My brother frets that when, after a full day of work, he does The New York Times crossword puzzle, he is wasting his time. Perhaps it is a waste of time, but I still love to do puzzles –jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, logic problems, cryptograms, anagrams, and so on. I find it relaxing to turn my mind away from my worries to focus on solving the arbitrary and manageable problems presented to me on the page or on the table. If I am stuck without an answer for too long, I can look it up – seeking answers online, peeking at an answer key, or studying the picture on the box. Puzzles are clear-cut –right or wrong– whereas the rest of my life is a mishmash of uncertainties. I like the clarity of a puzzle. Problem solved.
Doing puzzles is supposed to improve brain function, but I suppose that just about any activity that stimulates thinking does the same. I am sure that there are many more creative, productive things that I could do during the free snippets of my day, but I often choose to do some quick puzzles. They are engaging and calming, and sometimes, that is enough.