Jigsaw puzzles are hardly new. They have been around since the 1700’s, and have evolved from hand-cut wooden educational tools to a huge industry targeting children and adults alike. Jigsaw Puzzles have certainly stood the test of time, providing education and hours of peaceful time passed. What studies are now showing is that jigsaw puzzles have lasting benefits both to our health and basic well-being.
We were all more than likely exposed to jigsaw puzzles when we were kids and in our youth. As toys they are used to teach words, shapes, colours and geography and provide focused, quiet time for children and parents alike. They’re used in schools to educate, in waiting rooms to pacify and are thought to develop fine motor skills in children and prepare them for reading.
Research shows the quantifiable benefits of carrying this activity into adulthood. Studies have shown that keeping the mind active with jigsaw puzzles and other mind-flexing activities can actually lead to a longer life expectancy, a better quality of life and reduce our chances of developing certain types of mental illness, including memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer’s Disease (by an amazing third).
But how does this simple pastime using jigsaw puzzles accomplish such amazing things? Most likely it is due to the simultaneous use of both sides of the brain. The left brain hemisphere, our analytical side, sees all of the separate pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and attempts to sort them out logically. The right brain hemisphere, or creative side, sees the “big picture” and works intuitively. Both types of thinking are required in order to successfully piece the jigsaw puzzle together. In exercising both sides of the brain at the same time, we create actual “connections” between the left and right sides, as well as connections between individual brain cells. These connections increase our ability to learn, to comprehend, and to remember. In addition, completing a jigsaw puzzle, or even just the successful placement of one piece, encourages the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that increases learning and memory.
The connections made while working on a Jigsaw puzzle are not limited to our brain cells. Exercising both sides of the brain simultaneously also allows the brain to move from a Beta state, the wakeful mind, into an “alpha” state, the same mental state experienced while dreaming. The Alpha state is where we tap into our subconscious mind. Jigsaw puzzles naturally induce this state of creative, focused meditation, where connections can be made on deeper levels.
The jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for life. Challenges we face with our jobs, relationships and health can leave us confused and overwhelmed. These challenges are easily likened to the fragmented jigsaw puzzle, with so many disconnected pieces and no clear starting point. By physically piecing the jigsaw puzzle together while in a powerfully creative meditative state, we are shifting the focus in our subconscious from confusion and inundation to proactively working on the solution. We become “rewired” to take a more balanced, holistic view of our lives, considering all the little pieces, but also how they fit into the big picture. We begin to make connections between things that may have previously seemed unrelated, such as relationships between our emotions and our state of health. Patterns begin to make sense as we focus that positive energy and apply it within our own lives. As the jigsaw puzzle take shape, the different parts of our lives start coming together to form a sensible picture.
Jigsaw Puzzles are a unique activity that allows us to achieve a state of creative meditation, while providing a fun activity that imparts a sense of accomplishment. The benefits to the brain are becoming more and more clear. Perhaps even more powerful are the effects on the subconscious in helping us piece together this puzzle we call life.
In our world of electronic gadgetry, the old- fashioned jigsaw puzzle is not considered to be sexy or exciting, so it cannot possibly be any fun. But jigsaw puzzles are a great source of frugal entertainment. As you pass the jigsaw puzzles in the toy department on the way to the more glamorous Lego’s, iPads and console games, here are some reasons why you should stop and take a longer look at jigsaw puzzles.
Jigsaw Puzzles are inexpensive. They are cheaper than many other toys and entertainment choices. You can buy a 1000 piece puzzle for less than most other forms of entertainment and get hours of fun and you can find boxes with multiple puzzles included for great value. And the price only goes down if you buy on sale or clearance puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles are for all ages & ability levels. You can find jigsaw puzzles with big pieces that work well for little kids or those with dexterity problems. There are jigsaw puzzles that contain many thousands of pieces if you need a challenge or puzzles that are all one colour if you want to make yourself crazy. There are plenty that are middle of the road. Whatever your ability, age or amount of free time, you can find a puzzle that will work for you.
Jigsaw puzzles last. A puzzle can provide quite a few hours of entertainment. Given the inexpensive cost, you get a lot of entertainment time for you dollar. Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent activity for your brain. They challenge your dexterity, spatial reasoning, and logic. Even better, they work both sides of your brain simultaneously, something few other activities do. The creative side works to see the finished product, while the logical side works to fit the pieces. Jigsaw puzzles are also great for sociable interaction. While a jigsaw puzzle taxes your brain, it’s not so demanding that you can’t talk with your friends or family while working on it. You don’t need electricity to work on a jigsaw puzzle (at least during the daytime), unlike video games or movies. this means they don’t add to your power bill.
Jigsaw puzzles improve your concentration. There is nothing like finding the right piece to go into the puzzle. You also learn patience because it can be quite a while before the jigsaw puzzle starts to come together and you have to keep plugging away at it until it does. Jigsaw puzzles also help your subconscious. Puzzles give your subconscious a chance to work on other things. Working a jigsaw puzzle allows your mind to rest and think about other things. Whenever something big is bothering you or when you need to find a solution to a problem, pull out a jigsaw puzzle and see if you can come up with some ideas & solutions while puzzling, you might just be surprised. Jigsaw puzzles are also inexpensive artworks. If you glue finished puzzles and mount them, you’ve got some beautiful artwork to display for all to see. Jigsaw puzzle glue and frames or mounting boards are inexpensive and can transform your puzzles.
Jigsaw puzzles are also educational tools. You can learn about art and geography from jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles of famous paintings and places could inspire you to look for more information. Jigsaw puzzles can also help with arthritis. They provide a gentle and enjoyable way for patients to improve dexterity and exercise their hands. Moving puzzle pieces, picking puzzle pieces up and turning them doesn’t seem like much to someone with normal dexterity, but to an arthritis sufferer it can be a meaningful challenge. The next time you’re looking for some entertainment on a budget, don’t just skip past a jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles are cheap and they give you a lot of benefits for very little money. You can’t say that about many other forms of entertainment. Making these even more budget friendly, the chances are, you probably have a few neglected jigsaw puzzles tucked away in your cupboards right now, so why not get the jigsaw puzzles out and give it a go.
Challenge your brain by doing things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, board games that involve counting, word building, trivia/knowledge, memory tasks and jigsaw puzzles as they all strengthen the brain and the more different kinds of things you do, the more areas of the brain you stimulate, so happy puzzling.