Because the full extent of jigsaw benefits are often overlooked, here’s a rundown of all the goodness awaiting your next puzzling session.
Improved Quality of Life
On the surface, jigsaw puzzles just seem like a fun thing to do. Assembling a puzzle certainly helps you relax and clear your mind. There is that deliciously long, drawn-out delight as you feel the puzzle getting progressively closer to completion. Then, when you finally complete the puzzle, the sense of achievement and satisfaction leaves you glowing with joy.
But because life is continually dishing up challenges, you also often suffer from states of overwhelm and confusion. Doing Jigsaws regularly can certainly help, but how they reestablish your internal balance in the face of such challenges might at first seem like magic. There is, however, a logical flow to it.
When you sit down and begin assembling a jigsaw puzzle, all the time allowing yourself to sink into a creative, meditative state, you leave behind your current confusion and begin working on a solution. And each time you place a piece into the correct place, you experience another release of dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for balancing mood and optimism. With dopamine flowing, your brain moves from a Beta state (wakeful) into an Alpha state (deeply relaxed but still alert and focused). This lowers your stress levels and improves your mood.
As you move deeper still into the puzzling experience, you begin thinking and feeling in more holistic ways. You start making connections between things that previously had seemed unrelated, such as the relationship between your emotions and health. As you allow this positive energy to flow without hindrance, and apply it within your own life, patterns emerge. And just like a jigsaw puzzle takes shape, so do the different, disconnected parts of your life. You begin to feel whole again and enjoy deep, abiding peace.
Just about everything involved in doing a Jigsaw Puzzle conspires to reduce your stress.
While concentration is an integral part of puzzling, it is not the forced kind, nor does it produce any stress. In fact, your gentle concentration on the puzzle and the individual pieces produces a calm that quickly spreads throughout your entire body.
The neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released in your brain, moving your brain waves into the relaxed-but-alert Alpha state.
Your breathing slows and deepens, further reducing stress.
As you focus deepens in a gentle and natural way, many unwanted and annoying thoughts that had been plaguing you just melt away. Your mind becomes progressively calmer.
Nighttime puzzling has proved itself as an excellent stress management tool before bed. As you engage with the puzzle, worries and to-dos for tomorrow will simply fade away and your body will soften, ready for sleep.
Several large-scale studies (most notable being the MacArthur Study) found that people who regularly do jigsaw puzzles have a better quality of life and longer life expectancy.
Reduced Screen Time
Jigsaw Puzzles are immersive and easy on the eyes. Not only are they an entertaining way to spend your time, they effectively remove you from the normally invasive digital world. In contrast to surfing the web, playing video games, and watching television, jigsaws have no back light or glare, both of which in excess will slowly compromise your vision.
So the less time you’re starting at screens, be that your mobile phone or a computer screen, the better for your health. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t just a pleasant alternative to everyday digital immersion, they’re actually a healthy pastime that will help you wind down.
Deeper Social Connections
Keeping a puzzle in progress on a table in a public room of the house invites the entire family to take part. Not only is this a tactic that parents of teens can use for starting conversations while working towards a shared goal, it’s a great way to build teamwork and prevent loneliness.
Bonds develop over the completion of a puzzle, and offers of help first flow into a dialog, then into genuine conversations.
Studies have shown that socializing and creating bonds with others is vital to your health.
A Perfect Haven for Quality Alone Time
In contrast to deepening social connections, jigsaw puzzles can also provide a way to enjoy quality me-times. Puzzles are perfect for those who want a quiet, solitary break from the unrelenting stimulus of today’s frenetic digital lifestyle.
Far away from distractions and nestled in your own quiet haven, it’s easy to become completely absorbed in a puzzle. As you sink deeper into the puzzling experience, hours simply fly by without you realizing. And when you eventually plop that last puzzle piece into place, the satisfaction you feel is phenomenal. You did it all yourself.
Unlimited Visual Delights
You can increase your puzzling enjoyment enormously if you choose a puzzle image you emotionally connect with. Then, for the entire time you are puzzling, that image will stimulate your brain’s pleasure centers.
Whatever your tastes or interests, there are such a large variety of puzzle images and illustrations on offer that you’ll have no trouble finding puzzles that make your heart flutter.
Along with the heart-fluttering advice, see if you can also find images that are chockful of details. Blend the two and you will have chosen the perfect puzzle for you. Your puzzling adventures will certainly be far richer for the effort.
Improved Problem-Solving Skills
Each new jigsaw puzzle may require you to adopt a fresh approach from the last one. The colors may be vastly different, the details also, so you must experiment. Adapting to a new puzzle’s layout, colors, and details often requires much trial and error.
And this is an excellent thing. It not only keeps things fresh, it encourages you to learn the value of formulating theories, testing your hypotheses, and changing your approach when something doesn’t go as planned.
This makes you more flexible, adaptive, and innovative, and you become much better at critical thinking. These, of course, are perfect qualities for a superior problem solver.
By presenting creative challenges, Jigsaw puzzles go a long way towards sharpening cognitive functions. They reinforce and strengthen existing neural connections while even creating new ones.
Short-term memory also improves, mainly because of the particular skills puzzling requires: recollection of shapes and colors and the ability to envision the bigger picture.
Because jigsaw puzzles encourage you to achieve a state of creative meditation, you will enjoy many of the benefits of traditional meditation.
Focusing on one image for a long period, with few extraneous thoughts entering your mind, causes the stress of everyday life to melt away. Gentle peace and tranquility then fill your being, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
Better Visual-Spatial Skills
A basic skill of puzzling is looking at a myriad of puzzle pieces and figuring out where they fit in the larger picture. If you do jigsaw puzzles regularly, you’ll improve your visual-spatial awareness, a skill you use regularly in everyday life.
Highly developed visual-spatial awareness helps enormously when doing such things as driving a car, packing a suitcase, reading a map, learning to follow dance moves, and so much more.
Assembling jigsaw puzzles engages both sides of brain, the linear and logical left side, and the intuitive and creative right side.
The left or analytical side works logically to sort the puzzle pieces, while the right or creative side sees the “big picture” and works intuitively.
By simultaneously exercising both sides of the brain, you create actual connections between each side, as well connections between individual brain cells. These connections increase your ability to learn, comprehend, and remember.
Overall, jigsaw puzzles give your entire brain a workout, improving your problem-solving skills and your attention span. Your visual performance also improves which helps with the recognition of shapes and faces and also improves your reasoning skills.
In addition, completing a puzzle, or even placing a single piece in the correct place, stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases learning, memory, and pleasure.
Increased Concentration & Attention to Detail
While assembling puzzles with tiny pieces demands focused concentration and attention to detail, those two skills are definitely worth developing. As you puzzle more and more, your ability to concentrate will naturally increase, as will your ability to discern finer and more intricate details.
The ability to perceive minor details can help you in all aspects of your life, including your work. When you are more detail oriented and precise, the quality of your work naturally improves.
When you’re stressed or agitated, it’s much harder for you to concentrate. On the other hand, when you’re happier and less stressed, your concentration improves and your productivity increases.
When you have difficulty staying focused on your work or tasks, consider taking a break to do a jigsaw puzzle. Even a few minutes can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle anything. It will reset your brain.
That’s why having a puzzle in progress on an easily accessible table somewhere in your home is such a good idea.