The mental benefits of jigsaw puzzles are significant. Completing jigsaw puzzles keeps your mind sharp, improves your attention span, fosters a growth mindset through constant self evaluation, improves learning abilities, focus on details while maintaining an understanding of the bigger picture. Puzzles are a workout for the brain requiring you to harness both the left and right sides of our brain.
By exercising the connections between the left and right sides of our brains, our ability to learn, understand, and remember is improved.
In fact, studies have proven the effectiveness of using puzzles in prevention of Alzheimer’s and treatment of dementia.
For those managing anxiety, puzzles represent the opportunity to focus on creation, one piece at a time. A puzzle offers solace from the never-ending question marks of life. A puzzle has a finite start and finish. Completing a puzzle provides a sense of accomplishment, reducing stress and fostering a feeling of well-being and purpose.
It's all about the waves
Your brain creates five different types of waves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta. Delta and Theta are both associated with sleep. Delta waves occur during deep, dreamless sleep while Theta waves occur during REM (dreaming) sleep.
Alpha, Beta and Gamma waves both occur during the waking hours. Alpha waves are connected with focus, relaxation, and the production of serotonin. Beta waves are connected with concentration and alertness, but also anxiety and fight-or-flight. Gamma waves are the fastest waves, occurring infrequently but believed to be the driver behind "Aha!" moments.
Theoretically, the brain should spend most of its wakeful time using Alpha waves. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Dr. Shawn Talbott (The Cortisol Connection), illustrates the patterns of waves in our modern high-stress lifestyles. Instead of oscillating between Delta/Theta and Alpha, we spend most of our waking time in Beta, anticipating and managing stress related to work, family, chores, our never-ending to do list. Why is this a problem? Beta waves elevate blood sugar and blood pressure, which can lead to hyperglycemia, weight gain, and eventually diabetes.
Luckily, puzzles are proven to shift the brain from Beta waves into Alpha waves through focused, physical meditation. In other words, puzzles force us to slow down and to channel our anxious energy for good. To make lemonade from lemons.