Jigsaw puzzles are often considered a game from a bygone era, ancient artifacts that families used to enjoy together before the days of laptops, smart phones and tablets. This kind of physical game play is definitely evocative of a different time, perhaps even a time of greater patience, when families would pull out board games and puzzles, make a pot of hot chocolate and just simply play together.
The puzzle comeback
Originally made only from wood and used for educational purposes, jigsaw puzzles have been around since the late 1700s. Despite the millions of options of fast-paced digital games, the classic jigsaw has not only endured, it even seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Puzzles that require deliberation and patience fit well within the “slow movement”, a sort of cultural rejection of all things instant that is spreading beyond the realm of food preparation and starting to lure people into a somewhat slower pace of life.
Studies have shown that doing jigsaw puzzles can reduce stress, slowdown the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and improve cognitive learning amongst children. Hunting for pieces and memorizing the shapes and colors engages the brain and improves short-term memory.
In addition, the right and left sides of the brain are working together, which promotes true synergy and works both hemispheres. These connections enhance the ability to learn, understand and remember. As a player successfully places the pieces and completes the puzzle, a neurotransmitter called dopamine (which regulates moods and can improve concentration and motivation) is more productive. In this way, completing jigsaw puzzles can open up the pleasure/reward pathway as well as help with motor control and memory.
For people who think any game worth playing is found on a screen, there are in fact many jigsaw puzzles available to play online. So whether it’s in preparation for a long family vacation or wanting to stimulate a sluggish brain, jigsaw puzzles of all kinds can be the perfect way to enhance those neurotransmitters and bring the family together around the same table.