Puzzles are often thought of as ‘toys’ and of course they are a lot of fun. But they also provide a range of health benefits!
From helping you relax with near-meditation, to improving your brain processing speed, to even preventing serious illnesses later in life, puzzles have a lot to offer. Check out these six ways that your love of jigsaw puzzles can help improve your health!
Mindfulness and stress relief
Puzzles demand a level of thought, focus, and patience that is bound to challenge the mind. Concentrating while you sort through pieces or stare at the image for long periods of time is both meditative and satisfying. As we connect two puzzle pieces together (you know that lovely feeling!), our brains release dopamine, which positively affects our mood, memory, and motivation.
Time away from screens
We all know that too much time in front of our screens is bad for our health in a number of ways. Screen time affects your weight, sleeping patterns, eye and brain health, and even cognitive development. So the less time staring at your screens – whether that’s your phone, or whatever you’re reading this blog on – the better. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t just a nice alternative to Instagram – they’re actually giving you time to wind down!
Short-term memory improvement
As you scan through jigsaw puzzle pieces to find the exact colour shade you need, with the specific shape of the hole you’re looking to fill, you have to retain the details in your short-term memory.
Those skills reinforce the connections between brain cells and help to create new ones, which makes your thought processing faster. Boosting your short-term memory helps with those very important things in everyday life, like finding where you parked the car or… what were we talking about?
A study from Princeton University confirms that jigsaw puzzles can improve motor skills like dexterity. When you pick through small pieces, flip them over, and fit them into small places, it exercises all those small muscles in the fingers and eyes.
As puzzles come in all sorts of different forms, with different size pieces and piece-counts, they can even be used in physical therapy, recovery and in day-to-day dexterity train. Start with smaller or easier puzzles and you can eventually work your way up to difficult 1000-piece puzzles like these.
Reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
It sounds like a clickbait-y claim, but this study from Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience explains that engaging your brain with activities like jigsaw puzzles can reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Puzzles are great problem-solving activities which support the growth of new nerve cells and can reduce the amount of brain cell damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. Next time you’re worried you’re spending too much time puzzling, think of the humble jigsaw puzzle’s preventative power!
A cognitive ability boost
Jigsaw puzzles, no matter the piece-count, challenge your intellectual processes. You exercise your mind as you study the image and its details. As you recognise shapes, colours and patterns, and process them as part of the larger picture, your problem-solving skills are tested.
In a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, puzzles also work your visual-spatial skills as you work through the different pieces, understanding what they are, and how they fit into the rest of the puzzle. Those visual-spatial skills can be a big help with things like driving, packing, and navigating.
Many of us love puzzling as a solo activity, but tackling a puzzle with someone else can also give your overall wellbeing a little pick-me-up! Working together to complete a goal promotes teamwork and prevents loneliness. And studies have shown that socialising and creating bonds with others is vital to your health.
The American Psychological Association found that a lack of bonds with others can be more harmful to your health than obesity. So maybe next time you want to puzzle alone, instead invite some friends!
So, don’t ever worry about spending too much time puzzling again! It’s officially good for you! Why not grab a new puzzle with your friends and get puzzling right away?