Jerry Martin: Covid-19 and Sudoku
Sheltering-in-place has changed everyone’s life in significant ways. Many of us stay home and avoid going anywhere.
Personally, I walk my two dogs daily on our many beautiful trails through the forests, but have forsaken most other activities, including beloved pickleball and visiting friends (except with Zoom).
Many home bound friends complain of worry and boredom, two common reactions to our constricted movements, job losses and forsaken social lives which normally provide important psychological support. The economic damage to the world bombards everyone. I suggest we open our minds to some new indoor activities, including Sudoku.
Sudoku, once learned, combats boredom. It’s also a valuable “vacation” from the worries many feel regarding our problems, be they economic or health. It won’t solve those problems, but will provide a calming respite that’s replenishing, necessary to mitigate depression, hopefully maintaining a positive attitude.
Sudoku, a purely mental activity, requires no mobility and little space. It can be done almost anywhere, with little equipment, by anyone who can count to nine. It trains valuable logical decision making habits, skills that transfer to many aspects of our lives. Even bed-bound people can enjoy its friendly mental challenges.
Some of us are forced to home school one or several kids, feeding and educating them, while participating in “distance learning”. These unusually stressed parents would benefit in several ways by introducing Sudoku into the daily routine. Many elementary and middle school children like it, and develop an eagerness to solve puzzles. Not only can this help fill up their day with a healthy mental activity, it develops critical thinking habits that help produce better decisions, while building self-esteem. Sudoku trains how to think, not what to think.
Sudoku is mostly a solo activity, but not always. We have initiated team playing, in which three or four children work together to defeat this non-human opponent. This is valuable practice in learning teamwork, when we humans must learn to collaborate against a non-human threat, such as Covid-19, or wild fires.
It also provides a friendly, educational opportunity for two generations, confined in close quarters, to teach and learn a new skill together. Many kids learn Sudoku from a grandparent or parent, a great opportunity for bonding and friendship, together experiencing success and the joy of completion. Collaborating to solve a mutual problem is very therapeutic, molding us as one in a way few other activities perform. And since our Sudoku Society and I have been teaching Sudoku in many local schools for five years, some kids can teach their adult companions this game, giving these kids a sense of pride and accomplishment, rarely felt.
All medical experts confirm that physical exercise is necessary for maintaining the health of our bodies. We practice a variety of physical exercise regimens that fit our skills and lifestyles. The same is true for mental exercise. We seniors need to exercise our minds to alleviate our inevitable mental decline, resulting in dementia and Alzheimer’s. Use it or lose it. Sudoku provides healthy mental exercise.
It’s likely that you haven’t done Sudoku, but want to learn. I recommend Enjoy Sudoku off the internet. It’s free, gives 14 new puzzles everyday, some for beginners, some more difficult, and many helpful hints and instructions. The Union prints a new puzzle everyday. They’re easy earlier in the week and become increasingly difficult through Saturday. Puzzle books are also good sources.
Sudoku is a different kind of competition. Most contests are between two humans, such as chess or tennis or arm wrestling. Others are between two teams of humans, like baseball or soccer or bridge. Sudoku is always between a human and a non-human opponent, a puzzle. This changes everything. You can do it alone, convenient in these isolated times. There’s no emotion involved, as there is with a human opponent. Win or lose, there’s no bad feelings with Sudoku.
In most games, every move I make is good or bad depending on my opponent’s reaction. Not with Sudoku. The opponent has already made all his moves. Every move I make is good or bad, but the responsibility and result is 100% mine.
It’s also easy to get involved, comforting to know there’s at least something I can personally solve and control, some order I can make out of chaos. Sudoku gives us feelings of competence and power. It’s cheap, relaxing, practical and done at home. Some people find Sudoku attractive, doing it everyday.
Jerry Martin lives in Grass Valley.
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