Order from Chaos: Exercise Your Brain / by Leslie

There is nothing like a good puzzle. It exercises my brain. It feels great to make order out of chaos. I love this 750 piece puzzle, called Bookshelf, in a series called Imag-In-A-Dream. It is sold out online, but there are a couple others in the series that are available.

In a way, doing a puzzle is a very mindless task, very meditative and something that you don't have to force yourself to think about. In another way though, it requires mental concentration and incredible attention to detail. It's like letting your eyes blur so that you can see a 3D picture. You have to turn certain parts of your brain off and other parts on.

I grew up doing puzzles, my whole family does them. Over Christmas you can sometimes find ten of us all working away at different parts of a puzzle, tossing pieces to someone when we find a piece they might need, feeling a thrill when we notice that our part connects with someone else's. It can sometimes get crowded and it takes us a little while to find a rhythm, but when we all find our place around the table and we are all working together, it's a wonderful feeling.

There is a method to doing a puzzle. After you dump out all the pieces you must first turn them all over. One by one, spreading them out and setting aside any edge pieces that you find. The edges are the easiest pieces to find and they are the best place to start. 

When all the pieces are turned over and you have a good pile of edges, start on the border. You can measure it out and put the edges in the right spots along the frame. After the border is mostly done, you can choose the easiest section to work on. This is usually the spot with the most vibrant color, or perhaps a section with lettering or maybe a figure or prominent object.

Finding pieces is a skill requiring the ability to scan quickly for a particular color or shape. Visualizing negative space, filling in and extrapolating patterns is also very helpful, as well as holding and rotating an image in your head. 

For me, identifying colors is the easiest way to complete a puzzle. I try to find puzzles that are very colorful and that have some words in them. It makes them a little easier. I don't need it to be hard, I want to enjoy the process and I want it go fairly quickly. 

Eventually the frame fills up and different sections join together. Lone pieces find their match. I start to see the picture differently, I see all the details. All the nuances and surprises are more clear than they were on the box.

When I have successfully completed the puzzle I feel better. I am less stressed out, I am successful and I have conquered one small challenge.