6 Brain-Boosting Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles
Ah, jigsaw puzzles. Whether you use them to simply pass the time, to exercise your mind, or to escape from the world’s chaos, they’re packed full of benefits for the brain. There’s no wonder Bill and Melinda Gates are huge fans.
In fact, Bill says wooden jigsaw puzzles are the one item he almost always brings on vacation thanks to their stimulating perks.
If the Gates’ see the benefits, chances are you will too. Jigsaw puzzles boast a variety of benefits for the brain, from neurological development to stress relief. Plus, in a time like today where we’re spending extra hours at home and navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19, there’s no doubt we can all use a hobby that helps us tune in.
Here are six brain-boosting benefits of jigsaw puzzles.
Jigsaw Puzzles Provide a Sense of Control and Accomplishment
We’ve all learned many things from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the biggest has got to be….
Some things are out of our control.
And that can be freaking stressful. We humans crave a sense of control, so finding activities that provide that can be really soothing.
Enter: jigsaw puzzles.
“With a puzzle, with enough time and effort, we can control the outcome, know it will end, and experience a sense of relief and accomplishment when it’s finished,” psychologist Michael Vielensky told The Huffington Post.
Not to mention, we’re spending more time at home these days, so many people are looking for new hobbies that give monotonous days a sense of purpose or achievement.
Jigsaw puzzles give us a sense of creating order out of chaos and, when you open a new jigsaw puzzle, there’s a clear goal ahead. The task is also totally within your power—i.e. it’s up to you if you want to do it solo or with a team. It’s up to you if you want to gradually do it over several days or do it as fast as you can.
Jigsaw puzzles give you a sense of power, without requiring the amount of mental energy that creating something brand new does (like painting, writing, or drawing) because the picture already exists.
Jigsaw Puzzles Work Both Sides of Your Brain At Once
Evidence suggests people aren’t actually wired to be more “left-brained” or “right-brained”. The fact is, we all need to exercise both sides and, when working on jigsaw puzzles, you do just that.
The left brain is logical and works in a linear fashion. It’s more analytical, orderly, and better at things like reading and computations. The right brain is more visual and intuitive. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.
When both sides are ignited, you get an awesome overall workout for your brain which does wonders for your problem-solving skills and attention span.
And in the era of TikTok and Instagram, you know your attention span could use a little love...
Jigsaw Puzzles Strengthen Your Memory and Pattern Recognition
Keep forgetting where you left your keys? Maybe…try a puzzle?
Seriously though, thanks to the brain workout puzzles give us, many studies show that doing jigsaw puzzles helps with memory retention, pattern recognition, and may even reduce the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Since we have to remember colours, shapes, and other details to help us figure out what is the right place for each piece, they reinforce connections between brain cells. This results in increased mental speed and short-term memory. Nifty!
Likewise, pattern recognition skills are linked to a bunch of intelligence forms, from facial and mathematical, to musical and language recognition. Since you’re constantly recalling what puzzle piece shapes you have to work with when doing a jigsaw puzzle, you strengthen those neural transmitters which also increases their speed over time.
Jigsaw Puzzles Improve Your Spatial Intelligence Skills
Spatial intelligence is your ability to visualise the positions of objects and their spatial relations to one and another. It’s basically what we do when we visualise shapes in our “mind’s eye”.
As PhD and founder of Parenting Science Gwen Dewar writes, “It's what Michelangelo used when he visualized a future sculpture trapped inside a lump of stone.”
Of course, you don’t have to be Michelangelo to leverage spatial intelligence. You may not think about it very often, but we use this intelligence all the time. We use it when driving a car, packing or organising, using a map, learning or following dance moves, among tons of other tasks.
Several studies, including this one from 2014, show that jigsaw puzzles help enhance your spatial skills. When you do a jigsaw puzzle, you’re looking at individual pieces and figuring out where they’ll physically fit into the bigger picture (also, hello, metaphor), which is an essential part of visual-spatial reasoning.
Studies also suggest that spatial skills are a big indicator of achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). So, if you’ve got any plans to pursue a career as a chemist, architect, or surgeon, you better get on those puzzles.
Jigsaw Puzzles Help Relieve Stress
Before COVID-19 hit, puzzles were already gaining in popularity. But now, with social distancing and increased stress from the pandemic, they’ve exploded in popularity.
Quiet methodical tasks like jigsaw puzzles are fantastic meditation tools and stress relievers. In our hyper-connected world, they offer a great way to unplug and create a sense of tranquility by allowing your brain to focus on one simple (screen-free) task at hand.
The focus they require promotes a sense of mindfulness (just think about: it’s pretty hard to multitask when you’re doing a tricky jigsaw puzzle). Plus, you’re literally rewarded for staying calm. There’s a sense of satisfaction when you fill in a piece after quiet concentration, which is great positive feedback that helps encourage your meditative state.
Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences, pointed to the stress-relieving benefits of jigsaw puzzles. “If you’re doing a puzzle, you are, by definition, disconnected and engaged in a task that’s immersive, away from the interruptions and stresses of day-to-day life,” she told Reader’s Digest. “And that, of course, is good for your brain.”
Jigsaw Puzzles Promote Social Bonding
“Let’s get wild with our friends and do some puzzles!”
That may or may not be something you’d say very often, but puzzles offer a great opportunity to bond with your partner, friends, or family (as long as you’re staying within your bubble right now, of course).
As a Yale study showed, jigsaw puzzles promote collaboration and cooperation. Instead of zoning out and watching Selling Sunset all night together, why not whip out a puzzle once in a while? They’ll encourage you to work together to solve a problem, promoting a sense of teamwork that you don’t quite get from Netflix.
Not to mention, cooperation is a primary ingredient of happy romantic relationships. Puzzle and chill, anyone?
If you live in a household with different generations, they’re also great for bringing them all together. Gramma, TikTok-addicted younger sister? They’ll all get a kick out of that sweet, sweet satisfaction that comes from filling in a missing piece.
On the other hand, puzzles are also excellent for bonding with yourself. You can use them to to set personal goals, casually tinker away with when you need a break, or to simply enjoy your own company.
Puzzles are all about self love, baby!
Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles That Combine Art, Tech, and Nature
Looking for a new puzzle to add to your brain-boosting, self love-promoting collection? At Puzzle Lab, we create heirloom-quality wooden jigsaw puzzles that merge art, technology, and nature.
We start by curating stunning graphics & artwork, and then create the puzzle pieces in our digital lab with custom computer algorithms before they're laser cut at our studio in the heart of Victoria, BC. We prioritize eco-conscious processes and materials choices, plus our product shipping is carbon neutral through a carbon credit offset program.
So basically, beneficial for your brain and the Earth.Shop Puzzles