Monday, July 31, 2006

ADHD Distractions: Fixing Your Brain with Sudoku

(cc) Douglas CooteyDo you feel dim witted and mentally sluggish? Do you have a hard time remembering things because of your age? If you are like most of us with AD/HD you struggle remembering things from moment to moment like grocery lists and the name of that guy you met just last week who your boss introduced to you. But have you noticed the problem seems to get worse as you age? Like problems with heat I pointed out in my last column, people with neurological disorders seem to encounter these problems sooner than the average.

I know that I have excellent kinesthetic memory, especially when writing or typing information. I have fairly excellent visual memory. And I have the worst auditory memory on this side of the planet. But over time I've felt all my mental skills diminish and grow dull and dingy. That's why I'm always on the look out for activities that perk up my mind and sharpen my senses.

I'll take a break from geocamming today to share just such and activity with you: Sudoku.

From Wikipedia:

Sudoku (数独 sūdoku?), also known as Number Place or Nanpure, is a logic-based placement puzzle. The aim of the puzzle is to enter a numerical digit from 1 through 9 in each cell of a 9√ó9 grid made up of 3√ó3 subgrids (called "regions"), starting with various digits given in some cells (the "givens"); each row, column, and region must contain only one instance of each numeral. Completing the puzzle requires patience and logical ability.

Sounds a bit complicated, doesn't it? That's what you get for letting geeks describe things. Sudoku is a number puzzle that requires no math. Each row must have numbers 1 through 9. Each block, or cell, must also have numbers 1 through 9. The puzzle is a 9x9 grid broken into 9 blocks. Your job is to figure out which numbers are missing and put them back in using the process of elimination.

There are techniques you can employ, if you wish, to speed up the solution process. I found an excellent resource at Sudoku of the Day that covers all the best techniques with diagrams. There is plenty there for Sudoku novices and experts. You can also print off a new Sudoku every day if you don't have access to the daily Sudoku in your local paper. I use Astroware's Sudoku, a shareware app for your PDA, as a break. Amazon has quite a few Sudoku products. There is also a Sudoku board game. I am not the speediest digit on the block but I like Sudoku because it forces me to think and prioritize and focus which I think can only be helpful in training my mind to overcome AD/HD as a whole. I also think it's fun. There are some wild claims made about Sudoku, but most theories hold Sudoku as an excellent activity that promotes memory retention and increases mental acuity. Brain Age for the Nintendo DS is all the rage in Japan for this very reason. I plan on trying it out to see if it matches up to the hype. (Amazon link)

Here are some excellent sites that feature free Sudoku puzzles:

The Daily Sudoku
Sudoku of the Day
Web Sudoku - This will be your favorite if you don't want to bother printing out the Sudoku puzzle. You also get to compare your times against others.

Do I think that a simple game of Sudoku will cure me of AD/HD? No, but it can't hurt. A good analogy would be that my Swiss Cheese brain is like a boat with a hole in the bottom and most days I spend my time bailing with a Dixie Cup just to stay afloat. But Sudoku helps me feel like I've traded up to a bucket. I don't think I can reverse things, but I like how I feel when I've completed a series of puzzles. For me that's a good thing. So give it a try. At the worst you'll have a new constructive distraction to choose from. Just stay away from the fiendishly hard Sudoku. They'll eat up a half hour of your time easily if not more. I try to keep to the simple Sudoku so I can finish them off quickly and get back to work. Have fun!

(I am collecting constructive distractions for this weekly feature. If you have some to suggest please leave them in the comments below. Registration is not necessary. You can even post anonymously.)