Puzzles are no longer just an activity for old people, children or nerds: during the pandemic, large groups of people have discovered puzzles and have become addicted to it. And that's not surprising: puzzles have countless health benefits, some of which may surprise you.
Are jigsaw puzzles good for your brain?
Brainteasers such as crosswords, Sudokus or jigsaw puzzles are not only a fun pastime, but also important for keeping your brain healthy. To keep your brain healthy, you have to keep training, practicing, using and challenging it, whether you are young or old. Just like you have to exercise and move to keep your body fit.
Even people with healthy brains can slow or prevent cognitive decline by keeping their mind active every day, whether it's reading a book, solving jigsaw puzzles or crosswords, or doing Sudoku. And studies have shown that structured brain training is beneficial for people with cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia.
Activities that stimulate your thinking and cognition are therefore important to do. And if you choose activities that you enjoy, you will continue to do them.
Choose activities that increase in difficulty as you get better at them to keep challenging and training your brain. Like jigsaw puzzles of which you choose an increasingly higher level of difficulty. If you choose the convenience and always the same level of difficulty, the benefit to your brain will be less.
If you want to keep your brain healthy, you have to make sure that you are active every day; mentally, physically and socially.
Go outside every day, walk for about 20 minutes. Visit friends or family regularly. And do activities that train your brain. That could be reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, learning a new recipe, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or playing a game together. Clicking through a few videos on social media all day or watching television for an evening hardly stimulates the mind. A challenging activity is better for your brain and gives so much more satisfaction!
Such an extremely difficult puzzle as the starfish is an absolute challenge for your brain!
Ten health benefits of jigsaw puzzles
1. Doing puzzles lowers stress levels and improves your mood
Did you know that when you make a jigsaw puzzle you need both hemispheres? Your left brain is needed for analytical skills and logical thinking and your right brain for creativity and imagination.
Because both hemispheres are busy at the same time, your brain enters the Alpha state after a while; your subconscious is much more active in doing so. You are focused, sharp and at the same time you can draw on the source of creativity that lies just below your consciousness. The Alpha state is experienced as particularly pleasant. We are alert, yet relaxed. In this state you can learn and process information most efficiently. Jigsaw puzzles naturally trigger this state of creative, focused meditation, where your brain can make new connections on deeper levels.
Of course, puzzling can also be frustrating from time to time. If you've been looking for that one piece for so long and can't find it. But once you put the piece in place, all is well again. At that moment, your brain releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes you happier and more alert. Dopamine (also called the pleasure hormone) provides improved motor skills, an increase in concentration, optimism, self-confidence and a better memory.
So doing jigsaw puzzles is an activity that lifts your mood, lowers your stress and gives you a sense of happiness and achievement!
A cat puzzle is good for an hour or two of relaxing.
2. Jigsaw puzzles train your analytical skills
Analytical skills are very much needed in this complex world. Whether you are busy for work, having a difficult conversation or doing odd jobs. You must be able to think critically, analyze data and solve problems. Making jigsaw puzzles is an excellent activity to improve and practice these skills: you are constantly analyzing: which shape fits there? Which color would match here?
3. Puzzles sharpen your problem-solving skills
Learning from your mistakes is important in life. But to be able to make mistakes you have to dare to take risks. Try something sometimes, and if it doesn't go well, you try something else. Puzzling is life in miniature. For each piece you have countless choices you can make: place this piece here or there. Puzzles help us gain the confidence to take risks, persevere and be creative with the problem-solving strategy.
4. Doing puzzles is a very fun social activity
Social contact is extremely important for our well-being. Without social contacts you can feel lonely or depressed. For good mental health, we need to connect with other people, communicate and share what we feel. Then it is especially nice if you not only have a nice chat, but also do something together; accomplish something together. Making a puzzle together is an incredibly fun activity where you achieve something together that you can be proud of. Bring a jigsaw puzzle to a party, organize a puzzle evening, start a puzzle tournament with your colleagues. Puzzles unite and can help you get to know people better.
The elephant is a popular puzzle to make in a group. With 4 people you can have it ready in an evening. Very cozy!
5. Jigsaw puzzles improve your focus and concentration skills
Today we are constantly switching from one activity to another. We are inundated with things that briefly demand our attention: a message from a friend, a pop-up about a like, an email about your order, and so on. That makes it hard to concentrate and get things done.
To train and improve your ability to concentrate, psychotherapists recommend doing activities where you can easily concentrate. Doing puzzles is a fun and effective activity for everyone. Picking small pieces one at a time helps you stay focused on one task.
6. Doing puzzles ensures a good night's sleep
Sleep is important for the proper functioning of the body and mind. During your sleep, several processes take place in your body to allow you to recover from the physical and mental stimuli that you have experienced during the day.
An adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep. To prevent insomnia, doctors recommend the following: go to bed at the same time every day; do a relaxing (not physically strenuous) activity before bed: reading or doing puzzles. Avoid your smartphone or television. Its light can disrupt your biological clock.
7. Jigsaw puzzles give your brain a break from external stimuli
Life is busy. During the day you have to process an awful lot of stimuli: the radio, television, smartphone, commercials, other people, traffic: everything demands your attention. If you do not regularly close your brain for this, it can cause stress, fatigue and depressive thoughts.
Therefore regularly grab a puzzle. Sometimes half an hour of puzzling is enough to give your brain a rest from all external stimuli. You enter the Alpha state, release dopamine and have fun doing a puzzle. You can forget everything around you for a while.
8. Jigsaw puzzles slow the decline of mental health
As we get older, our mental health deteriorates. Analyzing problems becomes more difficult, your memory occasionally drops a stitch. In most daily activities you use the existing connections in the brain. But a difficult jigsaw puzzle can challenge and stimulate your brain to make new connections! We call this neuroplasticity and it can help prevent deterioration.
9. Jigsaw puzzles are good for your memory
A challenge or problem forces the brain to work harder, which ensures that existing connections in the brain are strengthened or new connections are made. This is a good way to improve your short term memory.
If you want to train your memory, make it a habit to solve a problem every day. For example, a mathematical challenge such as mental arithmetic, but also making a jigsaw puzzle, sudoku or crossword puzzle.
10. Puzzles keep your brain younger
You have to keep using your brain. Unused brain connections are cleaned up by your brain over time. By continuing to challenge your brain, new connections are constantly being made and your brain stays fitter, healthier and younger.