Jigsaw Puzzles: “Burpees” for Your Brain

Many of us are drawn to jigsaw puzzles. But did you know that solving puzzles may contribute to brain health? Can jigsaw puzzles make you smarter? Furthermore, do they contribute to reduced stress and anxiety?

Read on to learn about the mental and emotional health benefits of jigsaw puzzles.

Burpees for the Brain

Remember “burpees” from high school P.E. class? I hated doing them, but I also knew they were a great cardio exercise to build strength and endurance.

Well, jigsaw puzzles are good for your brain, like burpees are good for your physical health. The difference is that most people actually have fun doing jigsaw puzzles (unlike those burpees).

According to a report from Harvard Medical School: “Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.” The authors go on to say that solving jigsaw puzzles can help maintain brain health.

Bill and Melinda Gates are fans of jigsaw puzzles. In fact, they take puzzles on vacation to unwind. If one of the smartest guys in the world is a fan of jigsaw puzzles, that’s a pretty strong endorsement!

7 Ways Jigsaw Puzzles are Good for Your Brain

-Sharpen your hand-eye coordination while selecting pieces that fit into the puzzle.

-Improve your ability to recognize spatial arrangements.

-Working on a jigsaw puzzle reinforces short-term memory because you repeatedly memorize shapes and colors while searching for the pieces you need to fill in the picture.

-Jigsaw puzzles require you to use both left and right hemispheres of your brain, thereby enhancing your abilities to learn and remember.

-Solving the puzzle requires you to use left-brain processes such as analysis, reason, logic, and problem-solving skills.

-Keeping the big picture in mind exercises your right brain hemisphere where you use intuition and a natural attraction to the unknown.

-Your brain produces dopamine as you successfully fit pieces into the puzzle, and dopamine positively affects memory and motor control.

6 Ways Jigsaw Puzzles Enhance Mindfulness and Emotional Well-Being

-Working on a jigsaw puzzle involves intrinsic motivation that produces internal, emotional rewards.

-You can relax and distract your mind from work or worries while you assemble the puzzle.

-Jigsaw puzzles stimulate “in-the-moment” concentration which increases mindfulness.

-As you focus on the puzzle pieces, your attention is drawn away from negative thoughts.

-You feel a sense of accomplishment as you fit pieces into the puzzle and the big picture emerges.

-Jigsaw puzzles can be social catalysts, too. Working on a puzzle with friends or family members stimulates conversation and cooperation.

New Challenges

Tabletop jigsaw puzzles have been around since the 18th century and still have broad appeal. While traditional, hands-on, 2-dimensional types maintain their popularity, we now have new choices to feed our jigsaw puzzle addiction.

3-D Jigsaw Puzzles

Want to give your brain a first-class, super workout? Try putting together a 3-D jigsaw puzzle.

You can choose from iconic buildings, ships, animals, or intricate shapes. Select a detailed model of the Eiffel Tower, the White House, Hogwarts Great Hall, or many more. 3-D jigsaw puzzles elevate puzzle-solving to a whole new level.

Online: Jigsaw Puzzle Websites

A quick search turns up numerous websites where you can work jigsaw puzzles on any device. One advantage of online puzzles is that you can instantly change the number of pieces to make solving a puzzle easier or more difficult. You can also change the shapes of the pieces to reveal a fresh perspective on each puzzle.

Jigsaw Puzzle Apps

Download an app on your laptop, tablet, or phone to carry jigsaw puzzles with you wherever you go. If you’re traveling or waiting for an appointment, the app can provide a pleasant way to pass the time. You’ll be doing something good for your brain, too!

Final Thoughts

Go old-school with the tabletop variety or high-tech with an app or website. Either way, you can use jigsaw puzzles to calm your mind and exercise your brain. Invite a friend or family member to work the puzzle with you, and you’ll create a fun and cooperative experience.

-Carol Benton

Photo by Dmitry Demidov from Pexels


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