Puzzles: the new hobby for adults

Sometimes life is so confused that it is difficult to think clearly. Our author has received 1000-fold support for this.

My beautiful, ideal world lies on the floor in 1000 pieces. Both figuratively and literally, because the brightly colored puzzle with the motif "Café on the Italian Riviera" has exactly 1000 pieces. I dig through it with both hands, a great feeling and noise, this rich clatter. Then I scan the mess for curbs. The more I let my gaze wander between the template and the shell, compare, orient myself, concentrate, try out, the more I get into a flow. The halves of the brain connect, the carousel of thoughts in my head stops spinning, slowly comes to rest. I have it nice in my fantasy world – as embarrassing as this pleasure is.

Self or family therapy through puzzles

Because actually I'm neither young nor old enough for puzzles: This is something for children and pensioners who have to be kept busy somehow. The hobby-less hobby of all. But when my older son complained in February that it hadn't snowed this winter, I half ironically bought our first adult puzzle: the picture of a romantic, snow-covered forest hut with colorful fairy lights on the gable. And deer in the garden. Under snow-covered fir trees. After my son laughed at me for three days, I just started assembling it myself; it made me surprisingly happy. At some point he suddenly sat next to me and joined in. We handed parts to each other – "Look, doesn't that fit over there with you?" – and worked four hands on the big picture. Along the way, we talked about the important things in life. As the picture grew, I learned things he would never tell me if I asked him about it.

An hour with a psychotherapist costs around 100 euros. As a puzzle, up to 100 hours of self or family therapy cost me between ten and 20 euros. Afterwards, my point of view is brighter for a long time: While puzzling the Riviera, I think back to happy holidays in Italy and dream of future ones that will hopefully come again. For hours I automatically focus on something beautiful, a relaxing balance from all the factual reports and horror images on the Internet.

Puzzles are not only the ultimate principle of order – they symbolize life itself: On many days it is a hopeless heap of colorful particles that all look the same on the surface and just don't make any sense. You need patience and look carefully. What does not fit cannot be made to fit even with force. "Puzzling demands a variety of cognitive skills, including short and long-term memory or reasoning," explains Hannes Marohn from Ravensburger Spieleverlag. And further: "We are increasingly observing another motivation: mindfulness and relaxation. In a society that is becoming more and more demanding, digital and fast-moving, people consciously take a haptic break without a smartphone." Last year alone, Ravensburger increased its puzzle sales by 20 percent.

Self-efficacy instead of helplessness

I guess you should invest in puzzle stocks now: Since the warehouse fever has dominated the lifestyle in 2020, influencers and coaches are now discovering and praising puzzles to calm the nerves and present themselves with their works. Frustrating tasks that are difficult to manage; When puzzling, the challenge meets guaranteed competence. At some point even the last part will find its place, the sense of achievement is only a matter of time. Self-efficacy instead of helplessness! If you have been looking for a certain stone for a long time and finally find it, it is an orgiastic feeling. A piece of happiness.

Courage to leave a gap? Not with me. When the picture is done I feel pride and joy, even knowing how stupid it is. I leave the work there for a week and then, with slight regret, take it apart again. The purest deconstructivism: worlds arise, worlds pass. Should the general world situation continue or should house arrest be imposed again, I see great things coming my way: the "evening stroll through Paris" in 18,000 parts. Fortunately, I'll have a lot to do with that.

KARINA LÜBKE is one of those people who always go to the edge when puzzling. Inconceivable: to start somewhere in the middle.