The Many Surprising Benefits of Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles may seem like they’re purely for entertainment purposes, but that is far from the case. While working on a jigsaw can certainly keep you occupied for hours on end (and out of the grasp of the doom scroll), this beloved pastime holds a lot of value beyond recreation. Not only are puzzles good for your brain, but they also have a slew of other benefits - eight of them, in fact.
1. Left and Right Brain Stimulation
The human brain is divided into two halves: the left and the right. The left brain is responsible for logistics and linear thinking, operating on facts and thinking in words. The right brain, on the other hand, is the art center, operating on intuition and imagination. The theory is that we are either left- or right-brain dominant. When you work on jigsaw puzzles though, you are utilizing both hemispheres of the brain. Now that’s what we call a mental workout!
2. Remembering What You Did Yesterday
Or what you ate for lunch 45 minutes ago. Working on a jigsaw helps reinforce the connection between brain cells and can even create new ones. Puzzles help your brain with memory retention, processing speeds, and mental reasoning. Some studies even suggest that doing this brain-training activity can prevent or delay memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer's as you get further on in life.
3. Solve Problems Better
Another benefit of puzzles is that it increases your problem-solving skills and ability to think critically. These skills are useful in nearly every life situation, so even if you have a hard time with them now, working on jigsaw puzzles can help you hone and enhance them. Puzzles require you to learn by trial and error and tackle it from different approaches to solve them. Not only does your brain formulate and test multiple solutions, but it also allows you to learn how to change tack if not successful the first time. How’s that for a life lesson?
4. Mood Enhancer
In a grumpy mood? Break out a jigsaw puzzle! Working on this brain teaser increases dopamine production, the feel-good chemical that triggers the brain’s satisfaction, pleasure, and motivation. You know how gratifying it is to put the last piece of the puzzle in place. Well, your brain is actually doing a happy dance the entire time you’re engaging with the puzzle. The release of dopamine not only helps regulate your mood but also helps with your concentration and memory, further contributing to the puzzle benefits mentioned above.
5. Big Picture Visualization
What are jigsaw puzzles if not a big-picture project? Working on this activity requires you to look at individual pieces and reason how they will fit together to complete the puzzle. Regularly doing this will help increase your visual and spatial awareness and reasoning. This will assist you in other areas of your life too, like driving a car, flawlessly packing your suitcase with everything you need and not going over the weight limit, reading a map, and learning dance moves.
6. Stress Buster
We’ve touched on jigsaw puzzles being a mood booster, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they can decrease your stress levels as well. Even though working on puzzles requires concentration, they are a relaxing leisure activity and can encourage your brain to enter a meditative state since it's only focusing on one task at a time. This contributes to a more positive mindset and overall ability to better manage your stress.
7. Boost IQ
While we can’t guarantee that it will turn you into a genius, one of the benefits of jigsaw puzzles is that they can increase your IQ on average by 4 points. As we mentioned above, working on puzzles for brain memory is a key benefit, and when you complete activities for memory training, it enhances your language and reasoning skills. This will, in turn, sharpen your concentration and understanding. Thus, working on a puzzle for 25 minutes a day can boost your IQ.
8. Conversation Starter
Instead of sitting around in awkward silence or making unwanted small talk, bring out a puzzle! Puzzles are a great conversation starter and a fun activity that can include everyone in the group. Some parents will even use this as a tactic to encourage their teenagers to connect with them by working together towards a common goal.
Alternatively, if you want to hang out with your friends or family, but don’t have much to say, working on a puzzle can bring you together without having to talk to one another.
Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Your Brain?
TL;DR - yes, puzzles are good for your brain. Puzzles can help lower anxiety, elevate your mood, improve your mental reasoning and spatial awareness, help you problem-solve and enhance your short-term memory. They also lower stress levels, give your brain a mental workout, and can even increase your IQ score. An added benefit: you can work on them alone or in a group.