Brain Builder: The Benefits of Puzzles & How They Can Make You Smarter

The benefits of puzzles are undeniable. From improved memory to increased attention to detail, your seemingly simple hobby can increase both the length and quality of your life. Sitting down to do a jigsaw puzzle enhances your focus and staves off the risk of memory loss related to dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and old age. Plaza Japan reveals why this hobby is so enriching and how you can reap the benefits of jigsaw puzzles, too!

Puzzle showing three kittens with flowers.
Beverly 3D Crystal Owl Jigsaw Puzzle

Benefit of Jigsaw Puzzles #1: The Visual-Spatial Connection

We start learning about the benefits of puzzles when we're babies. You've seen those big, vivid puzzles with sizable pieces and bright primary colors, right? As a child advances, the puzzles get increasingly complicated, but that's part of the learning process.

Even at a few years old, a child can study a puzzle to see how two individual pieces fit together. In the beginning, there's plenty of trial and error. After years of doing puzzles, however, the ability to pick out shapes and to visualize how the finished product should look evolves to positively impact other areas of adult life. One of the benefits of jigsaw puzzles is that they help develop our visual-spatial reasoning over time. Visual-spatial reasoning has been proven to help us navigate the space and objects around us and has been proven to be a particularly well-pronounced skill in people who gravitate towards STEM fields. However, the visual-spatial reasoning we develop through playing with puzzles can also transfer over to other everyday skills we use like how we drive a car, read a map, practice a new dance, or pack a suitcase.

Wooden puzzle of a vintage, fantasy flying ship.
Epoch Cute Flower & Cats Puzzle

Benefit #2: Maintaining a Keen Mind

One of the most significant benefits of jigsaw puzzles is that they help you to live longer and stay sharp-witted throughout your life. Older people who regularly assemble puzzles have young brains -- Seriously! According to the Archives of Neurology, a 75-year-old puzzle-enthusiast can have the brain capacity of a 25-year-old! This means that one of the benefits of puzzles is that they can help lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or general memory loss.

From beautiful Thomas Kincade puzzles to fun Disney jigsaw puzzles, taking up puzzle-solving as a hobby can improve your memory. Each time you work on a puzzle, you strengthen the connections that exist between your brain cells, helping you to boost new relationships between synapses and cells. As a result, your short term memory and mental acuity strengthen helping you to remember things longer and recall facts faster.

A puzzle showing a lone tree set against the milky way, midnight sky.
Yanoman Monet’s Pond Puzzle

Benefit #3: Problem-Solving Superpowers

The benefits of puzzles that we've already mentioned come together to make you a better problem-solver, too. Your critical thinking abilities get a workout whenever you remove a new puzzle from the box. You have to approach the puzzle from every conceivable angle and that approach may change depending on the subject of the puzzle. For a picture that's almost all one color, for example, you have to tackle the problem differently than you do with a detailed image.

One of the other benefits of jigsaw puzzles is that they also teach you how to come up with a hypothesis and test a theory. Even children assembling large, engaging puzzles have been shown to use similar techniques to tackle a difficult puzzle. Puzzles force use to experiment with various ways to connect the pieces which, in turn, sharpens our deduction and problem-solving skills.

A puzzle of autumn in Japan.
Ensky Castle in the Sky Wooden Puzzle

Benefit #4: An Eye for Detail

Many of the benefits of jigsaw puzzles affect other areas of your life, as well. Regardless of the subject matter, jigsaw puzzles consist of small parts, all of similar shapes, colors, and designs. Through assembling puzzles, we teach our eyes (and our brain!) how to scan for important details we might have otherwise missed. These skills can transfer to other aspects of life, too, like reading through reports at work or scanning the weekend paper; plus, studies show that when we’re more detail-oriented, our flow of work improves. Talk about a real-world bonus for your fun hobby!

A 3D puzzle of Iron Man’s helmet.
Yanoman Harunire Tree & Milky Way Puzzle

Benefit #5: Left to Right

Another benefit of puzzles is that it gives your brain a full-on workout! The left side of our brains is ruled by logic meaning it likes to progress along in a linear path. The right brain, in contrast, thrives on creativity and intuition. Both hemispheres come into play as you attempt to complete a puzzle, helping you to strengthen all of your cognitive abilities at once.

Epoch Autumn in Kenrokuen Ishikawa Japan Puzzle

Benefit #6: Effortless Stress Relief

Another benefit of puzzles? They help relieve stress, too! Studies have shown that assembling a puzzle can have similar effects on the body as other relaxing activities such as meditation.

Which makes sense -- when you’re completing a puzzle, you're focused on a single image for at least an hour. No other thoughts are buzzing around in your brain during that time. All of your attention is locked onto the pieces in front of you -- it's easy to forget about everyday stress while you work a jigsaw.

This benefit of jigsaw puzzles comes from your brain switching from a waking “beta” state to an alert “alpha” state. This switch can not only help improve our mood, but it helps encourage the release of Dopamine (a chemical that improves mood) every time you successfully place a piece or finish a puzzle.

Tenyo 3D Iron Man Helmet Nano Puzzle

Benefit #7: Together Time

Don't discount the benefits of jigsaw puzzles as they apply to your family life. More than one person can put together a puzzle! Doing the job as a family in such a tranquil environment is a fulfilling way to bond, and the repetitive nature of the activity provides an open, easygoing avenue for conversation.

Now that you know the benefits of puzzles, you need to restock your game closet. What kind of puzzles do you like putting together? Explore Plaza Japan today to discover Japanese plastic model kits and your new favorite puzzle!