As we embark on another lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, jigsaw puzzle sales are continuing to soar as more people take up the popular pastime activity as a means to kill time, relieve stress and unwind from staring at a screen all day.
Whilst lockdown hobbies like baking banana bread, Instagram challenges and quizzing out on Zoom all seem to have ran their cause, jigsaw puzzling appears in no danger of slowing down in 2021. Last month, it was revealed that jigsaw sales in the UK reached £100m in 2020, an increase of 38% from the previous year. Stats also showed that more puzzles were bought for adults compared to children, with many manufacturers reporting shortages due to such high demand.
“During this challenging year, I’ve found a lot of comfort and joy in sitting down and working on a jigsaw puzzle”, said journalist Nicole Oud, one of many new jigsaw enthusiasts who have recently taken up the hobby. Another, schoolteacher Emma Thomas, is attempting to complete a new puzzle every week throughout 2021. She is currently four jigsaws down in her fifty-two-puzzle challenge, having smashed her way through a 1000-piece Friends jigsaw, and a daunting London Tube Map puzzle, which she described as “a killer… but rewarding.”
The health benefits of completing a jigsaw have also been well documented. Studies show that jigsaw puzzling provides a workout for the brain which can help slow the onset of dementia. Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience found that the cognitive demands of completing jigsaws can contribute to an increased brain reserve, and can also prevent chronic stress which exert negative impacts on ageing and dementia.
Jigsaw puzzling has also been shown to alleviate stress and make people feel calmer, especially in times of crisis. “Putting the pieces of a puzzle together requires concentration and improves short-term memory and problem solving,” says Dr Jill Riley. The mental health expert also says completing jigsaws can help spark imagination, increasing both creativity and productivity.
At Regis Care Home in the UK, residents have therefore been stimulating their minds these past few months by participating in a series of jigsaw puzzle challenges. The care facility shared on Twitter that the activities are having extremely positive impacts on both the mental health and well-being of their residents.
Julie Wilkins of JHG Puzzles told The Guardian that it’s jigsaw sales quadrupled in 2020, making it the company’s most successful year since 1997. Buffalo Games in New York have also doubled production since May 2020, now producing 2 million jigsaw puzzles a month.
Experts have predicted jigsaw-mania will continue on until the summer at least. However, after that there are forecasts the industry will see a decline as people return to more mainstream hobbies like sporting activities, eating at restaurants and going to the cinema. But for now, why not take some time out from mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, soullessly searching Netflix for that new series you still haven’t found, and improve your mindfulness by indulging in a good old jigsaw puzzle during lockdown.