If you haven’t attempted a jigsaw puzzle in 2020, you probably haven’t done iso right.
Staying at home and finding different ways to keep ourselves occupied has created the perfect scenario for puzzles to make their epic comeback, and thankfully, funky aesthetic options like those of Okay Lady Puzzles means we aren’t stuck with the dusty, daggy puzzles that have been hiding at the back of our cupboards since primary school.
In fact, sipping on a glass of wine or cup of tea as you piece together a divine piece of artwork has an air of sophistication about it, making it one of my favourite at-home activities during this period of lockdown.
Not only does finishing a puzzle come with a sense of accomplishment, the actual process of putting it together provides a welcome, refreshing break from the chaos of the world and a great method of tricking your overactive brain into practicing mindfulness.
I was lucky enough to receive the stunning ‘Night Dancer’ puzzle from Okay Lady and I can absolutely see why this beauty
featuring original artwork by Alice Lindstrom is a best-seller - I’ve just finished mine and am pretty keen on framing it for display.
Here's a photo of my finished product, I'm pretty proud!
As I went through the process of putting this gorgeous puzzle together I learnt quite a few hacks along the way that I wanted to share with you to help your own puzzle-building experience. But as I was writing down these hacks I noticed an interesting pattern - each and every lesson I discovered for puzzle-building could also be seen as a parallel for self-care in general. Mind-blown!
I don’t know if the brilliant Kristy O’Kane (founder of Okay Lady) intended this when she built her delightful puzzle empire, but as her whole business philosophy is centered around taking time for yourself and practicing mindfulness, I have a feeling she’d endorse my findings.
So, here are some of my tips about for you to apply as you wish; either in your own puzzle-building experience or indeed the wider practice of self-care:
Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective: I must admit, although it was a mostly relaxing exercise, there were a couple of moments during my puzzle-building experience where frustration got the better of me. I’d be on a roll and manage to put together an entire section in a flash only to come unstuck by one darn piece that just couldn’t be found anywhere! That was until I looked at the puzzle upside-down. Within a few minutes of walking around to the other side of the table I managed to spot the piece I’d been searching for what felt like hours, and slotted it in with ease. If only I’d thought to shift my perspective earlier! I really think the same can be said in life when we’re feeling a little stuck, a little lost and a little flat. Sometimes all it takes is a dose of fresh perspective; a wander in nature, a conversation with a friend, a powerful quote in a book or on socials. Changing our environment and shifting our perspective either physically or mentally can do wonders for enhancing our mindset.
Don’t force it: Sounds obvious right? But I noticed (more than once) I was trying to force two pieces to go together, despite the fact that the colors didn't quite match and the edges looked a little squished. The puzzle process was so enjoyable when I was in flow, humming along, sipping my drink and popping the lovely shapes together side-by-side. But if I’d been doing it for a long time/got distracted/felt myself getting agitated and desperately forcing pieces to fit together then it was a sign to leave the puzzle and try again another time. It’s something I’ve had to learn about productivity in general too. When I’m feeling in flow (usually when I’m well-rested and recharged) then the to-do list is my best friend and I’m at the top of my creative game. But other days, when I’m a bit flat or tired the to-do list can be overwhelming. On those days, it’s always better to give myself some grace and just get a couple of little things done, rather than forcing myself to ‘push-through’ and be more productive. Often a gentler approach on myself ends up being much more useful than pressuring myself to ‘do more’ - which often leads to wasted time and a headache, not the results I’m actually after.
Take it one step at a time: Like any new task, a puzzle can seem daunting when you first empty out all the mismatched multi-coloured pieces - it's hard to know where to start! But to truly enjoy the process, it’s best to focus on just one piece at a time. The simplest way is to begin by finding the edges of the puzzle (these pieces will all have at least one flat edge so they’re easier to single out) and piece them together bit by bit. Once you’ve got the edges in place, pick another focus area and aim for that, one piece at a time, rather than aimlessly picking up random pieces in the hope they’ll fit somewhere. Often that’s when things can feel a little overwhelming and it’s hard to picture it all coming together. Building your puzzle section by section, piece by piece, is a much more satisfying and relaxing method and eventually you’re left with a beautiful complete work of art. I think the same can be set for any task you’re trying to complete or goal you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes, especially when first starting out, the end result can feel so far out of reach. Taking slow, small actions each day towards your desired result is a much more enjoyable and effective way to get there.
Seek help: As much as puzzles are an absolutely wonderful activity to complete in solitude, I must admit I also found this one such an enjoyable activity to share with my housemate. I began the puzzle on my own and it was a great way to refocus and wind down after a busy day - and I absolutely would have continued on my own, but there’s no doubt it would have taken me much longer. When my housemate started giving me a helping hand it was so nice to share the excitement when either of us found matching pieces, and we were making progress much faster! It certainly took the pressure off having to find the pieces all on my own. I realise that this is probably something I should take note of a lot more of in the rest of my life, as I can be quite stubborn about trying to tackle challenges on my own. Reaching out to others for a little bit of support doesn’t make you any less independent, or capable, in fact, it means you’re self-aware enough to distinguish what’s best tackled on your own - and when to call in reinforcements.
A cup of tea fixes everything: Puzzles and tea are a match made in heaven. And honestly, any activity that can be paired with a cup of tea is the ultimate way to wind down. This goes for self-care in general - when in doubt, a comforting cup of tea will do the trick (especially if you manage to enjoy it before it goes cold).
So, if you haven’t already tackled a jigsaw puzzle in iso, I highly recommend you give it a go. And if you’ve already completed one, or ten, then you know how addictive they are (I may or may not be about to attempt another one now).
If you’re looking for an especially delightful work of art I highly recommend checking-out Okay Lady Puzzles. Featuring beautiful, colourful illustrations by professional female artists, Okay Lady puzzles have been specifically designed to bring you joy, calm and mindful space to escape the pressures of your day. And you’ll be supporting a local Melbourne business whilst you’re at it! Find out more about Okay Lady on our directory here, or head to okaylady.com.au to purchase.