You have been reproached for being lazy. They even dared to say it while you were on holidays and it seemed more than licit to be lazy. But what laziness are we talking about? It was proven that some applications on our smartphones and crossword puzzles help us training our memory.
We drink water to lose weight and not because we are thirsty; we sleep to be more productive at work the following day and not to have some rest; we organise parties with lots of friends to fill our profiles on some social networks and not to have fun. While you were playing Boom Beach or Fruit Ninja, or you were wondering about 7 cross “what am I going to eat for dinner“ - shrimps -, you were actually doing some brain aerobics to go back to work at the best of your cognitive skills.
Human brain, although more complex and unpredictable than its Pavlovian brothers (muscles) must be trained exactly like a biceps or an abductor. Spending a few minutes every day solving a crossword puzzle is a total brain workout in which we use all superior cognitive functions: abstract thinking, focusing, logical links, memory.
While with the corner of one eye we count the letters of the 45 down, with another part of the brain we are already thinking about the next definition, on which the solution of the whole puzzle could depend. The credit for this ability mostly belongs to our cerebral cortex and frontal lobes. The results have been proven already: among people of the same age with Alzheimer, cognitive impairment is slower in those who have trained their brain.
The battle of Waterloo was fought in...wait, let me Google it, I don't remember. Push notification: call the dentist for toothache. Right, my tooth hurts, I cannot sleep at night. Since the invention of the all-knowing Google and of time-management apps for our smartphones, we have entrusted them forever with our cognitive skills.
When we try to remember a specific information, many processes are triggered in our brain: we need to rummage through our storage of memories to solve that 5 down... Often memory depends on the attention you are paying to what you are doing. This is something we are forced to do while solving a crossword puzzle or an anagram, but normally we tend to divide our attention among multiple activities, thinking (wrongly) to be multitasking.
According to Andrea Moro, professor of general linguistics at the University Vita Salute San Raffaele of Milan, through word games we also broaden and improve our vocabulary, shrunk by hashtags and 140-characters texts. If the device we have in our pocket becomes our black box, since it won't be affected by any brain degenerative disease, we must keep our brain fit. Old-school way.
Crossword puzzles are also useful for children learning a second language or perfecting the use of their mother tongue. Learning a new language is an excellent training to improve vocabulary, memory, attention and social life - as soon as the new language will make us able to introduce ourselves to the gorgeous Spanish girl under the beach umbrella next to ours.
It doesn't matter how old we are, everyone can learn a foreign language, at any age. The idea that there is an age limit to properly learn a new language is obsolete for the most part of psycholinguists, as confirmed by Philippe Mousty, researcher at the Université Libre of Brussels.
Making an effort to learn a poem by heart every week or a new language in order to stimulate our neurons means, as a consequence, the storing of new information. But do we have enough space in our brain? If our thoughts pile up, overlap and exercise at the same time on every possible state on consciousness, do we have any space for learning? At what level does useless information affect our planning ability?
Another fundamental exercise is to empty our brain from the useless information we have stored in it. And that is what we unconsciously do whenever we are engaged in an Angry Birds game. A healthier method to achieve the same result is to write everything that crosses our mind on a piece of paper and then symbolically push it away from us. Free room for new ideas.
We need only 30 euros to fly to a foreign country where they speak Flemish and a bunch of coins to have an entire week of crossword puzzles guaranteed or some 15 levels with increasing difficulty of a brain training or learning application. Less than a gym subscription and way less than a six-month cycle of filler injections. It doesn't take much to have a wrinkless mind and the answer ready for those who accuse you of wasting your time lazing on the beach.
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