Did you know that puzzles can help ease your anxiety and bring down your stress levels? We love word puzzles in our home because they really do help ease any unwanted tension, anxiety, and more. We will pull out our puzzles and get busy all while having fun together too.
The coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders in response to it have forced abrupt changes to our daily lives and routines. For many, the new “normal” means juggling between work, homeschooling, and family, which inevitably brings a lot of pressure and a surge in fear, anxiety, and stress.
And while we all get more or less the same anxiety symptoms (our body’s natural response to stress), we all react and cope with it differently. From jogging, Netflix, reading, and exercising to maintaining social contacts online, every person uses different methods to manage how they feel daily.
However, it’s been a year, and the old tactics may not work as well as they once did. So, if you are looking for new ways to manage your anxiety and stress, look no further. Read on and learn how puzzles can help you go lighter through another lockdown day.
What Word Puzzles And Puzzles So Great?
When we think of puzzles, we usually think of them as games that help us relax and pass the time. Have you ever tried assembling 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles? They are among the most challenging ones, taking on average between 3 to 10 hours to complete. Yet, it is not only fun you get from it.
Experts say that solving challenging puzzles activates new parts of our brains because the process requires both logical skills and creativity. This integrated approach results in more effective, profound, and sustainable understanding. Consequently, puzzles help us boost memory, creative thinking, productivity, and problem-solving.
Now let us go through these benefits one at a time:
Doing puzzles develops and strengthens neural connections, increasing mental speed and thought processes. When we pick up a piece, we have to search among the others for color or shape that we have in mind and visualize the image on a large scale to see which parts go together. In the process, the brain stores this information, which helps to maintain and improve short-term memory.
Boosting creative thinking
Every innovative and creative idea we have in solving puzzles adds to healthy brain functioning. When we do a puzzle, both brain sides (right and left) must communicate and work together. Also, the process activates the occipital lobe, where the brain connects colors and shapes. All these complex processes lead to boosting creative and innovative thinking.
Improving problem-solving abilities
To solve a puzzle (especially a complex one like word puzzles), you take different approaches since it is a trial and error task. You learn the value of formulating theories, testing hypotheses, and changing your perspectives when something does not go as planned. You can use these skills to work, making you more innovative in problem-solving, critical thinking, and better adaptive skills.
Assembling puzzles and word puzzles helps us focus and concentrate. And when we focus and have better concentration, our productivity skyrockets. So, whenever you feel you need a recharge or to disconnect from work, work on a puzzle, and after a while, you will come back with a reset brain, ready to start again.
How can puzzles help to cope with anxiety?
As we have already seen, solving word puzzles or puzzles greatly benefits our creativity, but how do they actually help our mental well-being?
Making and solving challenging puzzles increases brain production of dopamine. This neurotransmitter plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It helps us be optimistic, have confidence, and improve our memory, concentration, and motivation. With pastimes like puzzles, Dopamine is in the play, and our brain functions change from moment to moment.
Research shows that puzzles, in fact, simultaneously activate our brains while relaxing us psychologically. They are a healthy kind of distraction that helps reduce our fight or flight response. On a biological level, the activity lowers cortisol, which is our stress hormone, and increases endorphins.
While our hands are busy and our brain is looking for patterns and making connections, we feel the activity’s meditative impact. The shift in consciousness helps us make deeper connections, improve our mood, relieve anxiety, stress, and even lower our blood pressure and heart rate.
Furthermore, sorting out, separating, and organizing the puzzle pieces often helps us feel like we control things (even if that means controlling “only” the puzzle). This feeling is especially beneficial when our thoughts are out of control, and our stress and anxiety levels are high.
Solving perplexing puzzles can also give us a great sense of achievement, providing us with a positive mental boost and anxiety relief. Yet, it is not only the result. There are also continuous feelings of accomplishment we get to feel while doing the activity. For example, when we finally find the piece we needed for some time.
Lastly, puzzles are a great way to connect with family and navigate stress more successfully. For example, starting a jigsaw puzzle and keeping it on display is an open invite for the whole family to participate whenever they have (or need) a little time to slow down and focus.
The bottom line
Puzzles and word puzzles are so much more than an antidote to boredom. They are a great exercise in mindfulness and help us stay calm and focused. Outside worries and stress fade as the mind tunes in to something meditative and satisfying, bringing us peace, clarity, and contentment. Metaphorically speaking, puzzles can help us narrow life’s problems, assisting us in coping with the anxiety and stress imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic better.
If you need something new, mediative, and intellectually challenging, why not give puzzles a try? We can promise you that assembling them will help you take your mind off of all the stressful and worrying things going around in your head.