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Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Your Brain?


Jigsaw puzzles are one of those timeless toys that transcend countries and generations. They have been around for more than two centuries, and although their popularity has fluctuated throughout history, they’ve been a childhood staple for generations and generations. But they are more than just a fun pastime activity – there are actual psychological benefits that you get from solving puzzles! 

Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles

Solving jigsaw puzzles can improve our psychological well-being, and even mental health, in multiple ways. From training your brain to perform tasks better to helping us focus and get rid of anxiety, the benefits of jigsaw puzzles are truly multifold. 

Complete Brain Exercise

First, jigsaw puzzles help train your brain to simply work better. In fact, they activate both sides of the brain (the right one, which is in charge of creativity and emotions, and the left one, which is more logical and methodical). This trains the communication channels between the different hemispheres and parts of the brain, making us quicker, sharper thinkers and more creative problem-solvers. By extension, solving jigsaw puzzles can improve overall cognitive function and slow down cognitive decline in old age (thus possibly preventing conditions such as dementia). Who would’ve thought that having fun could be this good for you?


Improved Memory

On top of improving overall cognitive abilities, jigsaw puzzles have an excellent effect on a person’s memory. Namely, they improve short-term memory through the repetition of the array of memory-based tasks (memorizing the pattern on a puzzle piece, visualizing its place in the picture, etc.). In the long run, this can also positively affect memory retention, especially in old age. In fact, some studies, such as the 2012 Archives of Neurology study, claim that regularly doing mind-training activities such as jigsaw puzzles can result in an elderly person having a brain as functional as that of someone up to 50 years younger. 


Better Problem-Solving Skills

At its core, jigsaw puzzles are a problem-solving activity – you take a piece and, based on its shape, color, and pattern, you have to figure out where it fits with the rest. Often, this requires trial and error, coming back to the same piece several times, changing one’s approach to the problem, etc. It should come as no surprise, then, that they can greatly improve a person’s problem-solving skills. This is especially important for children, as their brains are still developing and acquiring new skills and knowledge at a much faster rate. Learning how to approach a problem and solve it effectively is a skill that translates well into everyday life. 


Decreased Stress Levels

In most cases, solving puzzles is a low-stress, relaxing activity. It isn’t competitive, physically demanding, restrained by time, or stress-inducing in other ways. It’s no surprise, then, that jigsaw puzzles can decrease stress levels and improve stress-management skills.


But it goes even deeper than that. Studies have shown that, when we find the right spot for a puzzle piece, our brains release dopamine (a neurotransmitter that boosts mood and alertness). Additionally, while solving puzzles, our heart rate and breathing stabilize, causing a stress-relieving effect. In fact, some people report that solving jigsaw puzzles is so calming that it feels almost like meditation.


Greater Attention to Detail

Depending on the size and number of pieces, as well as the picture itself, jigsaw puzzles can require varying levels of attention to detail. In large 1000+ piece puzzles with lots of small details, you really have to pay attention to the tiniest lines or differences in color in order to solve the puzzle.


Attention to detail is yet another cognitive skill that translates into the real world. This is especially true for adults with jobs where accuracy and precision are of utmost importance. Needless to say, it is also a useful skill for children of all ages to develop.


Improved Visual-Spatial Reasoning

Visual-spatial reasoning is the ability of an individual to perceive, understand, and reimagine the positioning, size, and shape of an object in space. An example would be taking a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, perceiving its shape and size, and using this information to figure out where you should try to fit the piece.


Visual-spatial reasoning, also known as just spatial reasoning, is a crucial skill to have in everyday life. It is involved in most of our physical activities, from climbing stairs and driving a car to setting the table or learning a popular dance.


Better Focus and Concentration

Despite being a casual pastime activity, jigsaw puzzles still require certain levels of patience and focus. At any given point in time, while solving a jigsaw puzzle, we simultaneously think about a number of things – the puzzle piece whose spot we’re trying to find, the final image we need to reproduce, the current progress of the puzzle, and so on. Basically, the entire process of solving a puzzle is an exercise in maintaining concentration.


Improved focus is especially important in modern times when we are used to short-form entertainment and constantly bombarded with information from all sides. Additionally, it can help kids to channel excess energy in more productive ways.


Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Your Brain: FAQ


What happens to your brain when you do a jigsaw puzzle?

When you do a jigsaw puzzle, different parts of your brain from both hemispheres communicate with each other. This strengthens the existing neural connections in the brain and accelerates the creation of new ones. In turn, our memory, problem-solving skills, attention to detail, focus, and spatial reasoning get better.


Are there any benefits to doing jigsaw puzzles?

Yes, there are many benefits to doing jigsaw puzzles related to physical health (decreased stress levels), wit (improved cognitive skills and decreased cognitive degradation), socialization (it can be a couple or group activity, too), mental health (improved happiness and lowered anxiety), and the overall quality of life.


Are jigsaw puzzles good for mental health?

Yes, jigsaw puzzles are good for mental health, too. As a goal-focused, mentally challenging activity, solving jigsaw puzzles can help us significantly reduce anxiety and stress and increase our dopamine levels. Additionally, research suggests that jigsaw puzzles may help fight certain conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.