Why Sudoku Is Good For Your Brain

I’m thrilled to be ranked No.10 in Bangalore at the Times Sudoku Championship 2019 held on 27th July. It’s an improvement in my ranking from No.15 in 2014. So, I want to tell you how great puzzles are in stimulating your grey cells and helping you de stress and relax.

I love puzzles and other brain exercises and have been solving crosswords since I was a teenager and gave sudoku too a try when it started appearing in the Times Of India newspaper more than a decade ago. I’ll be honest, the Daily Crossword and Sudoku is the reason we even subscribe to TOI. My day without exception begins with solving puzzles (in the bathroom!). 

My husband who used to be Math Professor is also a fellow Sudoku enthusiast

It’s a fun hobby that exercises your brain and gives you a sense of accomplishment — that’s the perfect description of the numbers puzzle craze from Japan called Sudoku. Sudoku only started to become mainstream in 1986 by the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli, under the name Sudoku, meaning “single number”. It first appeared in a US newspaper and then The Times (London) in 2004, from the efforts of Wayne Gould, who devised a computer program to rapidly produce distinct puzzles.

This great brain game is fun to play, and anyone can do it. Playing can even help delay dementia by teaching your brain to think in a whole new way.

Sudoku: How to Play

You’ve probably seen a sudoku in your local newspaper. It’s a puzzle that exercises your brain by getting you to think logically about how to place numbers in boxes within a grid. The point of sudoku is not to repeat any numbers while you’re filling in the grid. The challenge is figuring out which number fits into which box.

The sudoku grid has nine boxes; within each box are smaller boxes that have nine squares each. Some of those squares will already have numbers in them.

Here are brief rules on how you play:

• Fill in each square with one digit, using only the numbers one through nine

• Numbers cannot repeat within an individual box of nine squares

• Numbers cannot repeat down a column

• Numbers cannot repeat across a row

Sudoku is a very friendly kind of puzzle. You don’t have to come to it with any sort of knowledge beforehand — it’s not like a crossword where you have to know trivia.

And though it’s easy to be intimidated by all of those boxes of numbers, sudoku has nothing to do with math. The numbers represent a pattern that could be anything — colors, shapes, letters, or other images. It’s not actually about math. It’s all about nine elements that represent different things that you fit into particular spots.

Sudoku: Strategy and Difficulty

There are two ways to visualize things in sudoku and make progress. You can look at what’s there and what’s not there. By figuring out what numbers you have and what numbers you need, you can start to plug them in and fill out the grid. Scan across, scan up and down — numbers elsewhere in the grid can eliminate where numbers can be someplace else. 

Sudoku games can range from easy to difficult, but their format doesn’t change. The difference is in the way that you solve the puzzle. There is a hierarchy of steps that you take to solve the puzzle and those steps are what determine how difficult it is. The more possibilities you have to get to the winning combination, the easier the puzzle. But if there are only a few ways to get to the right combination of numbers, the brain game gets pretty difficult.

Sudoku: Why You Should Play

A brain game like sudoku, as well as crossword puzzles, taking language classes, reading, and writing, can help delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and protect the brain from decline. Any time you stretch your brain and try something new, especially using different parts of your brain and thinking in a different way, you’re helping to sharpen your mind and keep it that way.

And while it offers good exercise and stimulation for the brain, sudoku can actually be very relaxing. You also get a real sense of satisfaction from having figured out the puzzles. 

It’s testing something you’ve probably not used any time in your life. It may turn out that you enjoy it and may turn out that you don’t, but you’ll be stimulating your brain in a new way.

Sudoku: Getting Started

You can find free sudoku puzzles in newspapers, magazines, and online. You can also buy books of sudoku puzzles at most book, grocery, and drugstores — they’re sold almost everywhere.

It may take an hour or two to correctly finish your first few puzzles. Don’t get frustrated — this is a new way for your brain to work, so give it a chance. After some practice, it will take you less time to solve a sudoku and then you can decide if sudoku is right for you.

Let’s get solving!