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Active Aging

Boost Your Brainpower with These Free Online Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are not only a longtime, beloved pastime, but they also have neurological benefits that keep your mind young and sharp. 

In fact, a study from researchers at the University of Exeter found that older adults who complete word and number puzzles have sharper minds compared to those who don’t. And luckily, crossword puzzles are more convenient (and environmentally friendly) than ever as they’re now accessible and readily available on your smartphone or computer.

Below is a list of some of the best crossword puzzles of 2022, which include something for everyone!

New York Times

If you’re one for the classic crossword, The New York Times makes its crosswords available both through its website and its free app. Both are fully equipped with carefully crafted puzzles at progressing levels of difficulty to ensure there is a puzzle for you! The puzzles are updated every day so you can play the same ones that are printed in the physical paper. Plus, the New York Times offers a handful of other mind-stimulating games that are just as challenging to subscribers. These include Spelling Bee (a game in which the player must make as many words as they can from seven letters), Mini Crossword (a crossword that is perfect for time-crunches), and more. Playing these puzzles and games is an excellent way to keep your mind fresh and on its toes!

Wordscapes

Do you get tired of the classic, black and white crossword but still love solving them? This game is the perfect mix of the New York Times Spelling Bee game and the regular crossword. Wordscapes begins players on level one, giving you approximately four letters to use in different variations to complete the crossword. As you complete the levels, the difficulty and amount of letters increases, keeping you engaged and constantly coming up with new, creative solutions. This exciting game boasts a five-star rating from over 671,000 people, so it’s worth a try.

Photo: SDI Productions via gettyimages.com

Daily Themed Crossword Puzzles

This game hones in specifically on your unique interests. Do you want to be quizzed on your favourite 80s movies? How about singers? History? Sports? Daily Crossword Puzzles has it all. All you have to do is punch in your favourite trivia genre, and this website will create dozens of difficulty levels to meet you at your crossword skill level, all while keeping you up to date on your favourite subjects. While you hone your skills in your area of expertise, you might even learn a few things in a subject you weren’t previously familiar with—did someone say win-win?

Crosswords with Friends

A little competition never hurt anyone! This free game allows you to connect with your friends and family as you learn and improve your crossword skills. Crosswords with Friends allows you to choose the category of your crossword and play simultaneously or asynchronously with your competitors. Your names line up on the leaderboard according to who has accumulated the highest number of correct answers. For every crossword you complete, the player is given a certain number of stars based on the puzzle’s difficulty. The puzzles are updated frequently, so not only will you challenge your loved ones, but you will be kept up to date on pop culture, sports, and interesting fun facts! Plus, your competitors might keep you accountable for completing at least one puzzle per day. On your mark…get set…go!

No matter which crossword website you choose, you will end up sharper and more scholarly after each puzzle!

Categories
Active Aging

Simple Mental Workouts to Keep Calm and Relaxed

You know the feeling you get when you’re sucked into a puzzle, or when you really get into a good book? That’s the relaxation that comes when you allow your mind to take its focus off the everyday stressors and enjoy a new, rewarding effort. 

These important mental exercises can be anything from solving a brain teaser to focusing on a simple mind-body connection like counting your breaths. Mental exercise is just as important and satisfying as physical exercise for our overall well-being. It’s the equivalent of a nice long walk to stretch your legs. 

We’ve put together a collection of mental exercises that can bring a calm relaxation to the end of your day, all while giving your mind a nice workout. Our tips fall under three categories: meditation, puzzles, and relaxation techniques.

Photo: ljubaphoto via gettyimages.com

Meditation 

Meditation, regardless of type or style, has been scientifically proven to benefit mental focus and emotional health. 

  • Guided Meditations

Especially for those new to meditating, guided meditations are a great option. A “guide” will talk you through the process of meditating and offer suggestions for your focus. These meditations are often accompanied by music or calming ambient sounds like a burbling spring or quiet forest sounds. For a selection of free and topic-specific guided meditations, try an app like Headspace or a site like Mindful.org.

  • Self-guided (or Unguided) Meditation

If listening to someone tell you how to meditate is not relaxing, then self-guided (or unguided) meditation is your ticket. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started on your self-guided practice.

One meditation technique is to count your breaths. Inhale, count one, exhale, count one, up to ten breaths. Then repeat. Set a timer for yourself so you can relax into the moment and into your breath. 

  • Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a nice change of pace (literally) from seated meditation. In this type of meditation, you focus on the sensation of each slow step. Focus on the breath and the connection of your foot to the earth. This style is particularly effective in bringing together your mind and body in a calm, peaceful activity.

Puzzles 

The variety of puzzles available today is just astounding–from table-filling jigsaws and paper and ink puzzle books to apps on your phone, there’s a puzzle out there to absorb any mind and give it the space to relax.

  • Brain Teasers

Brain teasers used to come in a strip at the back of the newspaper, but they’re just as accessible even if you haven’t gotten a physical paper for years. Whether online or in a book or magazine, brain teasers are a great way to challenge your mind, inspire creativity, and build mental agility. Pick up your old favourites like Sudoku or a crossword, or try some of these individual brain teasers

  • Physical Puzzles 

For those who relish working with their hands, physical puzzles offer that mental/physical connection. Pick up a Rubik’s cube or a puzzle box, and flip the puzzle over in your hands to work out its solution.

Photo: Goodboy Picture Company via gettyimages.com

Relaxation Techniques 

Relaxation techniques are designed to slow down your mind and sometimes bring awareness to your body or breath.

  • Relaxation for Sleep

When trying to get to sleep, count backward from 500. Yes, it’s a large number, but that’s by design. You won’t be worried about reaching zero and having to start over. And it will take just enough focus to stay on track that you won’t slip into reciting a memorized set of numbers.

  • Mental Body Scan

Start at one end of your body and mentally “check-in” with each body part on your way to the other end. For example, start at your toes and notice how they’re feeling. Move to your ankles, then calves, your knees, etc. For each spot, focus there just long enough to notice, then move on. When you’ve completed the whole body scan, see if it helped you relax. For another variation, tense and then relax the muscles in those body parts as you scan them. By the time you reach the end, you’ll probably feel much calmer than when you began.

These exercises are sure to help your mind settle in and find renewed calm. Pick and choose from these techniques, or try them all. No matter the combination, your mind and body will benefit from the relaxation.