The Healing Power of Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles are hardly new. They’ve been around since the 1700s, and have evolved from hand-cut wooden educational tools to a huge industry targeting children and adults alike. They have certainly stood the test of time, providing education and hours of peaceful time passed. What studies are now showing is that these “toys” have lasting benefits both to our health and basic well-being.
We were likely all exposed to jigsaw puzzles in our youth. As toys they are used to teach words, shapes, colors, 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 is now showing the quantifiable benefits of carrying this activity into adulthood. Studies, like the notable MacArthur study, 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 toy 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 and attempts to sort them out logically. The right brain hemisphere, our creative side, sees the “big picture” and works intuitively. Both types of thinking are required in order to successfully piece the 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 puzzle, or even just the successful placement one piece, encourages the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that increases learning and memory.
The connections made while working on jigsaw puzzles aren’t 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 a 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 takes 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 clear. Perhaps even more powerful are the effects on the subconscious in helping us piece together this puzzle we call life.
Why Jigsaw Puzzles are Good for The Brain
(Published by: http://social-psychiatry.com/jigsaw-puzzles-good-brain/)
Human mind has two separate hemispheres or lobes called right and left-brain with each one dealing in different functions. Right brain deals with emotions and performs tasks holistically while the left-brain functions in linear fashion. When you are able to use both the sides of the brain, you will find that your mind power is harnessed to its best and gets better. Jigsaw puzzle helps you exercise both the parts of your brain.
Left-brain thinks logically and follows sequence while the right brain is creative, intuitive and emotional. When you try to put together a jigsaw puzzle, you harness both the brainpowers.
While working on jigsaw puzzles, it has been studied that there exists continuous activity thought the brain involving all the cells and parts of the brain. This intense activity works to exercise the brain cells and thereby activate them and increase their efficiency and capacity too.
There have been several studies like the MacArthur Study, that has found that people who have been used to doing jigsaw puzzles as well as cross word and were fully active stood to gain a longer life span and also lesser chances of falling prey to Alzheimer’s, memory loss, dementia and other old age problems. Brain produces a chemical known as dopamine that is chiefly responsible for learning and memory. The production of this chemical increases in the brain at the time when it is engaged in solving the jigsaw puzzle.
Working on puzzles and solving them provides us with very many helpful benefits. First of all it makes us alert, increases our concentration and expands our creativity. On the other hand, looking at the images constantly helps us practice visualization, which is again good aid for any physical activity that succeeds mental activity. It also affects our physical health by lowering our breath rate, reducing heart rate and blood pressure too.
Working on jigsaw puzzles and focusing on the same image for longer periods can actually turn out more like meditations and induce a certain calmness and peace in the mind. Mind will now be focused only visualizing the image in front and will concentrate on this alone in exclusion to everything else around him. Thereby he arrives at a meditative and peaceful stage where no other thoughts occur to disturb his tranquility.
You get immense and long lasting benefits out of doing puzzles on daily basis. It not only sharpens your memory, improves your brain function, but the clarity of mind and thought helps you clear out the clutter in your mind and the cobwebs accumulating over years. You then begin to see things around you in new light are able to appreciate your life a lot better. You not only start finding solutions to your problems, but also begin to look forward to everyday in your life.
Jigsaw Puzzles – Benefits to Psychological Development
(Published by: Mental Health Guide, Sat, May 18, 2013)
The simplicity of jigsaw puzzles is deceptive. While the concept is very straightforward – find the pieces and fix them together – there is a surprising level of mental activity required to carry out the steps needed to complete a puzzle. Psychological studies have identified a number of thought processes that are required to undertake what is in fact a complex process of identifying shapes and images and relating them to an overall pattern. More importantly, solving jigsaw puzzles is a great work out for the brain and can actually have therapeutic benefits. These benefits include:
Problem Solving Skills. Resolving the shapes and coloured patterns that make up the overall pictures, including the revolving of the pieces, relates to the kind of basic problem solving evolution has equipped us to deal with on a subconscious level. Our ancestors relied on the ability to recognise shapes and patterns in world around them and spot potential predators and hazards as a key to survival. Completing a jigsaw puzzle taps in to the same fundamental processes, but in a calm and controlled environment.
Enhances Self Evaluation. Trying to see how pieces fit and re-assessing where they might go when they don’t fit is a good exercise in checking and re-evaluating choices. Each piece can only go in to one place so there is none of the compromising and trading-off that takes place in so many other aspects of modern life. This forces the player to constantly re-evaluate their decisions, and teaches patience with the process as it is an integral part of the game.
Improves Learning Abilities. The more a person plays jigsaw puzzles, the better they get at recognising shape, form and colour and the quicker they become. This is a basic learning structure that then passes in to other aspects of their lives. In effect the brain is like a muscle, and the more it works, the stronger it becomes.
Helps With Overall Perception and Understanding. Learning to assemble an overall image from partial pieces when only part of the image is in place, is a skill that translates in to many areas of life. Often, only a certain amount of information about a situation is available and being able to make judgements and draw conclusions is a fundamental practice in coping successfully with the world around us.
Fulfillment. Our modern lives can often seem a whirlwind of activity where we constantly move from one activity to the next without seeming to draw breath. Completing a jigsaw puzzle provides a tonic to this hectic pace, where a period of quiet problem solving ends with the satisfaction of seeing the finished puzzle. This reduces stress and provides a feeling of well-being.
Dementia Treatment. Dementia patients are suffering from a disease where the brain tissue is deteriorating and the functions that reside in those areas are lost. All of the above benefits amount to a workout for the brain, causing the brain cells to work hard. This type of mental activity slows down the onset of dementia by keeping more parts of the brain active for longer.
This level of cognitive complexity does much to explain why so many people are happy to spend hours at a time working on jigsaw puzzles. What seems one of the simplest of activities is in fact an extremely absorbing and therapeutic brain exercise with many hidden benefits. Playing physical puzzles or jigsaw puzzles online is a beneficial activity for kids and adults alike.