Are Jigsaw Puzzles a Waste of Time?

The higher the puzzle piece count and the more challenging motif, and you might start wondering whether jigsaw puzzles are a waste of time.

Trust me, I’ve been there too, and I love puzzles.

The answer to the question is a clear no. Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate on the why’s. To keep things as objective as possible, I will also touch on how puzzles could be a waste of time. Read on.

10 Reasons Jigsaw Puzzles Are NOT a Waste of Time

Mind Exercise

This is the most obvious one, so let’s get to it first. So how do jigsaw puzzles help the brain?

Jigsaw puzzles offer brain stimulation in many different ways such as by honing spatial skills and problem-solving strategies as well as build short-term memory and strengthen visual acuity.

There have been a few studies examining certain properties of the link between jigsaw puzzles and the brain, but we’re still waiting for one that will shine a direct light on how exactly assembling a puzzle benefits the brain. We all know it does, and I’m testing it on myself currently, but it would be good to have that confirmed officially by the scientists and researchers.

Hands of an elderly lady solving a jigsaw puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles can help the elderly keep their mind sharp

It’s also believed neurological deterioration in old age can be delayed if a person engages in mind sharpening activities such as puzzle solving. That’s why it’s highly recommendable to use jigsaw puzzles for dementia patients, in order to slow down the deterioration process. 

Prolonging attention span

In our current rushed world, the younger generation especially has an extremely short attention span, scrolling through their Facebook/Instagram/Tik Tok feeds and giving each post only a few seconds before moving onto the next one.

A teenage boy solving a jigsaw puzzle
Puzzle solving can turn into a digital detox for teenagers 🙂

Jigsaw Puzzles teach us patience and focusing on a task at hand for a longer amount of time. One doesn’t get far with a puzzle without a deep concentration on the task.

Training the eyes

Whoever’s done a few puzzles in their life knows how important details are. Paying attention to them and training our eyes to do so, can speed up the whole puzzling process.

Blue and white jigsaw puzzle pieces
Hardly discernible patters and color tones.. but only at first.

I myself have experienced how when starting a new puzzle, my eyes naturally pick out just the most obvious patterns. The closer to the finish line I am and the lesser pieces to place and my eyes suddenly see color hues I didn’t notice before. It’s amazing how that works.

But, this one doesn’t apply if you solve jigsaw puzzles in a dark room without proper lighting.

Relaxing Activity

Puzzling is not stressful. Nobody gives you a deadline – or at least shouldn’t! When done in free time without trying to finish as soon as possible, you can just let your brain and hands do the dance, while your mind wanders freely.

Some people even experience a meditation-like state when thoughts go away and they stay fully focused on the puzzle. That benefits the mind & soul immensely.

The history of jigsaw puzzles proves that, since puzzles experienced their biggest boom during the times of the Great Depression.

If you enjoy a good landscape jigsaw puzzle, it’ll offer the added benefit of transporting you mentally to the destination on the image.

If you love the festive season, a good Christmas puzzle can join in the wonderful anticipation of Christmas and prolong the holiday joy well past December.

It’s fun and rewarding

To the outsider, solving a puzzle might look like the most boring activity. But it’s just the contrary – once you dive in the magical world of jigsaw puzzles, it’s often a lifelong affair.

Not only is puzzling fun, but it feels rewarding too. With each piece of a puzzle placed correctly comes a shot of dopamine. An even larger one occurs when we finish a section, or, of course, the whole puzzle!

This makes our brains and us happy. An improved mood is a nice by-product of solving puzzles.

The fun can be shared

Putting a jigsaw puzzle together can be done in more people too – be it a family, a group of friends or a couple. Often the best conversations happen over a jigsaw puzzle.

Doing jigsaw puzzles together - view of hands solving a puzzle
The fun can be shared!

It’s recommendable to have each group member work on their own section but, if everybody’s happy to collaborate, don’t hesitate to help each other to find that one missing piece.

Life Lessons Learned

Like with any big project, be it in business or just ‘general life’, learning to break it up into smaller tasks makes all the difference.

Such strategic thinking applies to puzzles as well. How else would you crack a puzzle of several thousand pieces? Yes, with any puzzle above 100 pieces, you make your way by focusing on one area at a time. This is what a proper puzzle strategy entails.

A section of a jigsaw puzzle finished
Breaking something down into finish-able sections.. when solving a puzzle, or dealing with life.

Having trust in the process. We can’t always have everything under our control. There are situations in life where we just need to grind along and get through difficult parts. This is true with puzzles as well.

If you don’t give up, you’re always going to finish a puzzle. This way, you can build confidence in your own actions and that no matter what comes your way, you will eventually find a solution.

If you experienced getting stuck with a puzzle, you learned that taking a break and coming back to the puzzle later gave you a fresh set of eyes. That’s true in life as well. Sometimes we’re just too involved in a situation, too bogged down with our problems, that we miss the big picture. Not obsessing about finding a solution right away gives us the opportunity to let our subconscious work on the problem at hand and presenting us the perfect solution, just a little later.

Feeling of accomplishment

Dan Ariely, a famous professor of behavioral psychology at Duke University together with his colleagues developed a theory called the IKEA effect.

In short, ‘labor alone can be sufficient to induce a greater liking for the fruits of one’s labor.’

Finished jigsaw puzzle of an artwork
An artwork of a finished jigsaw puzzle – this will look great on the wall!

Essentially it says if you build something and invest time and effort into it, you’ll develop an affinity for such product. That’s why people enjoy the IKEA furniture they had to assemble themselves.

This can be applied to jigsaw puzzles as well. A finished jigsaw puzzle is a ‘fruit of your labor’. 

If you end up framing your finished puzzle and mounting in on your wall, you’ll love it a lot more than a random painting you picked at a store.

Fine Motor Skills

And ultimately, it goes without saying that solving jigsaw puzzles exercises one’s fine motor skills. While these need to be trained especially at a very young age and then again in old age, it helps to keep these skills sharp your whole life.

Successful people like jigsaw puzzles

Did you know Bill and Melinda Gates often engage in solving jigsaw puzzles? They’re known to even bring one on vacation with them!

There must be something about puzzles not being a huge waste of time, don’t you think?

Puzzle pieces in a box on the background of a nearly finished puzzle
All these pieces…

How Jigsaw Puzzles Could be a Waste of Time

It comes down to what you’d be doing instead. If that is a more worthwhile activity to your health/wellbeing/peace of mind, then you better save puzzle solving for some other time.

E.g. students – yes, it’s beneficial to do jigsaw puzzles to sharpen the mind, but not when you’re supposed to be preparing for an exam.

But even in these cases, jigsaw puzzles can have a real benefit, if you’re able to limit the time you spend on puzzling. An hour a week can hardly interfere with any activity.

An abstract head made up of puzzle pieces
Don’t let jigsaw puzzles to turn into an obsession.

Like with anything, if you become obsessed, you have a problem. So as attractive as jigsaw puzzles are, don’t let them turn into an obsession! If you can’t stop yourself and only do puzzles instead of actually living your life, then it’s a huge time waste for you.

This wraps up our exploration into the pros and cons of solving jigsaw puzzles.

So next, when somebody around you asks Are jigsaw puzzles a waste of time? I hope you’ll respond a sound NO.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Jigsaw puzzle pieces with a magnifier and a text overlay: Are Jigsaw Puzzles a Waste of Time?

2 thoughts on “Are Jigsaw Puzzles a Waste of Time?”

  1. Never done a puzzle but since lockdown I’ve completed 12 thousand piece jigsaw the family are always looking over my shoulder ready to join in .It reminded me of the Laurel and Hardy film no one goes to the wedding until the last piece has been found

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