Nicky Fur­niss

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - NICKY FUR­NISS @tcb­me­dia | @ed­i­toron­the­move

When I was younger, my mother of­ten had a large jig­saw puz­zle on the go on the din­ing room ta­ble. And when I say large, I mean large – 2,000 pieces. She would pore over it on a Satur­day af­ter­noon, and the rest of us would add our own piece or two when we walked past and had a mo­ment to spare.

It’s been a long time since I lived at home, and even longer since I have done a jig­saw puz­zle, but re­cently I have been nos­tal­gi­cally yearn­ing to recre­ate a few of those quiet af­ter­noons.And so I was thrilled when my part­nerTim gave me a jig­saw puz­zle for Christ­mas.

With a week of leave still at my dis­posal, I duly staked my spot at the din­ing room ta­ble, and be­gan sort­ing the pieces into dif­fer­ent bowls based on colour. When this alone took hours, I started to think that maybe I had bit­ten off more than I could chew – even more so when I put to­gether the edge pieces and dis­cov­ered the full size of it. But they say that the only way to eat an ele­phant is one bite at a time, and so I per­se­vered with my 1,500 bite be­he­moth.

Then I started to get into it, and sud­denly whole hours would fly by as I stared and fid­dled, sorted pieces and an­a­lysed the in­tri­ca­cies of the pic­ture. Of­ten, I would sit for 30 min­utes or longer and not place a sin­gle piece. And then, sud­denly, I would have a run of luck, and get hooked all over again. On more than one oc­ca­sion, I would sit down in the early af­ter­noon and by the time I sur­faced, it was al­ready dusk, and I’d been so en­grossed that I had no con­cept of time. And the best part was that while I was “puz­zling”, I wasn’t think­ing about any­thing else – as a per­pet­ual “wor­rier” who can’t sit idle, it was the ul­ti­mate es­cape. “You look so chilled!”Tim would ex­claim af­ter each puz­zle ses­sion.

Af­ter three solid days at work, I must ad­mit that my OCD started to take over, as I felt I hadn’t made enough progress, and with the hard­est (most non-de­script sec­tions) to com­plete, I was get­ting frus­trated. Tim duly de­clared a puz­zle holiday, and a few days later I re­turned to the task re­freshed and mo­ti­vated.

But just how to do you piece to­gether a gi­ant square of black, or a blank patch of all white? As colour be­came less of a dif­fer­en­tia­tor, I had to start us­ing shape to find my next piece. It took a bit of time to ad­just to, but then a funny thing hap­pened . . . my sub­con­scious started do­ing it for me! My hand would shoot across the ta­ble, pick up a piece I didn’t know I had been look­ing for, and place it in the per­fect spot. And when it hap­pened nu­mer­ous times, I started to be­lieve that I was, in­deed, be­com­ing a puz­zle ninja. Wax on, wax off any­one?

I men­tioned this to a friend who is a doc­tor and she ex­claimed with glee:“It’s be­cause you’re grow­ing new neu­rons!” “What? Is that even pos­si­ble?” I asked.

Well, ap­par­ently it is! It doesn’t mat­ter how old you are, your brain is al­ways ca­pa­ble of learn­ing new skills, and in do­ing so, grow­ing new neu­rons. So while I had been re­lax­ing over my puz­zle, my clever brain had been beaver­ing around in the back­ground adding to its arse­nal. Aren’t our brains amaz­ing?

There is one caveat though – you have to keep us­ing your newly ac­quired skill, oth­er­wise in about three months, new neu­rons will grow to re­place them.

’Nough said, that’s all the mo­ti­va­tion I need to keep on puz­zling – and also look­ing for new chal­lenges for my brain. No won­der the Ja­panese en­cour­age life­long learn­ing, which may even ex­plain why they live so long.

So this Fe­bru­ary, dur­ing the month of love, why don’t you show some love for your brain and give it some­thing new to do, and ac­quire a new skill at the same time? Red roses are so last sea­son; new neu­rons are the new gifts of love. Safe Trav­els

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