10 Ways Chess Is Good for Your Mental Health
Besides chess being an excellent social pastime activity, it has plenty of mental benefits. Wondering which these benefits are? Here are 10 ways chess can be good for your mental health:
Improves your problem-solving skills
Playing chess is similar to solving a big puzzle, and when you are solving this puzzle, you have to be fast and strategic.
Your opponent keeps changing the parameters, and to win the game, you must keep up with it and counter your opponent’s moves.
This forces you to develop problem-solving skills that you apply when playing chess and other areas of your life.
Proof of chess improving problem-solving skills was demonstrated in a 1992 study in New Brunswick. The study was done on 450 fifth-grade students, and the results were that the students that played chess scored higher than those that didn’t.
Exercises both brain hemispheres
You would expect chess experts to have a more active left hemisphere as it’s the problem-solving side, but it shocked researchers in Germany to realize that both the right and left hemispheres activated when chess players were asked to identify geometric shapes and chess positions.
Since they use both hemispheres, chess players tend to be smarter and respond to situations much faster than those that don’t play.
Due to the activation of the right hemisphere of the brain, chess players are creative, which again not only applies when making chess moves, but also when engaging in other tasks.
Stimulates brain growth
Just like other muscles, the brain grows when you exercise it. The challenges that come with chess stimulate the neurons to form connections, and with more connections, neural communication within the brain becomes faster.
With a better-connected brain, you think faster and become better in all spheres of your life.
Chess has complex rules. You must remember how to move each piece, the mistakes you have made in the past, your opponent’s playing style, and plenty of other things. Due to the many things you have to recall, you are bound to grow your memory.
Good chess players have been shown to have an excellent memory and, in most cases, great verbal skills.
Helps in recovering from stroke or disability
If you are into mind games, you must be conversant with the fastest human calculator, Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash. When Bhanu was 5 years old, he was hit by a truck that fractured his skull and needed multiple surgeries.
Bhanu was induced into a coma so he couldn’t lose his life. The doctors advised his parents to keep his brain active through puzzles, math problems, and chess to prevent cognitive impairment.
And true to the doctors’ advice, the brain games significantly impacted his recovery and kept his brain active.
Research studies show that playing chess not only helps the brain develop, it also helps in developing the fine motor skills that are vital to people suffering from disabilities or those with stroke or engaged in physically debilitating accidents.
Develops planning and foresight
The prefrontal cortex, responsible for self-control, rational thinking, planning, and judgment, is often the last part of the brain to develop during adolescence.
The brain challenges brought about by chess help the prefrontal cortex to develop, and this helps the players (especially adolescents) make better choices in all areas of their lives, which keeps them from making risky choices or leading irresponsible lives.
To succeed at chess, you need to concentrate to plan the next move, study your opponent’s moves, and devise ways to counter them.
As a chess lover, you know you can’t afford to lose your concentration for even a minute as you stand to miss your opponent’s moves, which ends up being too costly.
The concentration you put on chess is often translated to other spheres of life, and it has been shown that most chess players don’t lose focus on the things they put their minds to. As you can guess, this translates to success.
It can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
As we mentioned above, the challenges brought about by chess lead to the development of more connections that strengthen the brain.
A study in the New England journal of medicine showed that people over the age of 75 that engaged in chess and other brain-stretching activities were less likely to develop dementia compared to their non-chess-playing peers.
Dr. Robert Freidland, one of the study authors, reported that the brain is like any other muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it, which means that when you don’t use your brain, you lose your brain power, and as a result, dementia and other mental conditions kick in.
Enhances your reading skills
In 1991, Dr. Stuart Margulis tested average elementary school students by enrolling them in a chess program.
After the study, Dr. Stuart found that the students in the chess program had enhanced reading skills compared to their non-chess-playing counterparts.
Improves strategic thinking
Strategy is heavily used in war, and in the same way, a general commands the army, a chess player commands their pieces in a battle of black and white.
Playing chess improves your ability to develop strategies, and plans that help you beat your opponent.
Like the other skills you get from playing chess, you apply strategic planning skills in the board game and other parts of your life.
Ready to jump on the bandwagon?
If you have been on the fence wondering whether chess will help you mentally, now you know.
Are you ready to take the plunge and join one of the world’s famous and mentally stimulating games? Check this out.
The game’s beauty is that you can join whether you are 6 or 90. Age is not a factor.
Some people argue you need a high IQ to play chess. Well, while having a high IQ helps, as you grasp the concepts quickly, it’s unnecessary. So, even if you aren’t in the talented class, you can learn the chess ropes and become a chess master.
All you need is time, dedication, and, of course, an open mind.