Jigsaw Puzzles and Mindfulness

In Dec. of 2019, Rob Gronkowski, NFL
superstar, was being interviewed as he assembled a jigsaw puzzle in his kitchen as therapy for his concussions he suffered throughout his career. This was pre-pandemic so my wife and I had never even thought about jigsaw puzzles until then. As we watched, I casually turned to my wife and asked if she would like to try a jigsaw puzzle. She agreed. Since we live close to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, we chose the iconic photo of the “Chapel”, a 500 piece puzzle.

Here are the symptoms we experienced as the
dopamine-induced addiction took over our consciousness:

serenity; we both entered our own little focused world.

excitement; yes it was initially a mild quiet excitement more like eager anticipation.

relaxation; we worked in total silence; a silence that still brought us together.

tranquility; the world immediately outside
our living room window was muzzled, you might say, as we puzzled.

Then we graduated. Completing a 1000 piece puzzle is a composite
of 1000 little shots of dopamine climaxed with a major shot upon its

Dopamine is the secret behind your addiction to jigsaw puzzles. Turn off the TV. Bury your cell phone and focus on the puzzle in front of you.

In practice, mindfulness is the process of developing the skill of bringing one’s attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. What makes the jigsaw puzzling process unique is there’s no “development” process. We felt our addiction immediately. Each match of one piece to another was the motivation to continue. The completion of our first puzzle was the motivation to buy 6 puzzles.

Start with a picture or a theme that captures your imagination. It doesn’t matter what that theme is as long as you love it. I highly recommend “love at first sight” as the criteria when you select your first puzzle. Your first or next puzzle, if you’re already addicted, might be a dozen of the cutest puppies EVER. How about classic cars? World famous tourist sites? In less than 30 minutes of browsing a few of the many jigsaw puzzle sites, you’ll find what works for you. Your brain will give you a little shot of dopamine as you say to yourself “O.K.. cool! that’s it, that’s the one.”

Very few non-puzzlers are aware that “puzzling” is a world-wide phenomenon. Nearly 20% of Americans confess to their puzzling addiction which is to say that they normally have one in progress on the dining room table. The trauma of the pandemic gave that number a big lift. It also “lifted” the prices by about 30 to 50%, but that’s settled back down as Covid has waned. For more of the pandemic’s influence on puzzling, the following is a great article.


Puzzling through the pandemic: price gouging and out-of-stock. The power of
puzzling: ‘When everything feels out of your control – piece A fits with piece

If you happen to appreciate fine art, you’ll find some very good fine art jigsaw puzzle choices all over the internet. Try the “Art and Fable” website

( https://artandfablepuzzlecompany.com/a-brief-history-of-jigsaw-puzzles/ )

They offer a modest collection but if you want to start with 500 pieces in classic fine art, they’re offerings are very appealing. I just ordered a difficulty, level 5, 1000 piece, called “Daphnis”. The dopamine is surging already.

How you start doesn’t matter. Just start, especially if you have children in the house. It’s called “quality time”. The TV is off and you’re all in the same room sharing time. I have a 5-year-old great granddaughter who has been puzzling for about 2 years. She just quietly goes on about it on her own.

There are more pieces to the puzzle of how Bob
and Joan became addicts and found mindfulness, but you get the idea. I hope your puzzle experience is as delightful as ours has been.

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