be the most difficult. You'll run across famous actors, politicians, infamous criminals, foreign dignitaries, obscure locations and more! These are the clues I have to look up answers to most often, but it always sticks with me after that. I actually prefer looking them up oftentimes because you learn the answer and a little background history.
3. Stress Reduction - While working on a crossword, your mind focuses solely on the task at hand and everything else slips away. It's like reading a good book or watching a movie. You can zone out for a while and let your brain take a rest from the stresses of the day.
4. Sense of Accomplishment - By accomplishment, I don't necessarily mean finishing the puzzle. Even if you only get halfway done with a really difficult puzzle, there's some sense of pride and value from challenging your mind. Of course, it always feels great to complete it, too!
5. Bonding - Doing crosswords doesn't have to be a solo activity. My boyfriend and I will often grab a crossword and head to a coffee shop to work on it. We have to communicate and work together to find the answers. We complement each other's knowledge of different subjects and finish the puzzle faster, while still learning new things. It can even be a friendly competition as you start to see who can come up with the answers first.