Get puzzled, it will do you good!

November 15, 2022 by Bojana Crnadak, Bensu Govsa Tulgar

When it comes to playing games, our first thought is that these are children’s activities, which help them learn and grow, and also a great way to spend some quality time with the family. By now, we know that not only kids learn through play – adults also develop through active involvement in games. Take a short break – not yet for a game but for the story of two CEF colleagues, Bojana and Bensu, putting an idea into practice.

It all started as an innocent idea in the middle of the long and tiring winter lockdown in early 2021, when we were casually chatting and dreaming about what we will do, once we are out of the woods and no longer limited by the Covid rules of socializing. Bensu has a passion for doing jigsaw puzzles. (By the way, they are called this way because apparently they were cut with a special saw in the past.) In the winter of 2021, Bensu was participating in the yearly World Puzzle Days event on Facebook and eventually won a 1000-piece puzzle in the raffle. This is a special puzzle with a very unusual cut known as the fantastic cut. At the same time, Bojana was managing the CEF Instagram account and searching for ideas about behind-the-scenes moments among the CEF team during the long lockdown. Somehow the CEF's use of gamification in our learning program and puzzles sparked the connection, and an idea was born.

At the time, we agreed to join our forces and assemble puzzles once the circumstances would allow it. After syncing our calendars, we started in the early days of 2022. We first made the frame of this very challenging puzzle. Let us paint the picture: uneven cuts (no two pieces the same), numerous colors, and challenging patterns capturing the richness of the under-ocean world. But two very determined women decided that the puzzle will not have the last word. In the coming months, we kept the practice of meeting every month and eventually our picture became clearer with every step until we put the last piece in its place and felt a great joy of accomplishing this together.


You can find countless researches on the positive effects that games have on our well-being. The two of us experienced many of them first-hand. Overall, we felt better and more energized after each gathering, no matter how tired we were after a workday. And it wasn’t easy to start in the late afternoon hours. Once we set the scene for the puzzle at the CEF’s dining room, a whole new world opened up and different energy started to come in. We set aside our daily obligations and worries, and concentrated on the under-ocean world. The combination of doing the puzzle, having open and honest conversations along with lots of laughing, and light background music (Bensu is a great DJ!), made the stress level gradually decrease. It became obvious to both of us that in those moments we exercised our brain while unwinding at the same time, and also reaped so many other benefits that come from socializing.

Putting the pieces of a puzzle together requires lots of concentration and attention to detail. Puzzles impact memory, improve focus, and increase the ability to solve problems. We both noticed a change pretty soon. Sometimes when we would come home or the next day in the office, the previous day’s challenging obstacles would become more manageable and the solution would be on our plate any moment. Somehow it felt like we looked at the same situation from a different angle.

After some time, we would notice that our mental speed is increasing, and honest conversations during these activities certainly helped in our further collaboration and teamwork. After all, somewhere in the middle of this puzzle mission, we had a joint major project event abroad and plenty of event coordination was happening between the two of us at the time. It often seemed like we already knew what the other was thinking.

It took us eight meetings to complete the puzzle in September, after a summer break. We used the break to recharge and get more energy to finish the puzzle. We felt proud of accomplishing it together, especially overcoming all those moments when we would have rather gone home to relax on the couch than do the puzzle. So, next time when someone invites you to join the puzzle or some other game, don’t hesitate and just go along. Because as we discovered, it can do wonders for your brain, body and soul!

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