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Solving Puzzles Satisfies The Nimble Brain

https://www.npr.org/2010/12/08/131909788/solving-puzzles-satisfies-the-nimble-brain

npr.org

Solving Puzzles Satisfies The Nimble Brain
We've all had those satisfying "aha!" moments -- while poring over a crossword at the breakfast table, or adding up the Sudoku numbers during a long commute. Now, researchers are taking a closer look at those satisfying little breakthroughs to figure out how the brain works to solve problems.

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Puzzles and Cognitive Abilities

Puzzles and Cognitive Abilities

People have loved puzzles since the stone age. It is a phenomenon that is now becoming a craze.

Being able to solve puzzles provides us with an ‘aha’ moment and improves our pattern recognition, memory and other cognitive skills. Puzzles help us in many diverse cognitive abilities and also helps to reverse age-related cognitive decline. The fun, satisfactory nature of various puzzles help us exercise our brains.

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Math And Music

The ability to solve complex puzzles involves being able to process, match and synthesize a lot of different kinds of information at the same time.

Mathematics and Music are two areas that are different yet have connections in puzzle solving.

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A Playful State of Mind

Paradoxically, the more you get inside a puzzle with seriousness and increased effort, the harder it becomes. Just like the losing chess player who is leaning too close to the board, solving puzzles is not about sheer effort, but a playful, relaxed state of mind.

Being able to be non-serious and enjoying the moment helps form the necessary connections that are hindered if the mind is in stress.

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Listening To Music While Working

Listening To Music While Working

While monotonous work like making a report is tolerable with your favorite music playing in the background, any kind of creative work can be significantly impaired if it is accompanied by music.

Creativity: The Incubation Period

After a problem has been examined and analysed, creative thinkers often hit a roadblock, which is actually an ‘incubation period’ where the brain works in the background to process information at an unconscious level.

This results in an ‘aha’ or a ‘Eureka!’ moment when the solution or idea pops inside the head later when we are not consciously thinking about it.

Unexpected Connections

Certain unthought of combinations, associations, innovations and links between remote objects or ideas can be stimulated by specific kinds of music, provided it helps us focus ‘away’ from the problem rather than focussing more on it.

Most music that one listens to while doing creative work is just a distraction, and rather than helping us, it creates more cognitive load on our brain, which has to block out the sound.

Basic steps to solving any problem

  • Understand the Problem, so you know you're actually focusing on the the real issue at hand.
  • Create a Plan, so you have a series of actionable steps to follow.
  • ...

Understand the Problem

Often the most difficult step, because it's easy to focus on the wrong part of the problem, or look at the problem too broadly.

The first thing you need to do is reduce it to its simplest and purest form so you know exactly what you're dealing with. While you're doing this, you need to ask yourself questions to make sure you're focusing on the right things. 

Create a Plan

You need a plan with actionable steps. Ask yourself what's barring you from moving forward and make step one. Step one will open doors to other steps. 

Consider which steps will open more doors, add them to the plan, and keep doing that until you get to your solution. Things will change as you act on the plan and you'll need to adapt, so it's best to keep your plan somewhat open-ended and try to include steps that involve preparing for trouble you can foresee. 

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Remain objective

Great problem solvers approach each new problem as though it were brand new. 

That way they can apply a specific solution to the problem instead of a fix that may go only partway.

List the obstacles

Great problem solvers take a high-level view of the issues involved and jot down a list of all the potential factors that could get in the way of a solution. 

Identify the opportunity

So many times great opportunities are wrapped up inside simple problems.

The problem at hand may be symptomatic of bigger problems with your systems or perhaps your industry.