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Piecing Together the Power of Puzzles!

14 September 2018

Turning Away from Screens to Jigsaw Puzzle Fun! 

Puzzle books, jigsaws, cards, dice and board games are making a mega comeback as people of all ages are going glassy eyed, having their minds numbed and suffering from social-media fatigue from constantly staring at theirsmartphone, computer and TV screens day and night. Don’t get us wrong – we love the internet! It is a magical place of possibilities. We are social-media addicts too, and don’t get us started on our favourite TV shows or movies! But the dominance of screens in our everyday lives can also be overwhelming, exhausting and all-consuming. 

Analogue activities like jigsaw puzzles and board games are having a resurgence in popularity as a way of stepping away from screens and engaging face-to-face with loved ones rather than through their wi-fi. 

Studies are now showing that not only are puzzles beneficial in the moments that you spend on them but that they also have long-lasting benefits. Let’s put the pieces together to discover how powerful puzzles can be!

Use It or Lose It: Improving Fine Motor Skills

Jigsaws are great for helping young children practise and develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, as well as assisting older puzzlers to keepup the skills they already have. Depending on the jigsaw, the pieces can be small and slotting them into the right position can take some delicate hand manoeuvres. Practisingyour fine-motor skills with jigsaws or other intricateactivities could help you all throughout life with simple tasks like clasping a necklace or fastening a button. 

Improve Your Problem-solving Skills

When staring at a screen, your brain often passively absorbs information, but when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle a whole host of things take place inside your head.

Working through a jigsaw puzzle is a giant problem to be solved! In fact, with sorting the pieces and selecting each individual piece to connect, it’s hundreds of little problems. With so many pieces that fit in one position and one position only, by practisingproblem-solvingwith puzzles, you sharpen your mental skills for solving any variety of problems. Facing a problem and working your way through potential solutions until you find one that works is a skill that can transfer into any facet of your life.

Utilising Both Sides of your Brain Together Increases Your Mental Powers

When you work at putting a jigsaw puzzle together, you exercise and utilise both the left and right side of your brain. The left side, your analytical side, sees all the separate pieces and tries to sort them logically on a micro level (by colour, edge or centre piece, etc.); while the right side of your brain, the creative side, sees the ‘big picture’, in some cases literally in this case, of what the pieces are working together to create. You need to use both sides to successfully put the jigsaw together.

When you exercise both sides of the brain simultaneously by doing a jigsaw, you actually create more connections between both sides of the brain. These connections increase our capacity to learn, understand and remember things.  When you successfully put each piece in place, this stimulates the release of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which also increases your ability to concentrate, learn and remember. 

Time Invested in Puzzles Reaps Great Rewards Later in Life

Research has shown that keeping your mind active with jigsaw puzzles and other brain-stimulating activities can actually lead to longer life expectance and a better quality of life in our later years. This includes reducing your odds of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by a whole third!  A 2012 report in the journal Archives of Neurology, even suggests that people who stimulate their brains with this kind of activity in early and mid-life dramatically improve their wellbeing up to 50 years later! So it is never too early to start doing jigsaws for health and happiness, or to devote more time to this and other brain-stimulating hobbies like reading and other puzzles like sudoku and crosswords.

Mindful and Dreamy Puzzle Time

Did you know that jigsaw puzzles naturally create a mindful state of meditation? This even occurs at the level of your brain chemistry!

The absorbing task of putting a jigsaw together, which you will spend a fully focussed and extended time on, is naturally conducive to mindfulness. But there are also other forces at work that give you that relaxing puzzle high.

When you exercise both sides of your brain, it causes it to move into what’s called an ‘Alpha’ state, which allows us to tap into our subconscious mind, like we do when dreaming. Combined with still being conscious and mentally stimulated, you can enter a creative and focused state of meditation. The dopamine released in this state not only increases concentration but also gives you an increased sense of optimism and confidence – so it positively enhances your mood and outlook on life! 

Pesky Puzzles Build Perseverance 

Figuring out which piece fits where isn’t easy, and, depending on the complexity of the jigsaw in front of you, completing a jigsaw puzzle could be a fun afternoon or a multiple-month endeavour.

Working your way from the first puzzle piece on the table to that last one slotting into place is a practice of perseverance through confusion and sometimes even frustration! But by not giving up and battling through to the final piece, you can toughen up your mental fortitude for any and every obstacle you will face in life. The satisfaction of completing something that you find challenging can’t be overstated and sets you up to keep on trying when the going gets tough in the future.

Piecing Together Quality Time with Loved Ones

Puzzles aren’t just beneficial for your individual health; they also have a great social function too. Forms of screen entertainment, like watching a film or TV show do not offer the same level of interaction or bonding opportunities as working together on a jigsaw. 

While fun and relaxing, sitting on a couch together and watching TV – with its audio and visual focus – takes up most of your concentration in a passive way. When you’re working on a jigsaw puzzle together, everyone’s brain is being actively stimulated and you are working together as a team to problem-solve this project together, which creates a real sense of teamwork and mutual satisfaction when it is completed.  With no flickering and blaring screens, there is the chance to talk, open up as you become more comfortable, have a laugh, and just generally form a deeper bond with those you are with.

So, put down the smartphone and turn off the TV. Social media and your shows will be there for you when you come back to them as a more centred post-jigsaw you. Grab some friends and family and enjoy the many benefits of a jigsaw puzzle!