Puzzles: Does Size Matter?
It doesn't matter if you are an avid jigsaw solver who makes a sports game out of solving 2000 piece puzzles or a novice who want to spend some leisure time crafting 300 piece puzzles, puzzles can be great tools for improving cognitive function and mental health. I'm sure you have heard all about the importance of meditation or how Sudoku puzzles help delay Alzheimer's . . . well, what about the traditional jigsaw puzzle? How does it stack up against the rest? Is it better for old or young folk? Your brain does make most of its synapse connections before age 10 after all. . . (hint: it's equally good for old and young thanks to neuro-plasticity)
Puzzles and Meditation
Meditation is a buzz word right now. It seems that hardly a day goes by without a new article toting the importance of meditating to help focus the mind and alleviate stress. However, meditation can also be . . . obscure. What does it actually mean to meditate? How do you know if what you are doing counts as meditation? Fortunately, meditation is much easier than it might seem, and can be as easy as putting together 300 piece puzzles.
Think of meditation simply as clearing and focusing one's mind. Imagine you are worried about your job and kids and being late to that next appointment and . . . wait! Did someone get dinner ready for tonight? Often times we go throughout the day with so many thoughts running through our heads simultaneously it can be extremely tiring. Meditation takes your mind and helps it focus on one particular thing, or nothing, depending on what you are looking for.
Now imagine you have a few 300 piece puzzles, or maybe even a big jigsaw puzzle of 2000 pieces. As you start to organize the pieces, sort out the edges, find the corners, your mind will start to focus in. You begin noticing patterns in colors and shapes, and before you know it, an entire hour has gone by and you feel relaxed, calm, and rejuvenated. This is the effect of meditation.
Puzzles can be a great source of focusing your mind, because it helps you remove all distractions that are unnecessary to solving the puzzle. As your mind becomes focused on the puzzle, it allows you to take a much needed break from worry and stress. This break from worry and stress helps your mind recovery and prepare for solving both the problem at hand - where that piece in your hand fits - and problems that you will be returning to after your hour of puzzle meditation is over.
Using puzzles for meditation is a great opportunity to help improve cognitive function, however solving 300 piece puzzles have many additional benefits.
Benefits of Solving Puzzles
Enhanced Memory That's right. If you are the type that forgets where you parked, or where the last place you set your keys was, puzzles can be a great way to help enhance your memory. In fact, even if you already have a great memory, puzzles can help keep it sharp and accentuate your memory even further. Puzzles do this by helping you hold shapes and colors and pieces in your mind as you constantly move your eyes around the board looking for potential fits. All in all, a great benefit.
Dopamine Production! Yay for dopamine! Dopamine is a natural, feel-good chemical that your brain produces to reward you and make you feel happy. Working on a puzzle can help increase dopamine production in the brain by a significant amount. In addition to making you happy, dopamine also causes improved motoring skills, an increase in concentration power, optimism, confidence, and an enhanced recollection.
Delay the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer. That's right, just like its cousin the Sudoku puzzle, jigsaw puzzles, regardless of if they are 300 piece puzzles or 2000 piece sets, can help delay the onset of brain diseases. Anyone who knows someone who has been affected by Alzheimer's or Dementia can attest to how difficult it can be watching a loved one slowly lose their memory and mental faculties. Jigsaw puzzles (in addition to just being plain fun) can help protect the brain and keep it healthy.