Serious Brain Health Part 2: Puzzling Makes Brain Health Not So Puzzling!

December 12, 2012 22:55 by rob

Who doesn’t want improved neurological health, better cognitive performance, higher mental aptitude… You know, get a better brain box and stuff! 

There are a wide range of products and activities that make an even wider range of claims on how they’ll whip your noggin into shape. However, there is some dispute over whether their efficacy is exaggerated and the accuracy of results from testing and scoring these various fields of cognitive ability.

What is known, and this knowledge is reinforced by this contested field with experts and scientists arguing from all sides, is that that human brain is a complex muscle, an intricate organ, a practically magical spongy ball of smarts that we are still coming to understand. Keeping this still mysterious tool active and engaged is not a bad thing; definitely not detrimental to health or ability, on that we can all agree. Even if certain products won’t raise your IQ to Einstein levels, even if some tests are only narrowly applicable, keeping your brain engaged is definitely a positive!


While software and interactive programs have become increasingly popular – and hotly contested over their claims – in recent years, there have always been activities that keep the mind sharp. Last time we discussed the merits of Chess, and this week we come to jigsaw puzzles. [If you missed Part 1, click here to catch up!]

Jigsaw puzzles have been the gym equipment of the brain for decades, and there is substantial evidence that they help maintain, if not in fact improve, mental well-being. Jigsaws are more than just shaped pieces that interlock to form a completed picture, they are PUZZLES that challenge our brains! They challenge our shape recognition and our spatial intelligence, they stimulate fine motor skills and encourage creative thinking, they require focus and a developing ability to problem solve while exercising both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Through exercising these skills, the brain is strengthened via its natural process of attempting to increase efficiency in a repeated activity.

At Serious Puzzles we offer a huge variety of products under the Jigsaw Puzzle umbrella, and below are just some of the ones that fit the more standard definition. Jigsaws can incorporate a lot of additional aspects and factors, but that shouldn’t undercut the effectiveness of what is commonly understood as a jigsaw puzzle.


Heavenly Peace – Featuring art by James Meger, this puzzle depicts a charming winter scene with beautiful fallen snow, curious wildlife, a cozy cottage, and a traditional Christmas theme. Its 1500 piece count offers a significant step up from the challenge level of the average jigsaw, and like all Sunsout puzzles it was made in the USA.


Cookie Cutouts – This cheerfully colorful collection of Christmas cookies boasts a 2000 piece count and repeating patterns of designs and colors for a serious challenge with a seasonal flair. A reissue of a classic puzzle image, this puzzle is perfect for sharpening the mind on a cold winter’s night or in a warm, cookie-smell filled kitchen! As with all Springbok puzzles it was made in the USA.


Coral City – Piece yourself away to a magical underwater kingdom through this beautifully blue jigsaw puzzle featuring artwork by the beloved Fantasy artist, Ciro Marchetti. The heavy use of blue shades strengthens the challenge of this jigsaw, while the 1000 piece count offers accessibility to most puzzlers. Spiel Spass puzzles are made in Germany


Double Retrospect – Keith Harings recognizable artistic style pairs with a monstrous piece count to form the Guiness World Record holder for largest jigsaw puzzle, though it’s more like a jigsaw wall or a puzzle mural! If you don’t think you’re up for breaking the World Record of 1000+ completed jigsaws, you can at least get a feel for record breaking puzzling by completing this epic project. Get ready for a brain workout! This is like the marathon of jigsaw puzzling!
 

Whether they feature an epic size or complex imagery or feel more along the lines of the standard fare, jigsaw puzzles will always exercise the most important muscle we’ve got. Take your pick, the choices are numerous, and introduce some brain-strengthening fun to your life or even into this Holiday Season’s gift giving!

 


Serious Brain Health Part 1: Is a Healthier Brain Just a Checkmate Away?

November 27, 2012 16:15 by rob


(image source: 1)

Chess is a game of strategy and skill; unique in a world of games that incorporate chance or luck in some facet, Chess challenges each player to better their mind if they want to see victory. The intricacies of strategy run so vast and deep that it has gripped some of the more brilliant and prodigious thinkers of humankind, and to achieve mastery of the game is to enter an elite group.

Competition and victory are attractive parts of the game, but there are significant benefits to be acquired simply from the study and practice of Chess. Evidence indicates that learning Chess, especially from a young age, develops strong character and improved social skills.


(image source: 2)

Playing Chess can raise the IQ, foster resilient brain health to stave off Alzheimer’s, increase creativity and a host of cognitive skills, as well as develop a stronger ability to use foresight and plan efficiently.

 

If you’re new to the world of Chess, take a look at No Stress Chess. This super interactive set enables a newcomer to learn the game as they play, which is a much easier and more efficient way to learn than reading pages of instructions, tips, tricks and advice. There are action cards that prompt you through different aspects of the game, a double-sided board that features hints and help on one side as well as a blank side for standard play, and an extensive set of rules and instructions.

Or maybe you’re a long time Chess player looking for a bigger challenge? Consider escalating the intensity of your Chess game to a full on Chess War with the unique Chess 4. Without altering the core nature of the game or the fundamental rules, Chess 4 manages to offer an innovative style of gameplay to this historic standard; now you can play with 3 or 4 players, play in teams or a free-for all!

Whether you are a long time Chess enthusiast looking for new flair for your board or new styles of play to keep your skills sharp, or if you are just getting your feet wet in this ocean of mental strength and development, there is a set for you here at Serious Shops.

 

David Bronstein, a Chess Grandmaster, once said, “the most powerful weapon in Chess is to have the next move.”

I think that notion has a wider application to life in general. Having a ‘next move’ – appreciating each new moment and every new day as opportunities to expand your mind and experience – is an invaluable asset. Your future is always ahead of you, the rest of your life is always yet to come, and what it looks like is up to you and each choice and you make along the way.

My next move is to the open road; to pursue the infinite and unpredictable range of possibilities and potential that life offers; to take each new day as the opportunity to learn something new, see somewhere new, or meet someone new and remain open to a life that is ever-changing.

What will you do with your next move?

 


1. www.fsclchess.org/Chess.jpg

2. 4.bp.blogspot.com/_Q0lTtPVTG40/TTiPx14SXdI/AAAAAAABlxo/HrGGZwUoIyI/s400/Brain.jpg


Hot Drinks are Delicious - It is Known

October 24, 2012 12:34 by rob

Winter is coming.


Short and often gray days, long and cold nights, and the way-too-dark-to-be-awake-yet frigid mornings, it’s all just around the corner and getting closer with every day. If there is one thing that can dull the bitter edge of a Winter’s morning – other than simply staying cocooned in my sufficiently warm bed, of course – it’s a steaming hot drink. Whether it be coffee, tea, cider, hot chocolate or maté, it’s all good to me as long as it’s hot!

 


(image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grggrssmr/)

 

 

I love hot drinks, and I drink them year round despite what the current weather may be, but the colder months make a hot drink much more than just a tasty beverage! Picture this:

The sky is heavy with dreary clouds, so little sunlight cracking through that the dew on the grass will still be frosted by mid-afternoon, and the morning wind must be blowing out of the North because there is a chill on the breeze – a notable feat considering the already freezing temperatures. You sit inside, peering out at the beginnings of the frigid day, and try to guesstimate how many layers of hoodies and thermals and jackets it will take to keep you warm just on the walk across your yard to your car.

Then the teapot whistles, the coffee machine emits a final bubbling sputter, the iron kettle over your traditional fire pit begins to boil over as you rush to scoop the water into a hollowed gourd filled with dry yerba maté. With a toasty ceramic mug, or a hollowed gourd bellowing steam, cradled in your hands, spreading its warmth to your skin, the world outside looks a bit less cold, take a sip and the heat spreads through your core.

Let frosty winds blow, let the snow fall, let the Sun get away with lazy hour days for the next few months, as long as you’ve got a steaming mug of delicious beverage... Let Winter Come!

 

 

Whatever your taste, whatever your preference, chances are we’ve got the tasty beverage to fill that steaming mug every icy morning of the Winter months. We carry a whole range of Lavazza brand Coffee and Espresso, featuring whole beans or ground, 100% Arabica specifically selected for each roast from key climates around the world, or even bold blends of primarily Robusta coffee for that extra dark and extra strong kick.

Maybe coffee isn’t your speed, but with Autumn in full swing – treetops aflame with the vibrant colors of leaves dying for the season – who can turn down a piping hot and easy to make cup of Apple Cider? If you could take a roaring campfire, an apple orchard, and a crisp fall breeze, and concentrate them into a beverage, I’m fairly positive the result would be Apple Cider.

 


(image source: applecreekorchards.com)

 

Or, perhaps you still want the caffeine but in something less brash than coffee; what about high-quality, finely cut, fair trade, and organic whole leaf tea? Whatever your flavor preference, however bold or light you like your leaves, no matter what your caffeine requirement, loose leaf or in their easy to use and 100% biodegradable tea sachets, there is a tea here for you! Add a bit of Old World elegance to your morning proceedings with a spot ‘o Earl Grey.

If all of these delicious, but arguably mainstream, beverages sound too cliché to you than perhaps a bit of maté is up your alley. Derived from the traditional South American drink that is, in fact, served in a hollowed gourd from which one drinks through a silver filtered straw; Pixie Maté concentrates pack the punch and bring the flavor. Take the original route – a flavor laced with cardamom, vanilla & cloves – or find bliss in the Chai infusion, either way you’re on the quick route to the “gentle hum of an awakened mind and a vibrant body.” Unlike a caffeine buzz, jittery and peaked with highs and lows, Maté provides a balanced current of energy supplied by the potent and unique blend of xanthines as well as a ‘llama-load’ of antioxidants!

 


(image source: voxxi.com)

 

Whatever your preference, we’ve got the liquid heat to fill your mug this Winter…

What’s that? A drink that tastes like coffee, but it can’t be coffee it has to be made from tea, and it can’t have caffeine?

Okay, we don’t have Coffee-Flavored Decaffeinated Oolong tea. Yet. (You got us there.) But have you seen our Chai selection?


Five Reasons Tea is Awesome

October 11, 2012 23:16 by kelly

1) Tea is high in antioxidants; eight to times higher than amounts found in fruits and vegetables! Why is this important? Antioxidants detoxify harmful chemicals in the body, and tea is loaded with them. When you look at populations who regularly drink a lot of tea, you find that overall, they are healthier, and suffer less from disease - including cancer! And - as if it couldn't get any better than less cancer - regular tea drinkers (meaning, people who drink 2 or more cups per day) also appear to have less instance of heart disease,  stroke, and have lower cholesterol! Go antioxidants!

2) Tea has zero calories; but is full of flavor! What this means is that if you're trying to cut down on unhealthy snacking, tea can help give you a hand. With so many varieties to choose from, each full of metabolism-boosting  antioxidants, you may find you're able to replace your usual calorie-rich snack with a cup of healthy tea, like Novus Dragon Well Green (doesn't that sound healthy and... dragon-y?)

3)  Tea isn't boring. In fact, tea comes in four lovely, earthy colors: black, green, red, and white - each with its own unique traits. Black tea is the most often consumed in the West - think English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea. Green tea is lighter, and has a more Eastern feel - think Japanese tea house.  Red tea (rooibos)  is South African and often prepared with milk and sugar, similar to black tea, but with a more mild flavor. And finally, White tea - the lightest of the tea blends, comes primarily from China and gets its light color from the leaves being allowed to wither and dry in the sun.

  

4) Tea can save the planet. Well, maybe we're stretching things a bit, but, if you drink organic, fairly traded tea, you ARE helping to ensure sustainable, earth-and-people friendly farming practices are used to make your cuppa. Not sure where to find organic tea? At SeriousChai.com, our favorite is Two Leaves Tea - their teas are certified organic, fairly traded, packaged in a biodegradable tea sachet within a recyclable cardboard box. They're also super tasty. Win-win!

 

5)  Tea is cool.  And we don't just mean over ice (though, that is quite cold). Think of the coolness factor that comes from having a cup of tea in hand. Don't believe me? Then, let this picture speak for itself (truly, is there anything cooler than the Beatles drinking tea?):