The Upsides of Solving Jigsaws (and How to Tackle Them)

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Solving a jigsaw used to be a pastime to enjoy at Christmas, while overstuffed with chocolate. Since doing a few more than usual during lockdown though, I discovered some surprising upsides to enjoying the odd puzzle. Some of them might surprise you if you’re a novice. Even if you’re a more seasoned puzzler and know about most of them, there may be one or two you’re unaware of. Read on to find out.

Doing puzzles can be a great, fun hobby that can help us relax. They also afford us an opportunity to take a break from our screens and improve our mental and physical health. On top of that, solving jigsaw puzzles has many other benefits. They can help children develop problem-solving skills and can be educational. They can help improve your mood and memory, and may even help stave off certain illnesses — like Alzheimer’s— which are more prevalent amongst the elderly.

Later, we’ll explore some of the best types of jigsaws out there and discover some tips on how to tackle them. First though, let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can get if you take up this fun, stimulating hobby.

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

Benefits of solving jigsaws

Here are some of the main benefits you can enjoy if you start doing jigsaws.

They offer a great way to reduce stress

There’s little doubt of the feel-good factor you get when you finally find a missing piece and fill that pesky gap. It’s highly rewarding, can stave off boredom, and help you rid yourself of the stress of the day, as well as boost your mood.  

They exercise your brain

Puzzles give both the left and right sides of your brain a workout. The right side of the brain is more concerned with intuitive thinking, emotions, and creativity. The left side is the more methodical, objective, logical side.

When you’re engaged in puzzle solving, both sides of your brain must work together and communicate. The occipital lobe is activated too, as that is the part that connects shapes and colours. Doing jigsaws regularly could help slow or even stop cognitive decline.

If you enjoy practicing mindfulness, doing puzzles is a great way to practice it because you need to focus on the present moment to succeed.

Improve your visual-spatial reasoning

In order to complete a jigsaw, you have to place different smaller pieces within a bigger picture. Doing that often can improve your spatial reasoning.

Improve your memory

Doing jigsaws helps strengthen the neural pathways and connections in your brain and increases the speed at which new connections form, which speeds up your thought processes and can boost your short-term memory. That’s because you have to search for pieces that match the shape and colour you need whilst imagining which pieces fit together. Increasing neural connections also helps improve your ability to learn and understand new concepts. This can be especially useful for children and can be a fun way to help them learn whilst improving their problem-solving skills and memory.

Increase your attention to detail

You must pay attention to detail when doing a jigsaw puzzle, especially if it’s one with lots of small pieces. To complete it, you need to learn how to spot tiny differences in the shape and colour of the pieces. Developing the skill of spotting small details can help in all areas of life. It might be particularly useful at work because when you learn precision and attention to detail, the quality of your work will improve.   

Improve your productivity

We’ve already seen how doing jigsaws can help you relax and boost your mood. It follows that when you’re happier, it’s easier to concentrate, and increased concentration helps improve productivity. In fact, doing a puzzle during your breaks at work can help refresh your brain. By relaxing and doing a fun puzzle you’ll be able to attack your work with renewed vigour when your break is over. If you successfully disconnect from work, you’re bound to work more efficiently when you’re focused on tasks.

Develop your problem-solving skills

You need to take different approaches to problems when you’re completing a puzzle because you solve it through a process of trial and error. You come up with hypotheses and theories which you then put to the test. Then you have to change your angle of attack when something doesn’t work out. 

This has the effect of making you a more innovative problem solver and more adaptable to different situations which may arise in life and the workplace. It can also help improve your critical thinking skills.

Improves your mood

Production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your mood, increases when you do puzzles. This helps increase our motivation, mood, and memory and can help give us the confidence to challenge ourselves.

Switching from Beta to Alpha

When solving puzzles, our brains switch from a Beta state of consciousness to an Alpha state. The Alpha state is a similar state of consciousness to that which we experience when dreaming.

This shift can do a number of things for us:

  • Allow us to make more profound connections.
  • Increase our self-confidence.
  • Lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate.
  • Help keep the mind active and stave off certain illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s.

Improves your ability to work in teams and collaborate

Here’s another reason you might consider including puzzles in the break areas of workplaces. They help people develop their teamwork skills. Indeed, solving a puzzle together can help improve relationships and encourage more effective collaboration. 

Can be a good activity to do with family and friends

Jigsaws are an excellent social activity, that can be enjoyed with family and friends and can be good fun for all.

Soon, we’ll look at some great tips you can follow when you’re solving puzzles. For now though, it’s time to talk about some of the various kinds of jigsaws you can find.

Types of jigsaw

Here’s a list of 5 different puzzles you can try as you delve into the wonderful world of puzzles.

2D jigsaw puzzles

This is the kind of puzzle that’s most likely to come to mind when jigsaw puzzles are mentioned. Any image can be turned into a flat puzzle, but the more detailed and intricate the image is, the more challenging it will be to complete.

Jigsaws with a repetitive design

These are not for the faint of heart, because you don’t have some of the usual advantages. The repetitive design means you can’t rely on some of the more traditional ways to solve the puzzle. Instead, you have to find the correct shapes, often without relying on spotting features based on colour. All you can do is build the edge and work your way inward by identifying shapes that fit together.

3D jigsaw puzzles

The most common types of 3D puzzles are famous buildings, like the Colosseum, Notre Dame Cathedral, or even the Tower of London.

The added dimension of depth makes this kind of puzzle more challenging and offers experienced puzzlers something to really get stuck into. The reward, when you’re finished, should be a beautiful 3D model you can enjoy.

Murder mystery puzzles

This isn’t your typical puzzle. A murder mystery puzzle is often two jigsaws. You’ve got to complete both without having the picture to help you. When you’ve done that, you take out the booklet or reading material that came with it and should be able to identify the murderer in the picture using it.

Doing this kind of jigsaw is a good way to bring people who have varied tastes in their hobbies together. Most people will be able to find an element of the endeavour they enjoy and can have fun with. 

Hand-cut wooden puzzles

This retro style of jigsaw is finding a new fanbase in the modern world. This older, traditional jigsaw is now its own category. It was overtaken by technology which allowed more puzzles to be made, and for a greater variety to be created. However, for people craving some old-world charm, the wood-cut jigsaw may be just what you’re looking for. 

There are more varieties of jigsaws you can buy, but the 5 listed here are among the most popular. Next, let’s discover some tips on how to tackle them.

Photo by Simon Hurry on Unsplash

How to tackle solving jigsaws

These are the 6 best tips I’ve found. You can try them and see what works for you when you’re busy with a puzzle.

Use a flat, empty surface

If you’re going to successfully complete a puzzle, you’ll need to use the right sort of space. It should be flat and big enough to hold all the pieces. Ideally, it will also be a space you don’t need to use often so that you won’t have to break it up to use that space for another purpose.

Shed some light on proceedings

Set your puzzle up in a room with plenty of natural light, so that you’re less likely to miss details in the image and become frustrated. Avoid casting shadows on the jigsaw so you can see all the pieces clearly. You can also use lamps to give you more light if you’re doing a puzzle at night, or somewhere that lacks access to natural light.  

Sort the pieces

This is a good way to organise the chaos when you first tip all those puzzle pieces out. Sort through them. You can:

  • Find all the pieces with a straight edge that will form the border of your jigsaw.
  • Sort the others by colour.
  • Group them by referring to the picture on the box and sorting them in a way that makes sense to you.

This might be more challenging when you have a busy image on your jigsaw, or if it has a complex colour scheme,  but finding the border pieces is always a good first move.

Keep referring back to the image on the box

Be sure to keep checking the image you have on the box. Take note of specific details so that you can spot things about the image that you can look for in the jigsaw pieces you have to work with.

Look at background colours and smaller details to work out which pieces you need to complete a particular area of your puzzle. This can help make solving the jigsaw more enjoyable and less frustrating. If you’re struggling with the whole puzzle, focus on the areas you can work on, and it will soon all come together. As you complete different areas of the jigsaw, you’ll have a better idea of what to search for to finish the next bit of the puzzle. 

Take breaks often

This is similar to when you sleep on a complex problem in your life, only for everything to seem a little clearer in the light of the morning.

When you’re working on a puzzle alone, it will take you a while to complete it, so it’s vital to take breaks and refresh yourself. When you come back to the puzzle, you may just have a breakthrough on how to solve it. You may even see that the pieces you were looking for were right in front of you all along.

If all else fails bring in the cavalry

If you’re struggling to have the breakthrough described in the last tip, why not get a friend or family member involved. They may find a solution that’s been eluding you. Together you can work to complete the puzzle. It might even prove doubly rewarding.

The wrap-up

You should now be ready to dive into a great puzzle of your own. We’ve seen how doing so may help you manage stress, improve your mood and make you happier, to name just a few of the upsides of solving jigsaws. To start you off, you can try one of the 5 types described above. You can also follow one or more of the tips given here to help solve them. Perhaps you’ll find one that works well for you and will soon be impressing your mates when you become a puzzle solver extraordinaire. Remember though, the most important thing when you’re doing a jigsaw, as with any other hobby, is to have fun!   

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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