As a child, one of my greatest secrets was my post-bedtime routine. I’d strain my ears listening for the click of the television that was followed by silence, which indicated my mother had gone to bed. I’d then sneak out of my room to find my father in his den, and together we would sit for hours and work on the puzzles that had become a permanent fixture on his coffee table.
My sister would sometimes help by swooping in to find one piece before taking off, but my mother had no interest. She said the whole process was stressful and taxing, and her time could be better spent doing something else.
Jigsaw puzzles: An undervalued art form
Among the number of creative outlets and artistic expressions that highlight your personality and sincerest emotions, jigsaw puzzles are an undervalued art form. They provide an artist with a unique opportunity seemingly lost to other art forms. The opportunity to completely engage in a task and focus on nothing but the colours, shapes and sizes of each cardboard cutout gives you the ability to escape from yourself in a way that no other art form will enable you to do.
Many people reading this will argue that completing a puzzle can’t be considered an art form or even a creative outlet, and that it’s merely a menial and methodical task. I disagree. The simplicity of completing a jigsaw puzzle is deceptive. While the concept is relatively straightforward, the process forces both the left and right sides of the brain to engage with the task at hand, ultimately creating a unique experience.
The cognitive benefits of puzzles
Scientifically, there have been several studies conducted that explore the cognitive benefits of simplistic puzzles. Many mental health journals and articles suggest that puzzles can have a beneficial effect on problem-solving skills, self-evaluation and overall perception and understanding.
The meticulous nature of a jigsaw puzzle doesn’t only allow the subconscious to deal with a problem that needs to be analyzed and solved, but can also help promote the re-assessment of decisions we make. Seeing if a piece will fit based on size or colour, and re-assessing where that piece may go if it doesn’t fit is good practice for evaluating our daily choices. It also teaches us the patience to figure out how to adjust these choices if necessary.
I’m a reflection of each puzzle piece
For me, it’s the effect on my conscious mind that showcases how special and powerful an art form jigsaw-puzzling can be. As someone whose thoughts never stop, and who relives moments over and over, finding a way to quiet my mind has been an endless endeavour. Fortunately, the ability to immerse myself in a beautiful or complex jigsaw puzzle has a hypnotic effect on my mind.
As I stare at the 1,000 or more pieces, I begin to think of myself as a reflection of each piece. I’m one whole that consists of 1,000 different pieces. Some pieces are so similar that you can’t tell them apart, while others so different, I wonder if they even belong. I begin to analyze the colour and the shape of each piece, and with each connection, I feel a sense of excitement and accomplishment that leads me to yell “Got one!” to the empty room.
Throughout this process, my perception of time, along with my ability to think of anything but the task at hand, is completely lost. This provides me with a well-deserved break from myself. I’m living in the moment, and no external or internal factors can distract me from creating the image I set out to create.
Calling a puzzle “uncreative” is insulting
To label a jigsaw puzzle “uncreative” is insulting to the millions of us who feel a connection with the intricate details of a painting, the complexity of a photomosaic or the creation that a set of unique shapes has meticulously pieced together.
Like any artistic outlet, jigsaw puzzling may not appeal to all those who attempt it, but for those who’ve never dabbled, I suggest picking up the next one you see and giving it a go. There’s something freeing about simultaneously losing and centring yourself in a disarray of colours and shapes.