Do “brain games” help improve your memory, or do they just give you something to do?
It’s not necessarily a straightforward answer. Challenging your brain with crossword and sudoku puzzles may eventually make you better at them. Still, they are unlikely to translate into better memory or other cognitive functions that will help you in daily life.
Overall benefit to the brain is more complex than that. To some experts, it requires moving out of your comfort zone and embracing new tasks and challenges. These activities aim to improve neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brains’ power to rewire itself and make new connections in response to learning and stimulation.
So, think of it like this: always doing the same thing is not challenging. If you curl a 15 lb. dumbbell all day every day, you’re not going to get stronger. Repetition breeds familiarity, not growth. It’s the same with your brain.
When it comes to brain games, be wary of the claims. They are unlikely to improve memory, decision making, or overall cognitive function.
Instead, try focusing and thinking deeply. Learn some new information and try something different. Try grouping the new information as part of a “big picture,” identifying themes that can link to other memories or areas of the brain.
This activity is better suited to deliver results.
One way to improve deep thinking and learning is to stop multitasking. Constantly moving attention from one area to another makes it much harder for your brain to work and remain focused. Multitasking is not productive, and plenty of science proves most people can’t do it anyway.
Staying away from smartphones, tablets, and other attention-grabbers can also help. Overuse of these items can slow deep and critical thinking and disengage your brain. Lock away your devices for at least 30 minutes a day.
Traditional brain games like crossword puzzles won’t harm your brain, but they likely won’t improve it either. Take a more holistic approach to brain health and work to extend memory.