There has been a lot of talk about NOT thinking, but here we are looking at the logical side of things.
Of course stress, anxiety and depression are all symptoms of negative thoughts, so one way of controlling your thoughts is to do a mind puzzle. Sudoku is a great example of this. As you spend time working out the numbers by process of elimination, it literally takes your mind off the thoughts that are causing you to feel bad. All you need to do is break the thought pattern by switching to something that needs your concentration. You will notice your feelings and emotions improve as you are doing the puzzle.
Another activity that helps is doing a crossword. It can be doubly benefitting if you ask for the input and opinions of people around you. That way you are getting interaction, which enhances our mood. So you are using a two-pronged attack at the anxiety.
Problem solving skills are also exercised when you do a puzzle. Depression can sometimes be caused by a problem that we feel we are unable to solve. However with a game there is no emotional or personal connection so we find ourselves being more persistent in finding the answer. Once we feel the satisfaction of overcoming these problems and working out that particular muscle, we are in better shape to look at the things that are causing our low mood, anxiety or stress.
Keeping a pocket sized puzzle book in your bag can be useful in many situations. When we are travelling we tend to bring these sorts of things with us to fill in the time. However it can also reduce stress in people who are fearful of flying. It is a good way to distract them from their phobia. Another use is if you find yourself in a situation where you are angry and feel like reacting verbally to something, it is worth doing a quick puzzle before taking action. Then see if you still feel like saying the things you were planning to say in the heat of the moment. Using this technique can keep you out of trouble.
Regularly participating in these types of puzzles will help to improve cognitive function and overall mental well being. It is a simple exercise for us to do everyday, however we seem to overlook taking care of our brains, the most important organ in our bodies.
The Alzheimer’s Society funded a study carried out at King’s College London. Scientists researched the possibility that brain-training games could make improvements in the cognitive function of older people. They found that using problem solving games for 6 months, helped people over 60 improve their ability to get on with daily activities. It also showed an improvement of reasoning and verbal skills in people over 50.
There is no excuse not to have a go at these exercises yourself. There are plenty of free apps that you can download onto your smartphone and give your brain a workout.