It is well known that jigsaw puzzles are great at cultivating patience, willpower, and can have a relaxing effect on the mind. But what happens when that patience becomes frustration? And that willpower becomes despair? We put together a list of hot tips that can help you overcome those mid-puzzle woes, and will set you on the right path to activating those hits of dopamine that make you feel good when you find a piece that clicks perfectly into the next.
Tip 1: Group by colour, shape, or pattern.
Kim Nguyen, vice president of the Australian Jigsaw Puzzle Association, can complete a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle in 1 hour and 8 minutes. She explains that if the border is all the same colour, you don't necessarily need to start with that. But she suggests prioritising the pieces into groups defined by their shape, colours, or patterns. Oh, and this is much easier to do if there's a reference picture!
Tip 2: Starting with the border can give you a sense of the space you're working with.
Starting a jigsaw puzzle can seem overwhelming at first if you have a bunch of pieces lying around in a disorderly manner. Choosing to start with the border can bring a sense of order and tidiness to the space which tricks your mind into thinking the task is not as large as it actually is. Not to mention, often border pieces have a flat edge so are usually the easiest to find.
Tip 3: Environment is important.
Finding the right surface to do the puzzle on improves efficiency when dragging pieces into place. You want a surface that is as flat and smooth as possible. This also prevents pieces from being damaged when they are dragged across it.
Moreover, the right lighting is crucial to be able to distinguish between shapes, colours and patterns. Alfonso Alvarez-Ossorio, president of the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation, says that he usually completes puzzles on a white mat, as these reflect the light of the space.
Tip 4: Cut corners.
There are only 4 corner pieces in a rectangular puzzle. If you are starting with the edges, don't spend too much time looking for the corner pieces, particularly if you have a large number of pieces to sift through. The few pieces you miss will naturally emerge after other pieces find their place.
And most importantly...
Tip 5: Don't rush! Take a break.
Allow yourself time to complete the jigsaw puzzle even if it takes you a number of days or weeks. Don't expect to be able to complete a puzzle in one sitting. Sometimes coming back to the same puzzle with fresh eyes can be the most effective thing you do. You might also consider investing in a magnifying glass if your eyes become particularly tired.
Additionally, trying to rush too much may negate the meditative effects jigsaw puzzles can have. Your mind will naturally wander whilst your hands and eyes are doing the assembling. The process is meant to be thorough and enjoyable, plus you get a hit of dopamine every time you find a piece that fits. So there is no need to rush. Each puzzling session will leave you feeling satisfied regardless.
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