The Health Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles


The Health Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles.

It may surprise some, but not all, just how many health benefits doing jigsaw puzzles can have for a person. We have summarised some of them here, for you.

The human brain works in a linear way and in a logistical manner. The left side of the brain thinks logically and the right side of the human brain is creative, intuitive and deals with your emotions. Many studies have found that when you do a jigsaw puzzle, both sides of the brain are active and in effect by using both sides of the brain at the same time, you harness the full extent of your brains power, giving the brain a mental workout.

It has been repeatedly shown that jigsaw puzzles, as a pastime, help to improve a person’s critical thinking, their cognitive ability and logical reasoning. Doing puzzles help to improve memory, concentration, problem solving skills and a person’s attention span.

Piled jigsaw pieces on a table

Plenty here to give you a mental workout and improve your concentration!!

Puzzlers improve a person’s concentration and general patience, puzzles require persistence, they are a good tool for all ages and they stimulate a person’s brain, whether that’s a young child or an adult. For each jigsaw puzzle there is only one correct solution so a person will be motivated to see the challenge through.

Doing a jigsaw puzzle also improves your mental speed and short term memory by reinforcing connections between the brain cells.

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When doing a jigsaw puzzle, you need to look at individual pieces and then at the overall picture to see if/where they fit. This encourages and increases the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and affects concentration, motivation, memory and motor control. The production of dopamine affects a person’s mood and the more dopamine that’s released, the better we feel about ourselves.

If a puzzle is hard or frustrating to complete, you will get a sense of satisfaction after putting in that final piece and when you finish any puzzle, there is a larger rise of dopamine and a great feeling of satisfaction in having accomplished/completed something.

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The Health Benefits of doing Jigsaw Puzzles

The participation required to do and complete a jigsaw puzzle also improves something that is called a person’s ‘visual-spatial’, this being something you use to carry out  exercises in your everyday life such as driving a car and learning new skills. It is the process of Improving hand to eye coordination.

 Visual-spatial thinking is the ability to perceive the visual information in the environment, to represent it internally, to integrate it with other senses and experiences, to derive meaning and understanding, and to perform manipulations and transformations on those perceptions. It is the first language of the brain.

Jigsaw puzzles require a certain amount of trial and error and encourage the user to take different approaches to problem solving, testing and adapting during the process of doing the puzzle leading to critical thinking which is transferred to both our personal and working lives. Most of the skilled professions, engineers, chemists, artists, surgeons, to name but a very few, all require visual spatial development.

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Once of the most commonly know advantages of doing jigsaw puzzles, are that they are great stress relievers and also a form of meditation. Put simply if you are concentrating on the puzzle without outside thoughts and influences, your blood pressure and heart rate lowers, since you are in a relaxed state of mind and body.

 

Whilst jigsaw puzzles are supposed to be challenging, the right puzzle can also be very relaxing as we transition from a wakeful state to a more meditational state, clearing our minds from external distractions. This state or condition is often called, or covered by the term, “creative meditation”.

Refocusing the mind away from negative, stressful thoughts and influences, decreases your cortisol and blood pressure levels, thereby helping to make both your body and mind healthy (Dr Newton 2017).

form of meditation

Seated Meditation - Doing Jigsaw Puzzles can be another form of meditation

A jigsaw puzzle requires your full attention and when you give something your full attention, it helps to eliminate outside pressures.

If we are more relaxed, less stressful, it is far easier to concentrate, which makes us more productive both at home and at work. Competing jigsaw puzzles with others also builds on people’s communication abilities and helps to improve relationships between those involved.

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These days we are overwhelmed with technology and there are fewer hobbies now that don’t seem to require an app, television or other forms of digital technology, so puzzles can give you a detox from the fast paced digital, and very often stressing, world.

young woman checking her phone

The Jigsaw Puzzle is often a great way to take a break from all that surrounds us

The jigsaw puzzle can be an excellent form of solo activity but they can also bring together, families, friends and those alone, therefore combating loneliness when solved within a group setting.

Although jigsaw puzzles are a great way of having some ‘alone’ time and getting away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life, a unique use of jigsaw puzzles is for the puzzle to be left on a family table, where anyone in that family can sit down at some stage of the day or night, even if only for a few minutes and do part of the puzzle. This creates a sense of family togetherness and a common goal for the complete household.

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It is reported (Mind, 2019) that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression each year. There are many ways in which mental health problems can be better managed for each individual and one of those ways can be doing puzzles. By occupying the mind on one task, by engaging the mind, decreasing the stress, external worries and influences, this will give a sense of calm and serenity.

A study by The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that solving jigsaw puzzles is “a low cost, intrinsically motivating, cognitive leisure activity”

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Studies have shown that those that do jigsaw puzzles and crossword etc have a longer life span and have less chance of developing Dementia, memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study published in ‘The Archives of Neurology’ compared the brain scans of 75 year olds to 25 year olds and the results showed that those 75 year olds that did puzzles on a regular basis had brain scans comparable to the 25 year olds.

Head of research at the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society has said that “Of all the diseases in the UK, dementia is the biggest killer so exploring potential factors which could reduce the risk of developing this devastating condition is fundamental to beating it”, “Although playing ‘brain games’ such as Sudoku may not prevent dementia, it is been shown that regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with the disease”.

Perhaps doing a puzzle, such as one with a nice picture of a certain resort or similar, that has a special meaning to a person,

 Jigsaw Puzzles can also evoke nice and pleasant memories for that loved one.

 This Jigsaw Puzzle of Castle Sirmione on Lake Garda in Italy would bring back nice memories to someone if they had been there on a past holiday

Taking into account all the above, there seems to be many health benefits to doing jigsaw puzzles, as well as the fact they can be a very pleasurable leisure pastime, they do hold benefits for both the mind and body, which is why they have become a very enjoyable and satisfying activity over the years.