Monday, April 20, 2009

Puzzled, again

I blogged about starting a 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle in Puzzled last February. I wanted to do something new and mentally challenging in my spare time. It didn't take long before I realized that this one was way too challenging! I wanted to give up. Not once, nor twice, nor thrice... Arggghh! Will I ever complete this?... Stupid jigsaw puzzle...

Although I was overwhelmed at times, I was challenged enough to keep on. Besides, I derived great satisfaction whenever I correctly placed a piece. My dopamine kicked in. That encouraged me to keep going, one piece at a time. More natural dopamine!

I thought that even if I just found 10 pieces a day, I would be done in 5 months. As it turned out, it took me less than 3 months to complete the puzzle and that's because on some days I spent many hours analyzing hues, lines, patterns, curves and partial pictures, and putting matching pieces together.

Occasionally, my family had to miss home-cooked dinner while I was sorting through hundreds of puzzle pieces. "Where's Mom?" "Guys, just eat leftovers..." I guess they were pleased when I was done, but not half as pleased as Mom.

The biggest puzzle I've ever done, 58.8 x 83.2 cms.
Too bad 2 pieces were missing. Bummer.

I read some articles online describing the benefits of jigsaw puzzles to children and adults alike. It's brain food, they say, exercising both the left and right brain lobes at the same time--the analytical part and the creative part. Puzzles are also supposed to improve memory and learning.

According to Free Press Release in "Making Fun and Games of Preventative Medicine", the most well-known longitudinal investigation of healthy aging, the MacArthur Study, found that people who remained mentally active participating in activities, such as jigsaw puzzles and other mentally stimulating games, demonstrated a better quality of life in general and longer life expectancy than those who had less mental stimulation. A study published in USA Today also found links between participating in leisure time activities such as jigsaw puzzles and lowered instances of mental diseases such as Dementia, Memory Loss, and most notably Alzheimer’s Disease (by almost a third!).

At my age, I need to keep my mind stimulated and memory sharpened. Sometimes I forget easily, and I'm not referring to paying bills. Okay, that too.

More than halfway to finishing that dreadful puzzle, someone gave me a new one from Japan. The box said "The world's smallest 300-piece jigsaw puzzle." Isn't that so like life? Before you can solve one problem, here comes another one. But I was excited to keep it for the future after I was finished with the humongous one.

The future happened two days ago. It's been weeks since I completed the King Tut puzzle. I was ready to begin again. Isn't that so like life?

Cute one, only 21 x 14.8 cms. big, but still quite a challenge.

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