“Solitaire is boring.” Have you ever thought this to be true? Better think again!
As the name suggests, Solitaire is a “solitary” card game—played alone by a single player and a deck (or more) of cards. It doesn’t usually involve betting or competition, so it’s low in risk and mostly calm and serene.
But did you know Solitaire can engage the mind? Solitaire card games, as it turns out, are good for the brain. They are also fun, stimulating, and entertaining.
What Is Solitaire?
Solitaire is a single-player card game played using a standard deck of cards. It’s also known as “patience” (in England, Poland, and Germany) or “cabale” (in Nordic countries).
The objective of the game is to sort the cards into foundation piles, one for each suit, in ascending order from Ace to King.
Solitaire comes in various difficulty levels, depending on how many cards you deal with and the rules of each game variation, of which there are many.
However, the game’s premise remains the same, and the basic gameplay provides fantastic exercise for your mind.
A Brief History of Solitaire
Solitaire is an old game, though probably not ancient. It first appeared in Europe’s Baltic region near the end of the 18th century. It possibly started as some kind of fortune-telling, where a game’s outcome supposedly suggests a player’s desire is coming true or not.
The period was marked by a rising interest in cartomancy, where people tell fortunes or make predictions based on how cards are laid out.
Solitaire became a part of a collection of patience games published in Russian in 1826. French and German followed that publication, with the English-language collection appearing first in the 1860s as translations of the French and German.
Charles Dickens referred to Solitaire in his novel Great Expectations, which featured a character, Abel Magwitch, who was playing “a complicated kind of patience with ragged cards.”
Around the same time the novel was published, Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, was often seen playing the game.
The late 20th century breathed new life into Solitaire, as the birth of personal computers carried Solitaire in the software package. Since then, new variations have been invented, although they have repeated the existing themes.
Variations of Solitaire
These names are all variations of card solitaire games. Each variation offers unique cognitive and strategic challenges, providing a range of mental activities to keep the mind active and sharp.
Here are some examples of solitaire variations:
- Klondike: Klondike is likely the most popular solitaire variant. The game’s goal is to stack cards in the tableau in alternating colors in descending order. The player must transfer cards from the tableau to the foundation, starting with the ace and concluding with the king.
- FreeCell: FreeCell is also popular and well-liked. The game has eight piles on the tableau, with four foundation piles. Players move all cards to the foundation piles by the suit’s ascending order. Unlike Klondike, players can move any card in the tableau as long as it is in sequence.
- Spider Solitaire: Spider solitaire employs two decks of cards. The objective is to build a complete stack of cards in descending order by suit. Any stack of cards, regardless of order, can be moved to a new pile as long as the top card of the moved pile matches the descending sequence of the targeted pile. The game aims to build eight stacks of cards from king to ace in descending suit order.
- Pyramid Solitaire: Pyramid solitaire uses only one deck of cards. The game begins with 28 cards in a pyramid formation, with the top card face-up and the remaining cards face-down. To withdraw cards from the pyramid, the player must match pairs of cards that sum up to 13. The goal is to match pairs of cards and make them disappear to eliminate all of the cards from the pyramid.
How Is Playing Solitaire Card Games Good for the Brain?
Playing card solitaire games is more than just a relaxing way to pass the time. It is a challenging mental activity that offers numerous benefits for the brain.
Let’s talk about 15 reasons why solitaire card games are good for the brain, ranging from improved short-term memory and boosted cognitive function to enhanced decision-making skills and essential life skill development.
1. Enhancing cognitive skills and memory retention
Solitaire gameplay involves adapting to various scenarios, leading to cognitive flexibility development.
To support cognitive abilities, solitaire players use logical and analytical thinking to solve the game. This will lead to honing their skills for solving problems as well.
And playing Solitaire improves short-term memory capabilities, as players need to keep track of which cards are face down and which have been turned over. As such, this exercise stimulates the brain and strengthens memory retention.
2. Boosting problem-solving abilities
The game requires players to find answers to various challenges, stimulating problem-solving abilities.
As players progress in Solitaire, they develop new cellular connections between neurons in the brain by improving memory skills.
Repetitive cognitive challenges build and strengthen these synapses, creating a network that enhances problem-solving and decision-making abilities.
3. Stimulating strategic thinking and planning
You can’t just move cards without order in Solitaire. There’s a structure to the cards when laid out, and the outcome of a game requires planning.
Therefore, Solitaire requires players to develop strategic thinking skills. Players must analyze the situation, weigh their options, and make the best possible moves to achieve victory.
Cultivating strategic thinking can create possibilities for success in real life. It also teaches players to organize and prioritize their thoughts so they can manage their affairs.
4. Enhancing visual perception and recognition
Solitaire is played with cards of four suits, each with different numbers and values.
Recognizing a deck’s different symbols and numbers requires players to perceive the cards’ order visually. Only then can they place them in columns.
Some strategies or techniques that players may use to enhance their memory skills in Solitaire include breaking down the playing field into smaller groups, focusing on specific cards in the field, and attempting to visualize patterns and movements of the cards.
5. Improving attention span and focus
Do you have a short attention span? You can improve it by playing Solitaire.
It’s a game that promotes a calm mind, as the game demands focus and attention to detail. Thus, it can reduce distractions you experience in your daily life.
Repeatedly playing Solitaire trains your brain to focus, improving your skills for concentration every day. The more you play, the longer your attention span becomes.
6. Reducing stress and anxiety levels
The calming effect of Solitaire extends further by reducing your stress and anxiety levels. The focus it requires is to keep your mind quiet. A busy mind can shut down distractions by focusing on the card game; you minimize the chances of overthinking this way.
The result is an improvement in your mental health. The relaxation it provides helps you to destress and unwind, which is ideal for those with busy lives.
It also promotes non-judgmental thinking as players reduce anxiety by letting the game occupy their minds.
7. Encouraging relaxation and mindfulness
Thanks to its ability to lower stress and anxiety, Solitaire becomes an enjoyable way to pass the time. Its relaxing effect helps combat extreme boredom and idleness that negatively affect mental health.
The great thing about Solitaire is that it’s suitable for people with limited time. It’s easy to set up and doesn’t take all day to finish.
You can play it anytime, anywhere. Before you work, when you have spare time after lunch, or during your coffee break—the choice is endless. You can even play it as you commute with a game app installed on your phone.
8. Enhancing creativity and imagination
There is more than one way to play Solitaire. A traditional solitaire game has grown into different variations over time. And more versions appear as technology advances, becoming part of the entertainment pack found in many personal computers.
This evolution goes to show that a card game can ignite creativity. The way it can be played in multiple ways also lends itself to increasing a player’s creative thinking abilities.
And by allowing a player to practice mindfulness, Solitaire makes the mind healthier. A healthy mind has more capacity for creativity and imagination than a dull one.
9. Providing a sense of accomplishment and achievement
Solitaire is not poker or blackjack. It has little to no risk. You play alone, not competing against another player; therefore, there’s no one to beat but yourself. But just because you don’t compete doesn’t mean you can’t feel tremendous victory at the end.
Playing Solitaire removes the stress that comes with competition, ensuring that the player is relaxed and focused. But some solitaire games can be very challenging, with rules and tricks to follow. So when you complete a solitaire game, you feel accomplished.
When life already gives you so much pressure, you may feel your emotions swirling uncontrollably. You can negate this by playing Solitaire—it gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction over something you can control.
Therefore, Solitaire can be very rewarding despite not precisely “winning” anything.
10. Promoting social interaction and communication
Don’t let the name fool you. While the word “solitaire” implies loneliness, because it’s a card game played by a single player, you can still enjoy social interaction and communication from playing Solitaire.
And even if you play Solitaire alone, loneliness won’t factor into it because the game keeps you focused on solving it. You may even find comfort in being alone.
Meanwhile, Solitaire’s aforementioned ability to give you a sense of accomplishment may spike your confidence enough to boost your social skills. Plus, you will have something to discuss with people as a point of interest.
Solitaire card games encourage socialization and community through online forums, where multiple solitaire fans can interact with each other. Older solitaire players may also teach the newer players, building a friendly interaction.
Here are things fellow solitaire players can do for each other:
- Give learning access to new gameplay and strategies.
- Help other players identify mistakes.
- Offer innovative variations and tweaks to traditional solitaire games.
- Invite to participate in a solitaire tournament.
- Keep players updated with new solitaire game releases and development.
11. Providing a platform for learning and education
Games and education are closely related. Card games, in particular, can teach people of all ages many valuable skills. Using a card game like Solitaire gives both children and adults learning opportunities.
Playing Solitaire teaches patience, critical thinking, and strategic planning. Students playing Solitaire may develop those skills and employ them in real situations.
Furthermore, children may learn how to count by playing Solitaire. As the cards in Solitaire must be sorted in descending or ascending order, children will learn how to count by figuring out which card number is bigger than the next and so on. Training their numeracy skills can help them in school subjects like math and physics.
Older adults playing Solitaire may also benefit. It keeps their mind and memory sharp, enabling them to continue learning skills they may find interesting at their advanced ages.
12. Providing a “mental workout”
It’s not just your physique that needs a workout; your mind does too. And playing Solitaire is an excellent way to exercise your brain.
Maintaining your brain health is the key to avoiding a decline in your cognitive function. Solitaire can keep your brain active because it requires a certain level of mental effort, especially when tackling more complex game versions.
As we get older, this kind of mental workout is beneficial for keeping our brains healthy.
13. Improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity
Playing Solitaire improves hand-to-eye coordination and dexterity. The game requires us to move cards around the table while also putting them in sequential order.
As players, we use our fine motor skills: to grab the cards, hold them, lay them down, and organize them according to the rules. Unlike writing, which requires our hands to stay in one position, playing with a deck of cards gives us more to do—shuffling, distributing, and flipping.
Meanwhile, our eyes work in tandem with our hands. By examining the cards, we practice our eyes to improve hand-eye coordination. Very young children and people of advanced ages can take advantage of this exercise.
14. Can be played at any age
The game’s nature of not being risky makes it suitable for people of any age. It’s ideal for young children because it’s pretty easy but also provides challenges for teens and adults.
A player only has to know the original rules of the game to begin playing and enjoying it. Playing it repeatedly will polish their skills in the game. But if a player gets bored with an easy solitaire game, there are other variations they can try.
Plus, the game is available with a real, physical card deck and on the computer. One way or another, anyone can play Solitaire. Individuals with reduced mobility or severe physical limitations can still enjoy playing it, no matter where they are.
15. Providing entertainment and enjoyment
Playing cards alone may sound lonely, but it can be entertaining, and many many enjoy it. Solitaire has an entertainment valueThere’s because you can play the game in many different ways.
As we’ve mentioned, a game of card solitaire has many variations. According to The Spruce, some of the best solitaire games are:
- Baker’s Dozen
- Little Spider
You can play these types of Solitaire with a standard deck. But there are even more games if you count the double-deck solitaire games. You can enjoy Alhambra, Crescent, and Aces and Kings that are popular 2-deck Solitaire variations.
There are even versions that you can play with time limits. You must complete a game within a given time, and it gives you an extra challenge. This is very exciting and, therefore, entertaining.
With so many variations, this card game has few chances of boredom. You can choose one solitaire match that suits your mood. And if your mood changes or you want more challenge, you can select another type of Solitaire.
The Takeaway: Is It Really Useful to Play Solitaire?
Playing card solitaire games offer various psychological benefits and mental skills that can improve an individual’s quality of life. The game teaches patience, delayed gratification, and decision-making skills. All of these are skills that you can apply in everyday situations.
Additionally, Solitaire is accessible and easy to play, making it an excellent option for people of all ages and physical conditions.
Remember that different variations of Solitaire exist. Each one comes with its own rules and complexities. Exploring them allows players to exercise other cognitive functions, from memory retention to creative capacity.
Therefore, we encourage you to start playing Solitaire and explore its varieties. With Solitaire in your daily routine, you can enjoy all its benefits, improving your mental health and quality of life in this subtle and enjoyable way.