What are some good, maths, word, movie, logic games that can be played with just your mind in the dark?
June 26, 2010 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for games/mental activities you can play with nothing but your mind.

When I turn the lights out to go to sleep, I sometimes need something to stop my mind from racing, so I turn to late night talk radio - it is very distracting and helps but sometimes too engaging and can keep me awake for longer than I would like. What I would ideally like is some some of mental game that I would play until my mind shuts down for the night. Maths games and word games would be great or anything else that would use up my CPU and help me drift off to sleep.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is great but I guess that the complication is that I need a randomiser i.e. I cant trust myself to chose 2 random actors to link within six movies. Anyway to state the question simply what are some good, maths, word, movie, logic games that can be played with just your mind in the dark?
posted by therubettes to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Heading to bed now! Will respond to any questions/suggestions in the morning. Thanks.
posted by therubettes at 3:29 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: I go through each two-letter combination in the alphabet (i.e. AA, AB, AC, etc.) and try to think of a word beginning with that combination. Guaranteed to put me to sleep by at least "mnemonic".
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 3:34 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Memorizing games might be a good fit for this. Examples: try to list all American presidents (UK prime ministers, whatever) in a row; states in a country; countries in the world; scrabble words; lines of a poem; etc. Downside is that you probably have to do a bit of "practice" memorization during the day, when you're awake, otherwise you'll never make any progress. Upside is that after a while you'll know all kinds of random stuff.
posted by forza at 3:38 PM on June 26, 2010

Think of random numbers and decide if they're prime or not. If random numbers are hard to come up with, use years of historical events or something.
posted by edguardo at 3:42 PM on June 26, 2010

Like punchdrunkhistory, I list things alphabetically. Like cars or flowers of types of candy. Something really easy so it's not too engaging. alfa romeo, buick, chevy cavalier, etc.
posted by Duffington at 3:44 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Doublets!.
posted by 517 at 3:49 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: I pick words, numbers or random concepts and try to make them relate to each other. Like for example I'll pick "Geography" and "Bunnies" and note that each of them have one letter that occurs twice ("g" and "n"), with the rest of the letters being unique. So the repeated letters cancel each other out. Then, if you take the remaining letters as a group , there is one letter ("e") that appears twice, so it cancels out. Then, from the letters that still remain, you can form the complementary pronouns "I" and "you." So, of course, they cancel each other out, leaving you letters that can alternately form "harps," which is the national symbol of Ireland (Geography) or "sharp" which describes the claws of bunnies.

As you can see, the rules of the game are pretty freeform. And now I wonder whether this comment has served any purpose other than to make me seem incurably mad.
posted by 256 at 3:57 PM on June 26, 2010 [18 favorites]

You could learn chisanbop. Requires your fingers and a flat surface (like the mattress or your chest).
posted by marsha56 at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2010

I write trivia questions in my head. I'm in a trivia league and have notions that sometime I'd like to write a _________-themed mini-league and so I assign myself a topic and try to think up trivia questions that would be difficult but not impossible for people who knew less about the topic than I did.
posted by jessamyn at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2010

What I do, and it works like a charm, is to imagine two things:

I imagine that I hit the Powerball jackpot, and I begin to spend money in my head. This is done very realistically so I don't get bored with it.

Second, I will build my dream house, from scratch.

Both methods put me right out :)
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Calculating the Fibonacci sequence or the squares of consecutive numbers is always a fun one.
posted by griphus at 4:26 PM on June 26, 2010

Choose a prime number, p. 'Recall*' that modular arithmetic is done on the numbers 0 through p-1 by doing normal addition and multiplication and then dividing by p and keeping the remainder. I call this 'mod p arithmetic.' Others call it 'clock math,' as though we had a clock labelled 0 through p-1. You can do this for any number, but primes are especially nice.

Game 1: A good warmup: Compute squares. For example, mod 5, the squares are:

Game 2: Which numbers appear as squares mod p?

Game 3: Compute powers. To what power must a number be raised to return to itself?
For example, for 2 mod 5, we get the sequence:
What happens for non-prime numbers?

* - Recall in math means 'you can ignore this part if you already know it, but here's an introduction to the idea, in case you don't.'
posted by kaibutsu at 4:32 PM on June 26, 2010

Sometimes I think back to stores that I remember from my childhood, like large department or discount stores, and imagine walking through them. Even if the stores are currently in existence they're never organized the same way, so I find that trying to remember what was most near the door, then down this aisle, etc., can be really involving in a non-stressful way.
posted by bizzyb at 5:19 PM on June 26, 2010

Square numbers starting at 0.

Count down from a large number. 300 is usually enough for me.

Starting at 1, determine if the number is prime or not.

Do any random math problems in my head. (1446 - 938, 27*56, etc.)
posted by 47triple2 at 5:50 PM on June 26, 2010

One of the ways I get myself to sleep is a relaxation game my mother taught me when I was little and had trouble sleeping. Starting with your toes you say mentally "good night, toes" then stop moving that body part. You then work your way up through your body, until you get to your brain, but if you move any body part that you have said good night to, you have to start over again at your toes.

Another way I get to sleep doesn't exactly fit what you are asking for, but works really well. I have a collection of old radio shows from the 40's and 50s that I've heard so often I can say most of them by rote. I put these on when I am going to sleep, and because I have heard them, they don't keep my attention, but the sound keeps my brain from tumbling over itself with thoughts.
posted by strixus at 6:33 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Think of a movie. Then name an actor or actress in that movie. Then pick another movie that actor was in. Continue. Don't cheat by thinking more than a step ahead.
posted by rocket88 at 6:51 PM on June 26, 2010

Find random IQ tests on the internet and work your way through them. Mensa has lots of these like: http://www.mensa.org/workout
posted by Arlecchino at 7:44 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Do the memory game-- you free associate and recite the free association string as far as you can.

car ford
car ford river

or play solitaire on some pda/mp3 player (that's what I do)
posted by rubah at 9:50 PM on June 26, 2010

It's not exactly a game but I never fail to bore myself to sleep with a tip that a previous Mefite posted once: Count backwards from a high number like 2,365. When you start losing your place you know it's working, and you're starting to drift off.

Or sometimes I'll try to make a list of things that are easily extrapolated on... for example, I'll start making a mental list of foods I like, but wait here are some exceptions, and it just goes on.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:08 AM on June 27, 2010

Best answer: Pick a subject, anyone really, like cities, or people, or movies, or food, etc and just name one. Then, name another, but the first letter of the next one has to be the last letter of the previous. And you can't re-use words, has to be a new one.

Like, for cities:


You can play it alone in your head, and step back when you hit a dead end. Or play it with another person, taking turns, trying to get the other stuck (nice for killing time).
posted by gmm at 1:23 AM on June 27, 2010

Response by poster: Some great answers there guys. I look forward to putting them to use tonight.
Thanks for taking the time to share.
posted by therubettes at 4:13 AM on June 27, 2010

Thanks to everyone for these... I'll be using these games during long car trips when I'm trying *not* to fall asleep, but need to occupy my mind.
posted by math at 4:17 AM on June 27, 2010

You could try to work your way through the Multiple Mentality Course.
posted by Terheyden at 9:48 AM on June 27, 2010


Try composing a limerick about something that happened in the past day, a person you met, an event you're looking forward to, a current news topic, a vegetable you ate, a work colleague, your favourite sports team,...
posted by lioness at 1:05 PM on June 27, 2010

Best answer: 9 letter word game! Start with a 9 letter word (like upsetting). Take the first and last letters and put them together (UG). Now find a new word that contains those adjacent letters in that order (like plugholes). Repeat. This can go on indefinitely or until you stump yourself, at which point you can just rewind by one word.
posted by marginaliana at 8:04 AM on June 28, 2010

My husband swears by running through your entire day backwards, complete with all the banal details. When I do it, I picture it like a video playing in rewind. I find that it works - I've never made it past about 5pm.
posted by kitcat at 12:51 PM on June 28, 2010

I think of a house or building in which I spent a fair amount of time in my past--a childhood best friend's house, a college dining hall, my grandparents' house--and then try to rebuild it in my head. I think about the floorplan, the details in each room, and everything else I can remember about the physical structure. This usually puts me out, and has the added bonus of giving me pleasant nostalgic dreams.
posted by ethorson at 2:11 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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