Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Anxiety?

In the midst of a massive viral outbreak, the Coronavirus Covid 19, never has my own anxiety run so high. One hobby is helping me through this crisis on a daily basis, and that is doing jigsaw puzzles.

Anxiety can be crippling. That awful tense feeling, racing mind, constant worry, breathing issues. Jigsaw puzzles may be just the calm in the storm that you really need to help.

Hobbies that help to quiet the mind are so helpful in dealing with anxiety. For me, doing jigsaw puzzles helps to ease my racing, troubled thoughts and provides real jigsaw puzzle therapy.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide any kind of medical advice or to take the place of advice or treatment from a doctor or physician.

Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Anxiety and Stress?

Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Anxiety and Stress do they help anxiousness, stress, mental health issues jigsaws puzzle therapy

I've discussed at length here on PuzzleHour how doing jigsaw puzzles has helped me enormously with coping with the grief and loss of a loved one. It has reduced my stress and anxiety levels enormously and helps on a daily basis.

In the midst of my grieving comes the stress of the Coronavirus outbreak which has reduced whole countries quite literally to a standstill and caused thousands of deaths worldwide.

No wonder my anxiety levels have increased. The terror of this virus is all over the news, all over social media. There's almost no escaping it.

While lots of people have been panic buying food and supplies, I've been busy panic buying jigsaw puzzles, making sure that my supply is big enough to last for at least a couple of months while being confined to the home.

Jigsaw puzzles have become so essential to my mental health and wellbeing that stocking up for me is sensible. They quite literally help to keep me calm in the midst of this awful Coronavirus storm.

Why Jigsaw Puzzles Can be Good for Anxiety

Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist, states that "In our hyperconnected world, if you're physically doing a paper or cardboard puzzle, you are, by definition, disconnected and engaged in a task that’s immersive, away from the interruptions and stresses of day-to-day life. And that, of course, is good for your brain health."

In other words, doing jigsaw puzzles has been shown to successfully help to take your mind off real-life stresses, worries and things that are making us anxious.

Doing a jigsaw can be very relaxing and calming. Your mind starts to focus on the single task of solving the puzzle rather than the numerous issues that may be making you anxious and stressed.

For me, a jigsaw puzzle actually works to give my mind a breather from the stress, strain and worries of everyday life for however long I have to spend working on it. And, even after, I can still feel the benefits of doing a jigsaw puzzle as I feel noticeably more relaxed for a few hours after.

Scientific studies have shown that whilst doing jigsaw puzzles, the brain increases our levels of dopamine which is the body's natural feel-good chemical or happy hormone.

This increased dopamine in our system helps us to literally feel better and therefore helps to reduce anxiety and stress and increase our feelings of happiness and pleasure.

How Jigsaw Puzzles Help Me Deal With Anxiety

1) Puzzling is a tactile hobby.

Right from the first moment of placing my hand inside the box, I help to shift the state of my nerves and anxious thoughts by introducing the physical art of touch.

I realise that this may well sound silly, especially to someone who's never done jigsaw puzzles, but just feeling the individual pieces can be very satisfying.

Brands have different feels to them as well. Some jigsaw puzzle brands have a slightly textured matte finish and some are very smooth and glossy. Some are smooth one side and slightly rough on the other. Some are silky smooth on both sides.

Either way, puzzle pieces have a really satisfying feel between my fingers which does help to start calming my nerves as soon as I start to hold them. Perhaps too, it is the hand-mind association that jigsaw puzzles make me feel better.

2) Jigsaw puzzles shift the mind's focus.

When my anxiety levels rise, my mind tends to get filled and literally overwhelmed with many stressful and worrying thoughts. This will affect my breathing and often make me feel as if I am having a hot flush.

Sometimes I start to sweat along with feeling flushed, hot and stressed. It can be hard to focus, sometimes I chew my nails and pace around the room.

The signs that I am getting worked up are a signal that I need to start calming myself down. Luckily, working from home means that I can just drop everything and go do a jigsaw puzzle. If you go out to work, it may be possible to take along a portable jigsaw puzzle, in a Portapuzzle style holder, to work on during your break and lunch times.

Just the act of working on a puzzle, helps to take my racing mind off other things. A puzzle helps to very quickly calm my mind, my nagging thoughts and my mental state. Very quickly, my attention is shifted onto concentrating on the single task of solving the puzzle.

Very soon I get totally immersed in the jigsaw and I start to feel calmer, happier and at peace. It's almost like being transported into another world, somewhere better. While doing the jigsaw I can take my mind off all the things that were bothering me and contributing to my anxiety.

Sometimes the artwork of the puzzle will help too. A fun or peaceful looking design can put my mind in a better place. My mind is soon taken away from all the worrying thoughts and helps to provide a wonderful jigsaw puzzle therapy like no other.

3) Sorting and organizing gives a sense of control.

Sorting out and separating the edge pieces and any type of sorting and organizing puzzle pieces helps me to feel like I'm in control.

My thoughts may have been out of control and increasing my stress and anxiety, but sorting and organizing the puzzle pieces helps to put me in a position of being back in control.

This feeling of being in control of something helps me to master my own stressful, anxious and racing thoughts. I can at least control the jigsaw puzzle and that knowledge helps me to calm and control my own worrying thoughts.

Doing a jigsaw puzzle helps to calm and quiet my thoughts and reduce any anxiety that I am feeling.

4) Provides a continued sense of achievement.

Obviously I get the biggest sense of achievement every time that I solve and finish a jigsaw puzzle.

However there are also smaller and continuous feelings of achievement such as when I happen to fit a piece that I've wanted to find for some time, when I finish a tricky area such as a sky, water, snow or somewhere where the colour all seems the same.

Getting a sense of achievement while working on each jigsaw is really a positive mental boost that also helps me to overcome anxiety and replace it with something positive.

5) Focusing on the artwork can be meditative and relaxing.

I spend a lot of time looking at the artwork of the jigsaw puzzle design. I look at the box or the included poster art and get familiar with the picture so that I have a good idea of where each piece may fit.

Looking at the artwork for a while, and really studying it, I can often feel myself going into a little bit of a trance, like a meditation state.

Studies show that meditating daily can in fact put your body into a calmer state by lowering your blood pressure. Meditation is a known relaxation technique so I know when I'm in this state whilst doing a jigsaw puzzle that I'm physically calming my mind and my body.

6) Having some much needed ME time.

Mostly, I work on jigsaws alone. I have a very quiet space in the home where I can just close the door, retreat into my personal space and work on a puzzle.

I happen to find that time for myself is a necessary away from all the noise and the constant interruptions that go hand-in-hand with a modern life. Time away from things that may add to my stress and anxiety.

Having some much-needed time to myself to enjoy the hobby of doing jigsaw puzzles is a great way for me to deal with anxiety.

7) Enjoying some quality time together.

Although mostly I do jigsaws alone, at weekends my husband and I will often enjoy working on a smaller, 500 piece puzzle together because these don't take too long.

Sharing some quality time bonding over a jigsaw is a lovely way to help put me into a calmer and happier state of mind. Quite often we will make a grab for the same piece, or have a little tussle over who fits the last piece and then laugh about it.

We enjoy a chat and a cuppa while working on solving the puzzle and this shared time is just as valuable as the frequent me time that I spend enjoying jigsaws on my own.

8) Jigsaw puzzle retail therapy.

One thing that doesn't often get mentioned is how enjoyable buying and collecting puzzles can be, especially when you get hooked on them.

Most of us know about the short-lived benefits of retail therapy and the buzz that can be had from buying, sometimes called comfort buying, that can help with anxiety, stress and depression.

Well buying jigsaw puzzles can get quite addictive. I enjoy the whole process from searching for puzzles which are both old ones and new ones, collecting puzzles such as sets like the limited edition Waddingtons Christmas designs, and get a buzz from it all.

Buying jigsaw puzzles is definitely a stress reliever for me, but I am aware of sticking to a budget that I can afford to spend and not going over that budget. Otherwise it could unfortunately turn into a hobby that adds to my anxiety rather than helping to reduce it if I overspent on buying puzzles.

Jigsaw Puzzle Stress Relief

Jigsaw puzzles provide an essential therapy for me in helping to reduce my anxiety levels and keep me calm each day.

Discover how I use jigsaw puzzles to take my mind off stressful things.

They help to take my mind off worries and all the things that are making me anxious by shifting my attention onto the single task of solving the puzzle.

During this anxious time of living with this Coronavirus, jigsaw puzzles can really help to take your mind into a more pleasant state and transport you somewhere nicer. If you haven't already given jigsaw puzzles a go, I would recommend that you start by doing a 500 piece puzzle.

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Articles are accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in medical, business, financial, legal, or technical matters. All images on this site are my own or are product and public domain photos that are used with permission.