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June Wellness: In Search of the Missing Piece to Brain Health

June Wellness: In Search of the Missing Piece to Brain Health

| May 23, 2024

Welcome to June when we celebrate the first day of Summer, Flag Day and Father’s Day. June is also Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only leading cause without a prevention, treatment or cure. June is the month when we have the opportunity to raise awareness around this devastating disease and focus on ways to love our brain and bolster our cognitive well-being. There are a slew of habits recommended to maximize our brain health including cardiovascular exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet and making sure we get enough sleep.  Among that list of activities purported to keep our minds sharp, one gurgled to the top as a doable challenge aptly entitled “Stump Yourself.” Not only that, but my coworker had approached me with an article on the health benefits of jigsaw puzzles a few months back which was staring at me on my wall every day…until now. (Herlihy)

Since the day I started here at Tycor, there has been a jigsaw puzzle available to all employees to work on as a “break.”  Personally, working on a puzzle never felt like a break to me. And now I know why. Far from just a leisure activity, engaging with jigsaw puzzles can actually serve as a powerful tool in the pursuit of brain health and resilience. Solving a jigsaw puzzle is akin to a gym session for the brain. It demands visual-spatial reasoning, problem-solving skills and logical thinking. Each piece presents a unique challenge, prompting the brain to analyze its shape, color, and placement within the larger picture. This constant engagement fires up various regions of the brain, including those responsible for critical thinking, short-term memory and effectively providing a comprehensive cognitive workout. (Cooper, 2023)

In addition to the workout session puzzles that provide, they ironically also foster a state of mindfulness and relaxation. The focused attention required to sort out the pieces allows the brain to enter a state of flow similar to meditation. This “immersion” can help to lower your heart rate and restrict intrusive thoughts, ultimately creating a sense of calm and mental clarity (something our overworked minds could certainly benefit from). During the COVID-19 pandemic, sales for jigsaw puzzles increased by 370% as we recognized the benefits of this inexpensive age-old pastime. As a society, we were yearning for tactile tasks that could occupy our mind without being too challenging or overwhelming and jigsaw puzzles provided that perfect balance. (Nazish, 2023)

And so we commemorate June’s Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month with Tycor’s Boosting Our Brain Health Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge in our journey toward enhanced brain health and well-being.  If you are a beginner puzzler like me, set a goal to spend 10-20 minutes a day working though a puzzle. If you are an advanced puzzler, try to stimulate your brain even further by experimenting with one of these techniques: If you normally start with the borders, try starting with the middle. If you normally puzzle when it’s quiet, try listening to music; if you’re a southpaw, try moving the pieces with your right hand instead. If engaging in jigsaw puzzles regularly can be a stimulating and enjoyable way to boost our brain health, why not give it a try? It might just be the missing piece to fight mental decline. (Rodski, 2020)

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Sources:

Cooper, I. (2023, November 30). The Art of Jigsaw Puzzles: Enhancing Cognitive Skills. Retrieved from https://cooperisaac.medium.com/the-art-of-jigsaw-puzzles-enhancing-cognitive-skills-7127f46ed4ba

Herlihy, J. (n.d.). June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month: Learn 10 Ways to Love Your Brain. Retrieved from states.aarp.org: https://states.aarp.org/colorado/june-is-alzheimers-brain-awareness-month-learn-10-ways-to-love-your-brain

Nazish, N. (2023, April 30). Can’t Meditate? Here’s Why You Should Try Jigsaw Puzzles Instead. Retrieved from www.forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2023/04/30/cant-meditate-heres-why-you-should-try-jigsaw-puzzles-instead/?sh=3e4252683f1b

Rodski, D. S. (2020). Jigsaws: Helping your brain make connections.