We are indeed, in strange times. Our lives as we know them are different – some in subtle ways, others in big ways. Before all this happened, my diary was pretty full for this year – visits to family, day jollies with witchy friends, gigs, a Cotswold break with my in-laws and many various Pagan and Witchy events. Now those pages look back at me, with scribblings out on every page. I’ve been keeping relatively busy, taking each day as it comes and counting my blessings. Life is at a definite slower pace and I’m taking it as a positive to connect more with my path.
One of the things I’ve been doing is jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles were a ‘one-a-year-on-a-dark-winters-eve' when there was nothing on the tv. I’ve done 10 in 9 weeks (4 x 500 piece and 6 x 1000 piece). Some have been easy-ish and some have been frustrating - (snowy ones!) - but I’ve enjoyed doing them all. I find that they are a way that I can distract myself from all that is going on, be it from the constant news or social media. I am loving the positivity that is coming out of all this though on social media – by that I mean the posts about online gigs, the community spirit that has surfaced, people doing things for one another, zoom get togethers, people making scrubs for our wonderful NHS, activities for children, the list goes on... but I think it's important for my wellbeing to take some time out for myself and switch off. Jigsaw puzzles have been an excellent way of doing that.
Jigsaws improve short term memory by way of remembering shapes and colours and visualise the bigger picture to work out which pieces to fit together. They also help our problem-solving skills. When you think about it, we take different approaches to try and solve a problem. Trial and error are involved and we change our perspectives when it doesn’t quite work out as we hoped. Puzzles can improve our mood – unless of course you are missing a piece and you’ve discovered that your dog ate it! Puzzles can increase our brains production of a chemical called Dopamine. Dopamine regulates our moods and positive feelings. It's also connected to concentration and memory. Dopamine comes into play when we complete a puzzle or even when we eventually find that elusive piece which means we’ve finally ‘finished’ that house/tree/boat part.
Solving puzzles allow us to enter a state of mind that is similar to dreaming, we become relaxed and focus on the here and now. Breathing slows, mind monkeys stop their chatter and we instantly de-stress. I find puzzles a way of meditation – nothing else comes in my thoughts and what can seem like half hour is in fact 2 or 3.
Once I wouldn’t have sat for hours doing a jigsaw. I always felt like I should be doing something ‘constructive’. But slowing my pace of life down and allowing myself to just ‘sit’ is very therapeutic and I feel better for it. I can’t wait to get back to doing more of the things I love but I think puzzles are definitely here for the mainstay and not just for dark winters nights..