Unsplash | Ross Sneddon

People Are Finding Balance In Their Lockdown Lives With Jigsaw Puzzles

As much as the internet has provided a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and family during the distancing measures undertaken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, there's only so much time that people want to spend in front of screens. However, offline options for distractions became somewhat limited, especially considering you couldn't really go to the library to browse the stacks for a new thriller.

That search for mind-occupying entertainment without a glowing rectangle to stare at led to a rather unexpected resurgence in sales of jigsaw puzzles, but the surprises didn't stop there.

It didn't take long for folks to find the joy of a good jigsaw puzzle.

Unsplash | Joshua Hoehne

Less than a month after the mid-March lockdown measures took hold, jigsaw puzzle manufacturers noticed a considerable bump in sales. As NPR reported, some puzzle makers saw sales increase up to 370% year-over-year — they simply couldn't keep up with demand.

"It didn't take long for the shelves to bare, the e-commerce dried up, nobody had puzzles," Carol Glazer, president of puzzle maker Ceaco told NPR.

But, weirdly, the demand for puzzles didn't dry up.

Even after distancing measures eased up and people started to leave their homes more regularly, jigsaw puzzles remained in demand.

Psychologists offered up a host of reasons so many people had found joy in jigsaw puzzles, from their ability to soothe a busy mind to exercising control to clarity of purpose.

"While COVID-19 is associated with a lack of control and an unknown end, puzzles offer the opposite," Ohio State University psychologist Michael Vilensky told HuffPost.

Whatever the reason, people didn't want to stop doing puzzles.

Unsplash | Mor THIAM

And it wasn't just in the U.S., either. The U.K. saw a 38% uptick in jigsaw puzzle sales for the entirety of 2020 compared to the previous year, The Guardian reported, topping £100 million.

"Manufacturers have said to us, you could sell anything, even a white image," market researcher Frédérique Tutt told The Guardian. "They ran out of stock in the spring and again just before Christmas."

With puzzles in such high demand, it's not shocking that non-puzzle makers have tried to shoulder their way into the market.

Unsplash | Fabian Kühne

For example, Heinz decided to try its luck with an entirely red, 570-piece puzzle that it debuted in May, giving it away to 57 lucky individuals across 17 countries.

But as novel and challenging as that may sound, for the most part, puzzle solvers out there have been choosing more soothing, nostalgic scenes to piece together.

"Nostalgia is big," JHG PUzzles rep Julie Wilkins told The Guardian. "Animals and birds but also what people call 'chocolate box': pubs, inns and cottages are popular."

But while puzzle doers might want cozy scenes by and large, that doesn't mean they don't want a challenge.

So far, the most popular size for puzzles has been 1,000 pieces, but a rep for German puzzle maker Ravensburger told The Guardian that they're seeing increasing demand for tougher puzzles with more pieces. The company's chairman, Clemens Maier, shared his thoughts on why people sought out jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic, saying they helped "lots of people find a balance in their lives, especially in a time of crisis."

What do you think? Have you gotten into the jigsaw puzzle craze during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments!

h/t: The Guardian