We’ve all encountered brain teasers, most of us quite early on in life. Perhaps your first brain teaser was given to you by your primary school teacher. Maybe you found one on the back of a cereal box. You might have even been given a book of mind teasers from a friend or family member as a birthday gift.
The real beauty of these brain games? They’re timeless. No matter how young or old you are, you can enjoy the cognitive challenge a brain teaser or brain puzzle presents.
We play these thinking puzzles for fun, challenging ourselves to find the right answer. But what we don’t realize is that mind teasers are so much more than simple games. In fact, they have the potential to rewire your brain — if practiced often enough.
Research has shown that a dexterous brain makes for happier, healthier, people in general. Doing some type of mental exercise, in the form of brain teasers, puzzles or word and number games has been shown to:
- Boost overall brain activity
- Increase your memory power
- Reduce the risk, and slow the decline, of dementia
- Improve memory and brain processing speed
- Reduce boredom
- Improve concentration
Brain Puzzles VS Brain Teasers: What’s The difference?
A brain teaser is usually verbal or written—a few sentences or a short paragraph that describes a unique problem or conundrum for you to solve. Riddles are a form of a brain tease
Brain puzzles are games that also challenge our thinking but may require logic or vertical analysis to solve. Brain puzzles can even be physical objects!
Here are some common brain puzzles you might have encountered:
- Crossword puzzle
- Rebus puzzle
- Rubik’s Cube
Some brain puzzles, like rebus puzzles, require lateral thinking to solve. But other brain puzzles, like logic grids and sudoku, use traditional analysis. But the real question is: how do these brain puzzles and teasers help improve our thinking? We can enhance our mental fitness by exposing the brain to puzzles that challenge our normal modes of thinking.
The brain is neuro-plastic, meaning it has the ability to shift and change over time. Many people believe our brains age as we do, growing less powerful, less capable, less competent over time. What most don’t realize, however, is that you have the ability to manipulate your brain the way a sculptor moulds clay. The brain is susceptible to all we expose it to—people, music, work—even the physical environments we traverse on a day to day basis. Everything we partake in has the potential to subtly shift the wiring of our brain.
The question is: how do we wire our brains for the better? Have you ever heard of the phrase “use it or lose it?” That’s quite literally true when it comes to the way our brains age. When we don’t actively seek experiences that expose our minds to all sorts of new and challenging stimuli, our neuron receptors die off from disuse.
Brain teasers can help keep the mind stimulated by encouraging it to think and act in new and novel ways. Lateral thinking keeps us feeling fresh, creative, on our toes, so to speak, when tackling new problems. And we aren’t often given the opportunity to exercise lateral thinking in our day to day lives.
Brain games, teasers, and brain riddles offer that opportunity.
So, the next time you attempt to solve a riddle, remember that while it’s all in good fun, you’re also strengthening your brain!
Let’s see how active YOUR brain is – we’ve got a couple for you to try.
- You’re being chased through a labyrinth and need to escape. You’ve reached a dead end with three doors before you. The door on the left leads to a blazing inferno, the door on the right leads to a group of expertly trained assassins, and the door in the centre leads to a ferocious lion that hasn’t eaten in three months. Which door do you choose?
- You stand in a dark room with a wood stove, an oil lamp, and a candle. You only have one match. What do you light first?
- A woman stands on one side of a stream and her dog stands on the other. The woman calls her dog over to her. The dog crosses the stream and gets to the other side without getting wet. The dog didn’t use a rock, log, or bridge to cross the stream. How is this possible?
Spoiler Alert: Brain Teaser Answers
- The centre door. A lion that hasn’t eaten in three months is most likely dead.
- The match.
- It was winter and the stream was frozen.