Why Are Puzzles So Relaxing?

As we are near the end of the Covid restrictions one thing which came as a surprise to many was the popularity of the puzzle to keep people entertained and their minds occupied during lockdown. Manufacturers across the world have reported a huge demand for puzzles, so much so that many manufacturers were recording shortages! Everybody from sports franchises to rock bands now have puzzles for sale as part of their merchandise offerings. Even before the current pandemic the puzzle was making a comeback, so what makes puzzles so relaxing and so popular?

Today people who have never bought a puzzle in their life are suddenly spending their weekends and week nights working on them. If you visit Instagram you are sure to find posts from people proudly displaying their completed puzzle with the hashtag  #puzzlelover, #puzzlesofinstagram, and yes #puzzleaddict.

Some of this puzzle mania may just be an antidote to boredom, but many psychologists believe that puzzles are much more than just a simple way to pass the time. Puzzles can serve as an exercise for the mind, providing the reward of completion for staying calm and focused on getting the puzzle finished. Once 500 piece puzzles was the norm but now, more people are tackling the more advanced 1000 piece ones that have reached the market

Completing a jigsaw requires both sides of our brain to work in unison. We need both sides of our brain to work together to help build the neural pathways that improve our focus and our recall. Improvements on this has been seen to have positive effects on our mental health.

Completing jigsaw puzzles or any other activities as an example colouring, provide the perfect distraction for the mind and gives us a way to focus on the present time. Finishing a jigsaw puzzle occupies our minds, so much so that you we can lose all sense of time and put anything that is worrying us firmly to the back of our minds. We can while away the hours without thinking of the things that may be troubling us.  This meditative or trans like state is what makes puzzles a perfect tool for relaxation. Believe it or not meditation is often described as two sides of our brain working together just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Focusing on a puzzle calms down the brain as to be focused in this way, is a challenge with only the one real solution of putting those pieces in front of you together which can give a sense of control and really act as a fantastic way to relieve any stress and anxiety. As you slowly complete the puzzle you are in control of the chaos and this can have a calming and a positive effect on the mind.

Part of the challenge can also involve the development of patience and resilience. When you tackle a puzzle, you don’t always get it right first time and it may take many attempts to fit the right pieces together. It may be a rather slow process to finish off a jigsaw puzzle but at the end of the day you can’t get a jigsaw wrong as the pieces are supposed to fit together in certain way, so perseverance is key and is a fantastic life skill to learn.

At the end of the day, when you put the final piece of the jigsaw into place there is a fantastic sense of achievement. It’s a great way to relax, build self confidence and of course feel that sense of pride that the task is complete.