Pandemic Winter Health Hacks

The Soothing Power of Jigsaw Puzzles

How to calm the chaos (on your coffee table)

I’m not entirely sure what goes on in my brain when I work on a jigsaw puzzle, but I do know there is something uniquely engrossing about it. As Marisa Evans reports for Elemental, the slow gathering and careful study of a pile of pieces serves as a form of “play therapy.” By creating order out of chaos, puzzlers arguably experience a mini triumph over (albeit manufactured) anxiety. Puzzling also reportedly delivers a tactile, focused lesson in patience.

I realize this is old news to anyone who has either been puzzling for years or reignited the instinct when social distancing kicked in last spring. I fall into neither camp. So now, in the season of cold, I’m digging into puzzles. A 500-piece New Yorker magazine cover is currently scattered across my coffee table. At first I was intimidated, but now it beckons me. I attack it in doses, finding joy in segments of victory and the evaporation of time.

And given the fact that every day pretty much feels like the previous one right now, I’ll happily stockpile patience. As an ambiance person, I don’t just puzzle. I make sure to accessorize the experience with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, slow-burning incense, music, and good company (aka whichever family member I can wrangle into joining).

Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants

Senior Editor, Health & Wellness @ Medium. I write and edit stories about health, science, well-being, and behavior.

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