We’re back! We hope you had a lovely summer and are enjoying these first days of Autumn.

With school and work in full swing, the pace inevitably seems to pick up at this time of year. As we know, it’s important to build in a little down time for ourselves, but for some of us it can be hard to feel we’re not being productive. So, our tip this month for stress relief? Tackle a puzzle.

Whether jigsaws or word games or riddles or quizzes or mathematical conundrums, puzzles have many health benefits:

  • As a form of mental exercise, they help keep our brains sharp – improving reasoning, attention, and memory skills. A recent study from Exeter University showed that adults over 50 who regularly engage in word puzzles have the cognitive capabilities of those 8-10 years their junior.
  • When we are absorbed in a puzzle we need to concentrate, which distracts us from the stresses and anxieties of the world around us.
  • Persevering and solving a puzzle creates a sense of accomplishment and triggers the release of dopamine, giving us a positive emotional boost.
  • Puzzles can reap social rewards, too, if you work on them collaboratively or competitively, or simply share the results of your puzzling with others.
  • And quite simply, puzzles are fun!

Here are a few classics, older and newer:

  • Jigsaws were invented in 1792 by a map engraver to help teach geography to school children. Jigsaws can be quite meditative in nature and depending on their complexity, can absorb you for hours. Try laying one out and spending a few minutes each day on it as a mindful distraction.
  • Crosswords first appeared as children’s puzzles in England in the 19th century, with the first modern crossword puzzle being published in America in 1913. The most famous are now published daily by the London Times and the New York Times.puzzle crossword
  • Sudoku, a number placement puzzle based on logic, became popular in Japan in the 1980s. Sudoku is short for the Japanese instruction “sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru”: “the digits must remain single”.
    puzzle suduku
  • Wordle was invented by Josh Wardle, a software engineer from South Wales. It became a phenomenon just a year ago in October 2021, and within a few months had been bought by the New York Times. The beauty of Wordle is that it’s just one puzzle a day and takes just a few minutes. And how many of us have texted a friend or family member to compare results?

If one puzzle a day isn’t quite enough, or you are looking for a different mode, you can find some alternatives to Wordle here.

Finally, remember the online quiz Free Rice, which we’ve written about before in the blog and our book. This brainchild of the United Nations World Food Programme generates grains of rice for those suffering from food insecurity and hunger with every correct answer.

Until next time, happy and healthy puzzling!

Sam and Claire

8 thoughts on “A puzzle a day keeps the doctor away

  1. Super reminder about keeping our 🧠 active :). Thank you for sharing the ‘Free Rice’ too. I’ve not heard of that before. Rachel, NL.

  2. Hi there! I haven’t commented before, but suddenly recognized that photo you have as a header… is it the Wisteria at Coton Manor? It is very near my parental home in the UK. Such a beautiful garden and one I try and visit whenever in the country. 😃

    1. Hi Cathy, we chose the wisteria image because it reminded us of Oxford; I don’t think it’s Coton Manor, which I hadn’t come across before, but having just found their website, I agree it really is a beautiful garden, so thank you for putting it on my radar! Claire

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