Life Lessons: Jigsaw Puzzle Edition

Ryan and I have really gotten into jigsaw puzzles this year. We’ve always enjoyed them—in fact, we spent a few hours working on a puzzle together during one of our first dates ever. But since then, the only times we have done any puzzling has been each year at Christmastime with Ryan’s Grandma or my mom.

Well, this year our holiday puzzling inspired us. We decided that we should do puzzles more often! It is a wonderful way to spend time together, and a refreshing switch up from me constantly getting annihilated at board games! And so far, in 2017 we have completed three 1000 piece puzzles!

As it turns out, doing puzzles is just wonderful for my self esteem! I am working on a 1500 piece puzzle right now, and it is SO hard. Every time I attach a piece, I feel like I have just about conquered the world! It is such a wonderful feeling to search through piles of pieces and finally find the exact one I am looking for. And when it slips perfectly into place, I feel like a million bucks!

Working on puzzles has actually been incredibly beneficial for my mental health! It seems to be the kind of activity that actively employs both sides of my brain in such a balanced way. The colors and textures delight my imagination and activate my creative side, giving me something beautiful to build and work towards. The actual process of digging around for pieces and putting them together in an orderly fashion activates my logical side and exercises my critical thinking. It is actually a huge stress reliever for me. Not only that, but I am also learning a lot from it! So today we’re going to keep it light and fun, and I am going to share with you three of the benefits that I have experienced as a result of my recent puzzle craze!

1. Practice Problem Solving

For people struggling with anxiety or OCD, decision making is extremely stressful. You can go around and around in circles in your brain for hours, days, weeks, or sometimes years! Sometimes you just give up on solving the problem or making the decision altogether. But when I am doing a puzzle, I am motivated to push through the challenge and to figure out how to complete the task. I want to see the final picture so badly that I will take the time and effort to look for each piece individually. You can deduce from the picture and the surrounding pieces what a particular piece should look like. This takes logic and reasoning, and it is a really great way to practice problem solving! In life, the problems I face aren’t often as straight forward as finding the right piece. But they also aren’t typically as complicated as I make them out to be. If I persist and continue to work towards a solution, eventually everything will fall into place.

2. Learning Patience

I started the puzzle I am currently working on just over a week ago, and I remember feeling like I had no idea where to start. At times I felt like it was hopeless and that we should just pack it up and put it away! But as I have worked on it throughout the week, slowly I have started to see it come together. It’s been a work in progress—just like my life. But what I have found with puzzling is that it gets easier as you go. The more pieces you snap together, the less there are on the table to sift through next time. When you just look at the giant pile of pieces, it feels overwhelming. There’s no way you can deal with them all at once. Likewise, in life, we can’t just look at all of our challenges and struggles and expect ourselves to fix everything overnight. It takes time, and you have to be patient. What a great reminder that we don’t always get to experience the payoff from our efforts right away. But in the end, the wait is always worth it.

3. Connecting the Dots to See the Big Picture

When you open up a puzzle box for the first time and dump out a giant cluster of random pieces, you can never see exactly where each piece will fit from the very beginning. It is so much fun to watch the puzzle come together, but sometimes the process is very different than you might have expected. I will often find myself looking for a piece, quite certain of what it will look like. To my great dismay it might take me (literally) days to find this one specific piece. And when I do, I realize that it looks nothing like what I expected it to. It’s amazing how the pieces fit together, even when it looks like they aren’t even from the same puzzle. This is true in life, I find. Sometimes you find yourself in a mess of broken pieces that seem like they could never fit back together. When this happens, we’ve got to hang in there. God is a master puzzler! And when He connects the dots for us, it reveals a big picture that is more beautiful than we ever could have imagined!

This is what my current puzzle looks like today. It’s not finished yet, but I can see the picture forming. There still huge chunks missing, and other parts where only one or two pieces need to be found. This is a lot like my life. In some areas, I’m a total mess. In other areas, I’m doing pretty well! Nonetheless, a beautiful picture is forming. And while I may not be able to see the big picture yet, but I’m thankful that I know someone who can!

puzzle3 Do you struggle with the fact that you can’t see the big picture in life? Do you tend to get overwhelmed by the “big chunks” that are missing in your life, or are you able to simplify and work on things one piece at a time?

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