Solving Puzzles Boosts Mental Health

Fears of contracting coronavirus coupled with strict shelter-at-home measures are causing all of us to be stressed. Studies show adults and children have elevated anxiety levels over the past two months.

But researchers have discovered something simple can help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our emotional well-being: Solving puzzles appears to distract us and help us feel more positive amid this ever-evolving pandemic.

Why? Puzzles, which trace their origins back to the 1700s when they were created as an educational tool for children, gained mainstream popularity among adults during the Great Depression. Cheap and easy to assemble, they can fill what seems like endless days and nights. They require patience until the final piece is placed, helping engage our brain and triggering a response that can help with mental health.

“When you think about puzzles from the neuroscience perspective and what is going on in the brain, puzzles pack a big punch,” Nicole Calakos, a professor of neurology and neurobiology at Duke University, said in an interview.