When your routine is in full swing, it can be hard to reserve “downtime” that gives you the time and space you need to rest. If you have a busy working and social life, you might feel like you are always catching up with to-do lists, and never quite finishing them.

Despite how busy life can get, a new study by UK insurer Aviva has found 63% of UK adults do puzzles at least once a week. With so much technology at our fingertips, this figure may surprise you, as puzzles could even seem an old-fashioned pastime compared with the newer, more exciting entertainments available.

Indeed, despite having countless options to consider when it is time to unwind, puzzling seems to remain at the top of the list for many people. 

So, if you are intrigued by adult puzzling and want to know what it could offer, read on to find four brain-teasing ways puzzles could help you.

1. Puzzling can help improve your attention span

According to CNBC, jigsaw puzzle sales skyrocketed by 370% in the US during the first month of the Covid-19 pandemic. Without the ability to entertain themselves in the usual ways, individuals turned to puzzles to keep their brains sharp during lockdown.

Indeed, many people who swear by puzzles report an improvement in attention span, which may be sorely needed in this day and age. A Microsoft study has found that since 2000, the average attention span has reduced from 12 to 8 seconds, Time reports. Worryingly, the attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. 

Due to the singular-focused, problem-solving nature of puzzles, including jigsaws, crosswords, sudoku, and wordsearches, you may find yourself concentrating hard for longer periods than usual.

By regularly sitting down in a quiet room to work on a puzzle, you could stave off the short attention span our digital devices seem to encourage.

2. Doing puzzles could be great for your cognition as you age

Getting older can sometimes feel like a scary prospect. So much of our lives is linked to our ability to work, socialise, do sports, and connect with others, and keeping the mind active is a crucial part of this. 

Fortunately, puzzling can reportedly help with this. A study by Frontiers conducted in 2018 found that jigsaw puzzling “taps multiple cognitive abilities and is a protective factor for cognitive aging”.

Although it is important to be realistic (doing a weekly crossword cannot be attributed to preventing dementia, for example), taking time out of your busy schedule to puzzle might aid your cognition as you get older.

Just like exercising can help prevent arthritis, stiffness, inflexibility, and physical weakness into old age, exercising your mind can do just the same thing. 

Flexing your “brain muscles” by focusing on a puzzle for short periods of time could make all the difference, especially if you are beginning to feel things slow down.

3. Puzzles could reduce your stress levels

If you are a busy business owner, or find your life is taken up with other commitments that cause stress, you will be no stranger to a feeling of burnout.

In these cases, it can be almost impossible to find time to unwind. When you do, consider puzzles as an alternative to your usual methods of relaxation, as they could reduce your stress levels.

Puzzles involve basic problem-solving skills, including:

  • Finding patterns
  • Using mathematical or verbal logic
  • Thinking “laterally”, especially in cryptic crosswords or similar games
  • Trial and error.

We use these skills in everyday life, too. But in our day-to-day, the stakes are often higher, for instance when trying to resolve an issue at work. Whereas puzzles offer our brains the chance to use these skills in a stress-free environment, sharpening our decision-making without raising stress alarms. 

4. Doing puzzles could decrease your daily screen time

We are now fully embedded in the digital age, with almost every aspect of our lives involving technology in some form. Work, studying, maintaining contact with friends, entertainment, and more, are all inextricably linked to screens in some way, shape, or form.

Worryingly, the Manchester Evening News reported in October 2022 that Brits spend an average of 13 hours a day looking at either their phone, laptop, tablet, or television. 

So, if you instantly turn to technology when you finally sit down to relax, think again. 

Having a jigsaw puzzle waiting for you on the table, or a sudoku book tucked away near your sofa, could help you refuse the temptation to sit at a screen for hours on end. 

As a result, reducing your screen time could have a great impact on your life, including improving your sleep, helping eyesight, and lowering the temptation to “doom scroll”. 

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