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The Mental Health Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles

The Mental Health Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles
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This blog has been written by our Customer Service, Website & Social Media Executive, Savannah.

No one could have anticipated the jigsaw puzzle renaissance. Our team love a good puzzle, but we understand that not everyone has the time to regularly complete a 1000-piece challenge.

And then coronavirus happened, and the world shut down. People were stuck in their houses for weeks, if not months. There are only so many television box-sets you can watch before starting to go a bit crazy. As a 20-something Kiwi, my hobbies include going out to explore the UK, eating at restaurants, seeing theatrical productions, and visiting art galleries. None of these were viable hobbies to keep up from home, so I was suddenly desperate for things to do. I tried baking bread, started a cooking project, finished my ‘to-do’ list of general life-admin that had been untouched for months, and purchased some knitting needles. Sadly, as the weather warmed up my smart idea of knitting a scarf disappeared into oblivion – indeed, I still have the wool and needles stashed in the cupboard somewhere.

Then lo-and-behold, the mighty jigsaw puzzle was rediscovered.

The health benefits of jigsaw puzzles are insurmountable. We even have a section on the website about the ways people can benefit from them. From improving fine motor skills and problem-solving skills, through to perseverance, independence and resilience. The dopamine rush that we get when we place a puzzle piece correctly can help to encourage learning and memory, and jigsaws are a huge benefit for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

But one thing that we have found puzzles reign supreme for, are the mental health benefits.

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We put a call out on our Facebook page asking for stories – how have jigsaw puzzles helped people throughout the pandemic. The response was overwhelming. Above all, people were saying how sane puzzling had kept them. Considering the popularity of mindfulness and the relaxation that comes from practicing meditation, it makes sense. By doing a jigsaw you are receiving the same benefits as you would if you were meditating. Your mind empties and as you focus on the image and task at hand, you stop thinking about the anxieties and stress that we have in our reality (SPBH.org, 2017).

Given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I would say that there are plenty of things to be worrying about, so it’s nice to be reminded that this is not permanent, and take our mind off things for a while.

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We had one customer reach out to us with her story; Kate* works as a ward assistant in a busy hospital.

During this period life has become very stressful with daily challenges of new procedures to keep ourselves and the patients safe and wearing masks all day apart from all the extra administration needed so when I get home and anytime I have had off I de-stress doing puzzles, I have made new friends on the puzzle sites and puzzle buying has become a bit of a compulsion, where before lockdown I might go clothes shopping I now puzzle shop. It’s given me a new way to cope with day to day life.”

Amy* also shared her story with us.

“Just before lockdown I was diagnosed with non-epileptic seizures. Then lockdown hit! My jigsaws have kept me going and when I felt my seizures coming on, I do a jigsaw and helps me change my brain and stops the seizures.”

Julia* has also had a positive story to share.

“So before lockdown my husband and I had been going through fertility treatment and were about to start IVF. But then lockdown happened and all clinics were closed! I went into a horrid dark place of thinking it wasn’t going to happen and then I got absorbed in my puzzles!... I can’t tell how these helped me stay calm, relaxed and my anxiety levels went right down. Having something to focus on and have that sense of achievement really helped my state of mind. Once clinics opened in May we started our IVF and am so pleased to say it worked and we now have our dream baby on the way, due in March!”

It's easy to see just from the three very different accounts here that jigsaws are beneficial for a variety of different people. Whether you are old, young, sick, healthy, male, female, other… We are all human and we all benefit from the meditative side effects that puzzling brings. This is something that is even more important in a time where there are no answers to the questions that COVID-19 has brought us.

 

Is it likely that jigsaws would have had such a resurgence had it not been for the lockdown? Perhaps. The rise of mindfulness trends means that people, and especially millennials such as myself, have been looking into new ways of self-care. You just have to look at #jigsaw and #jigsawpuzzle on Instagram to see that puzzling has become more and more popular over recent years. At Gibsons, even before COVID-19 we were anticipating a growth in sales through 2020, as precedented by previous years. We certainly weren’t expecting the growth that we’ve had though, and our Sales Director, Nicki, suspects that we’ve been propelled to where we expected to be by 2025 already.

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And why not? Jigsaw puzzles have been an incredible way of spending downtime, connecting with family members, and feeling like that during this period of uncertainty, we can still achieve a goal. Besides, you simply cannot deny the feeling of satisfaction when you put in the last piece of a 1000-piece jigsaw, and I for one think that any extra dopamine rush we can get is absolutely worth it.

 

 

*Names have been changed to ensure privacy.

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