The fact that jigsaw puzzles have been around for hundreds of years might have something to do with the fact that they offer something rewarding to everyone. To the young, to the old and to those in between.
The jigsaw puzzle actually started out as a tool to study geography in the 18th century (more on that here) and has since then evolved to the aesthetic and contemporary pieces you enjoy now. As the world around us speeded up, puzzles help provide those calm moments where life slows down and you learn how to savour the present. Not only do puzzles provide this much needed space to simply be, the benefits of puzzling are both creative and cognitive, so let us dig into it.
Puzzles, the brain and cognitive functions
With a history as a tool to teach geography, it might not come as a surprise that jigsaw puzzles have cognitive benefits to offer. This is due to the fact that completing a jigsaw puzzle is a fun but challenging task, with many small and unconscious actions that tap into your cognitive functions. Because of this, regular puzzling is known to increase your attention to detail and to decrease your stress levels, something that on its own has plenty of well-researched health and cognitive benefits. Other benfits include better reasoning, better visual perception and better episodic memory functions. If you want to read more about the science on this, you can find a study on the impact jigsaw puzzles have on cognitive functions here.
Puzzles, play and creativity
Everyone who has ever completed a jigsaw puzzle understands the engaged focus required. What you might have also noticed is how this engaged focus allows your mind to wander, unlocking new ideas and thoughts. Somehow this engaged focus, allows your mind to open up to engage in critical thinking which often inspires new creative solutions or ideas. This is why puzzling can be the perfect little break when you feel stuck on a problem and want your mind to open up to new solutions.
Completing a jigsaw puzzle is also a rewarding and fulfilling way to include play in your life. The sense of achievement with each piece placed and the placing of the final piece, is nothing but pure happiness. It is simply a perfect way to get some mental clarity ahead of your day in the morning and a perfect way to wind down after a long one.
Maybe it is this beautiful combination of creativity and cognitivity that has kept the jigsaw puzzle so popular ever since its inception. Even though the ‘why’ we use it might keep changing, it seems that puzzles are something we will continue to treasure for generations to come. Because is it not quite amazing that you can get all these benefits from something as meditative and fun as completing a playful puzzle?