Jigsaw Puzzle: Pleasure or Pain?
When was the last time you put together a jigsaw puzzle? If it has been a while, allow me to recommend it as an inexpensive, pleasurable form of self-care–under certain conditions.
A Brief History of Jigsaw Puzzles: the World and You
It occurs to me that an individual’s history with jigsaw puzzles mirrors the world’s history. What do you think? Can you see yourself on this timeline? Where does your experience with jigsaw puzzles begin and end? A download of the infographic is available here.
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Touchstones of Tradition and Nostalgia
The memories you have of your jigsaw puzzle making experiences will help to determine whether or not this is a good self-care activity for you.
For me, ideal puzzle making conditions are any of the following:
- A grey day when it is teeming rain and I am cozy inside with a fire lit
- A snow day when the world stays home and I am cozy inside etcetera
- Christmas holiday when it is my tradition to put together a Christmas-themed puzzle
- Evenings at someone’s cottage
Why Jigsaw Puzzles Are Boring
If none of the above resonates for you, if jigsaw puzzles are of no interest to you, enjoy this video. Laughter is one of the best forms of self-care.
Fits but it doesn’t fit–that’s the entire jigsaw puzzle building experience.comment on YouTube
Jigsaw Puzzle Strategy
Although no statistics have been gathered on this topic, consensus seems to be that most of us begin a jigsaw puzzle by finding the edge pieces and building the frame. After that, methods vary widely.
I love the puzzle I completed as my self-care road test.First, the image rings my nostalgia bell, filling me with warm memories of a childhood spent with Nancy Drew. Second, the puzzle is loaded with distinct images and with words in different colours and typefaces, making it easy for me to find exactly the piece I need. I’m clearly an image and detail oriented puzzle maker. I’m also a flitter (I prefer ‘flexible thinker’). I go for an appealing piece first and then figure out where it fits in the puzzle.
My mom, on the other hand, begins with the puzzle and searches for one specific piece until she finds it. Her search method is based on shape and colour, no image. She detested this puzzle and didn’t even have any of the nostalgia connections to keep her going since Nancy Drew was from my era, not hers.
What is your puzzle strategy?
Challenge is in the Eye of the Beholder
Clearly, the puzzle you choose and the strategy you use helps to determine how challenging a puzzle will be for you. In general terms, however, a standard jigsaw puzzle is considered to be higher on the challenge scale if it has lots of small pieces, lots of identically-shaped pieces, large blocks of a single colour, or a crowded mix of similar objects.
If you are really interested in challenging yourself, you might want to try a jigsaw puzzle:
- that is all white or gradients of a single colour
- where the image on the box provides just a clue to the image you are assembling
- that is double-sided so you’re not sure if you’ve got the right side up to work on it
- in the shape of an animal; there aren’t straight edges to build the frame
- that is three-dimensional
- that has 33,600 pieces and takes nine months to assemble (although only 2:34 to watch)
Of course if you choose any of the challenges from the list above, you have veered far from self-care and are into the dangerous territory of “How quickly can I drive myself round the bend?” Just saying.
What Makes Putting Together a Jigsaw Puzzle a Good Form of Self-Care?
I must confess that jigsaw puzzles do not pop immediately to mind when I think of self-care. But I reviewed the limited research and I observed myself while I was assembling the Nancy Drew puzzle, and I can see the merits.
As long as they don’t drive you crazy (see Challenge section above), putting together a jigsaw puzzle:
- Allows you to chat with friends, listen to music or an audiobook, or subconsciously work away at a problem or issue
- While you relax at a straightforward task with clearly defined goals
- That provides great immediate feedback (the piece fits or it doesn’t)
- Which releases dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in your brain in response to successes large or small
- So that you stay with the puzzle longer, saying “Just one more piece” as the laundry piles up and the dishes remain undone.
That sounds like a good self-care activity to me!
Do you enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles? Do you have a favourite theme? A great memory associated with a puzzle? A strategy that really works for you? Or perhaps an awful memory? Any and all experiences are welcome. Please share in the comments below.