Why Are Brain Teasers So Good for Your Brain?

5 min read -
Shannon Terrell
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Table of Contents
Highlights: Ever heard of the phrase “use it or lose it?” Brain teasers can help our brains stay in tip top shape, and it’s all thanks to the power of lateral thinking.

We’ve all encountered brain teasers, most of us quite early on in life. Perhaps your first brain teaser was given to you by your elementary school teacher. Maybe you found one on the back of a cereal box. You might have even been given a book of mind teasers from a friend or family member as a birthday gift.

The real beauty of these brain games? They’re timeless. No matter how young or old you are, you can enjoy the cognitive challenge the brain teaser presents.

We play these thinking puzzles for fun, challenging ourselves to find the right answer. But what we don’t realize is that mind teasers are so much more than simple games.

In fact, they have the potential to rewire your brain — if practiced often enough.

How do these brain games work and why are they so good for us? Let’s explore the cognitive impact of brain teasers and why they’re so good for our brains.

4 Riddles (With Answers) to Get You Started

Before we explore how brain teasers help strengthen the brain, let’s try a few riddles!

Here are four short riddles to get you started:

  1. You can find me on Mercury, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, but not Venus or Neptune. What am I?
  2. You can hold me close to your heart without using your hands or your arms. What am I?
  3. I travel the world, yet never leave the corner. What am I?
  4. They say that I’m golden, but that if you so much as whisper my name, I disappear. What am I?

The answers:

  1. (The letter R.)
  2. (Your breath.)
  3. (A postage stamp.)
  4. (Silence.)

So, how did you do? We’re sure you rocked it. Now that we’ve got your brain fired up, let’s take a look at how brain teasers work.

How a Brain Teaser Is Built for Lateral Thinking

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how brain teasers benefit the brain, we must first understand how they work.

A brain teaser is a thinking puzzle. Logic puzzles (like Sudoku) and riddles are both forms of brain teasers, but these puzzles come in many shapes and forms.

A brain teaser is short, often just a few sentences long, but to arrive at the correct answer, you must use lateral thinking skills. Another way of describing lateral thinking is thinking outside the box.

Lateral thinking is a form of problem-solving that utilizes a more creative, less direct approach to the problem. Analytical, logical problem-solving encourages vertical thinking, which is an approach we’re often taught when dealing with math equations.

Lateral thinking is the indirect approach. It helps us view problems in an entirely new light. It helps us find unique, creative solutions we might never have before imagined.

Brain puzzles vs. brain teasers: what’s the difference?

Brain puzzles and teasers are often used interchangeably, they’re not quite the same thing!

A brain teaser is usually verbal or written—a few sentences or a short paragraph that describes a unique problem or conundrum for you to solve. Riddles are a form of a brain teaser.

Brain puzzles are games that also challenge our thinking but may require logic or vertical analysis to solve. Brain puzzles can even be physical objects!

Here are some common brain puzzles you might have encountered:

  • Crossword puzzle
  • Rebus puzzle
  • Sudoku
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Logic grid

Some brain puzzles, like rebus puzzles, require lateral thinking to solve. But other brain puzzles, like logic grids and sudoku, use traditional analysis.

The real question is: how do these brain puzzles and teasers help improve our thinking?


Brain Teaser Riddles Can Help Improve Cognitive Function

The brain is neuroplastic, meaning it has the ability to shift and change over time. Many people believe our brains age as we do, growing less powerful, less capable, and less competent over time.

What most don’t realize, however, is that you have the ability to manipulate your brain the way a sculptor molds clay.

The brain is susceptible to all we expose it to—people, music, work—even the physical environments we traverse on a day-to-day basis. Everything we partake in has the potential to subtly shift the wiring of our brain.

The question is: how do we wire our brains for the better?

That’s where brain puzzles and teasers come in. We can enhance our mental fitness by exposing the brain to puzzles that challenge our normal modes of thinking.

Ever heard of the phrase “use it or lose it?” That’s quite literally true when it comes to the way our brains age. When we don’t actively seek novel experiences that expose our minds to all sorts of new and challenging stimuli, our neuroreceptors die-off from disuse.

Brain teasers can help keep the mind stimulated by encouraging it to think and act in new and novel ways. Lateral thinking keeps us feeling fresh, creative, and on our toes, so to speak, when tackling new problems. And we aren’t often given the opportunity to exercise lateral thinking in our day-to-day lives.

Brain games, teasers, and brain riddles offer that opportunity.

So, the next time you attempt to solve a riddle, remember that while it’s all in good fun, you’re also strengthening your brain!

3 brain teasers that require some serious thinking

Before you go, we’ve got a couple more brain teasers for you to try. Share them with family and friends and see how many you’re able to guess correctly! But be warnedthese ones are real stumpers!

  1. You’re being chased through a labyrinth and need to escape. You’ve reached a dead end with three doors before you. The door on the left leads to a blazing inferno, the door on the right leads to a group of expertly trained assassins, and the door in the center leads to a ferocious lion that hasn’t eaten in three months. Which door do you choose?
  2. You stand in a dark room with a wood stove, an oil lamp, and a candle. You only have one match. What do you light first?
  3. A woman stands on one side of a stream and her dog stands on the other. The woman calls her dog over to her. The dog crosses the stream and gets to the other side without getting wet. The dog didn’t use a rock, log, or bridge to cross the stream. How is this possible?

Spoiler alert: brain teaser answers

  1. The center door. A lion that hasn’t eaten in three months is most likely dead.
  2. The match.
  3. It was winter and the stream was frozen.

Did any of these thinking puzzles leave you stumped? 

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Shannon Terrell

Shannon Terrell

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