The Mindful Path – The New Year, Putting the Pieces Together

 01/01/2023 | 02:49 PM 

By Marilyn Halpern, MSW, LSW ~

“The problem is that we always look for the missing piece of the puzzle instead of finding a place for the one in our hand.”  Alina Radoi

National Puzzle Day is celebrated on January 29 every year. Winter is a wonderful time to begin working on a fun puzzle solo or to host a potluck and dive into a new puzzle surrounded by family or friends.

Here are four surprising benefits of jigsaw puzzles to promote overall wellbeing:

Clinically proven to improve cognitive function and memory

Puzzles require the analytical left brain and the creative right brain to work together. This is the perfect combination to increase mental speed and thought processing. When you exercise your brain in this manner it improves short-term memory. 

According to a 2012 study published in the Archives of Neurology, older adults who completed cognitively challenging activities like games and puzzles had less Beta-amyloid protein in their brains. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the buildup of the Beta-amyloid protein. 

Improve attention to detail 

When you solve a puzzle, you need to pay close attention to even the smallest detail and spot the difference in the colors or shapes that can help you complete the task. This ability to zero in on small details can help in all aspects of one’s life. Completing a puzzle is creating a brain gym. Think: “use it or lose it.”

Mindfulness and stress relief

Meditation can be the process of focusing on one thought or image for a period of time without allowing other thoughts to enter your mind. When completing a puzzle, the stress of life can fade away allowing you to have a sense of tranquility, joy and serenity. This helps to lower your blood pressure and pulse rate. Interestingly, puzzles allow the brain to be stimulated and relaxed simultaneously.

Enhance your mood

One of the brain benefits of puzzles is that they increase the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, memory, and concentration. Dopamine is released as you put pieces together. As you get closer to finishing the puzzle, the easier and faster you have success and dopamine levels increase. Everyone can relate to the thrill of placing the last piece of the puzzle and relish in the sense of accomplishment. 

The types and varieties of puzzles are endless. However, there is no doubt that puzzles are an excellent pastime and beneficial to brain health.  To help you celebrate National Puzzle Day, Prime Time Prime News offers ten different puzzles each month. You can check out what is offered and see what appeals to you. Making a commitment to complete a monthly puzzle is an engaging way to enhance your new year.  May your new year be off to a great start with all the “pieces” coming together. 

Marilyn Halpern is the founder and executive director of Aspen Care Services. This locally owned business provides medical power of attorney, care management and professional guardianship services in the Denver Metro area. For more information visit – www.aspencareservices.com.
Photo credit: Roland Halpern

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