If you’ve spent any time on social media since the stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic began, you’ve likely seen at least one friend gleefully share a photo of a finished jigsaw puzzle. During these days of social distancing and idle time spent at home, a puzzle boom has occurred with jigsaw puzzles in high demand.
Why are we turning to puzzles during this time? Turns out, researchers have examined the impact of puzzle solving and have found that it is beneficial to our health. Jigsaw puzzles strengthen and reinforce the existing connections between our brain cells, improving short-term memory. When we’re focused on a puzzle, we keep our minds active, which scientists have found can delay Alzheimer’s and dementia. Puzzles help us strengthen our problem-solving skills and our attention to detail. When we’re solving a jigsaw puzzle with a partner, it teaches us to work on our cooperation and collaboration skills.
They’re also a great way to relieve anxiety, which many of us are working to manage during this time of uncertainty. When we focus on solving the puzzle, we are temporarily grounded and provided a sense of control, which helps us to relax. Researchers at Drexel University examined how the brain responds to problem-solving activities like jigsaw puzzles and found that for many people the brain produced more dopamine, or the happy hormone.
If you’re looking to join the puzzle craze, many are sold out or backordered, but some can be found through booksellers online and at toy stores. During this era of downtime, take the time to test out a jigsaw puzzle. You may find a new hobby that also benefits your health.