Are you looking for a screen-free, stress reducing activity to do in the evenings? Are you working from home, looking for something to do for a short break to quiet your mind? Look no further than jigsaw puzzles!

Mug of hot chocolate surrounded by jigsaw puzzle pieces

Our friend Victor Briere, A.D., of The International Institute of Ayurveda is our guest blogger this month. His writings explain how and why doing jigsaw puzzles can reduce stress:

How doing jigsaw puzzles can reduce inflammation by Victor Briere, A.D.

Studies have shown that Sudoku helps people with dementia and dancing helps people with Parkinson’s. Its not a far leap to understand that Jigsaw Puzzles help reduce your inflammatory response throughout your body.  This parasympathetic inducing past-time is typically reserved for family vacations on a rainy day.  But in truth, it shouldn’t be.  Let’s talk about why.

We all have stress in our lives.  What is this mysterious stress?  What is the difference between mental stress and physical stress?  The reality is there isn’t a difference.  Mental stress is a form of physical stress.  Why? Because it affects your nervous system directly.  We all have an Autonomic Nervous System divided into two branches.  One is called the “Sympathetic” and the other is called the “Parasympathetic.”  Without going into too much detail, stress happens when we enter into our sympathetic nervous system.  Stress isn’t bad.  Its actually necessary to maintain a healthy body.  Too much stress, especially for a prolonged period of time, is the problem.

We enter into our Sympathetic Nervous System when we feel threatened or when we have a need to mobilize and move quickly.  The key here is when we “feel” threatened.  There doesn’t have to be an actual threat present.  Its all based on our perceptions.  So, if we go into work tomorrow morning and feel like we are going to get fired, most of us would enter into our Sympathetic Nervous System.  If we spend too much time in that system then our bodies start to break down faster than they can rejuvenate.  When we finally get a break later on, our bodies attempt to repair all the damage via the immune system which creates inflammation.  Like stress, inflammation is necessary to have a healthy body. Its too much inflammation that causes a problem.

Where do Jigsaw Puzzles come into play?  The methodic, calm, slow, hypnotizing and focusing influence they have helps us transition from our Sympathetic Nervous System to our Parasympathetic Nervous System via the Vagus Nerve.  It is in the Parasympathetic Nervous System that we digest, heal and find the experience of peace.  Dwelling for long periods of time in our Parasympathetic Nervous System is absolutely necessary to our long-term health and happiness.  There are many wonderful ways to guide your body into a parasympathetic state.  Mind-engaging past-times like Jigsaw Puzzles are genuine healing tools.

~Victor Briere, A.D. The International Institute of Ayurveda

Final Thoughts

There are a huge variety of jigsaw puzzles available, from fine art reproductions to fantasy, abstract images to photographs of nature scenes, flowers to dragons, nursery rhymes to maps, rural scenes to urban, holidays to nostalgia, animals to fractals. You can find round shaped puzzles, square and rectangular, even random shaped ones. Puzzles are available for all ages and skill levels, from 9 pieces for real little kids to 2000 pieces for the serious puzzle enthusiast. You can turn one of your own photographs into a puzzle.

HipMaps custom jigsaw puzzle with photos & map from a road trip

You can even order a personalized geography puzzle with a kid’s name and photo on it, or a customized puzzle with 20 or more of your own photos arranged around a map of anywhere in the world to remember a great vacation, group trip, or to connect with family who are scattered around any particular region. Head here for details!

HipMaps Southeast Asia puzzle with child's name & photo on it

Jigsaw puzzles make great gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations or ‘because the days are short and the nights are long’! Jigsaw puzzling can be a solitary, paired or group effort – but any way you choose it’s calming, relaxing, and healing. So turn off the TV, put down the screen, play some music or a podcast, and happy puzzling!

Glass of red wine surrounded by jigsaw puzzle pieces

Congratulations, you read all the way to the bottom – you rock! We invite you to sign up for our fun monthly newsletter (below) so you don’t miss the next Map Musing! And if you have an idea for a blog, or want to learn more about HipMaps, please shoot us an email at, fill out the form, or schedule a time to chat! We post fun map stuff on Instagram, please follow us there or on your favorite social media platform (links at the bottom).

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