Fire and wire your brain with new challenges, like pattern recognition.

Neuroscientists will tell you you’re never too old to learn something new or wire new pathways in your brain. As we all now know, meditation and mindfulness are two excellent ways to grow more gray matter. They’re all about focus. Games like golf are a grand form of mindfulness training, too, when we quiet our minds, rehearse, and connect our movement to a vision. One more way playing is good for us!

My latest playtime passion in the endless quest for vitality and a bigger, better brain? Puzzles.¬†The more pieces the better. The Christmas holiday was spent in wrestling a particularly diabolical Liberty Puzzle to the ground. It took four of us, laser focused, and frankly obsessed, to lay the last piece into this 500 piece puzzle (Winterlands, by David Newton, below, if you’re interested).

THE BRAIN’S PLEASURE CENTERS

There’s a pleasure center in the brain (nucleus accumbens) that’s tickled and satisfied when you find that one pesky piece after a long and frustrating search. And the reward? A delightful surge of dopamine.

There were high fives all around when we finally completed those brain-twisting branches of Winterland. My hostess framed it and gave it to me as a parting memento of a great holiday and maniacal teamwork. With champagne.

PATTERN RECOGNITION

Liberty makes gorgeous wooden puzzles, famous for their intricate patterns and shapes. And sense of humor. There will always be a figure or two swizzling a bottle of something or other – and dancing. Always dancing. You’ll feel like you’ve been in very good, cheery company when you tackle one of these. And relaxed, believe it or not.

 

PUZZLE RESOURCES 

Liberty Puzzles, Galison, Puzzle Warehouse and Etsy are four resources I’ve found and like so far. I don’t represent any of these companies. Just love their products. Liberty puzzles are a little pricey, so if you’re just starting out, you might want to check out Puzzle Warehouse where there’s a huge assortment of cardboard puzzles. Galison has some beauties, too. There you can choose the number of pieces you want to tackle and see if this addictive pastime is for you. If you have other puzzle resources to recommend, please share! I’m always on the lookout for something new and challenging to wrap my greying head around. (More on that later.)Annie Jaroszewicz Equipt for play founder and designer