We all know that making LEGO masterpieces is tonnes of fun and a great bonding experience, but did you know that building with our favourite plastic bricks is also great for mental wellbeing? We chatted to clinical psychologist Corrie Ackland about the top reasons LEGO play ranks amongst the top mindfulness activities.
It turns out, LEGO play is about a lot more than simply having fun – it’s the impact that fun has on our wellbeing that’s really important.
“It makes intuitive sense that the more enjoyable activities we take part in, the better we feel, and there is a lot of research to back it up,” says Corrie.
It is also the case that simply being active can help us feel better, so actively engaging in enjoyable activities – more so than passively engaging – is even better. Positive engagement in enjoyable activities gives us something else to focus on, preventing our minds from wandering off and worrying or ruminating on problems which can generate anxiety and low mood.
“In the case of clinical depression, people can suffer from low motivation which can interfere with their engaging in enjoyable activities and in turn further interfere with opportunities for the mood to improve,” says Corrie. “In this case, a component of treatment or therapy is to plan and schedule pleasant events.”
It’s a mastery task.
Mastery tasks are tasks with objective outcomes – when finished, it isn’t necessarily open for judgement as to whether it is good or not. It is simply accomplished.
“Wellbeing isn't just about feeling happy versus sad,” says Corrie. “Feeling overwhelmed, useless, lacking purpose or demotivated can also affect our mood and overall wellbeing, and as such may need to be corrected.”
Mastery tasks can alleviate some of these feeling by giving us a sense of achievement, accomplishment, ability or self-efficacy.
“It is also often the case that when we get moving on mastery tasks, other things feel more possible to attack too,” says Corrie. “For example, the housework might feel too overwhelming to get started on, but after doing a different mastery task (like LEGO play!) you might feel more capable.
“Completing LEGO builds very often yields a feeling of satisfaction, regardless of whether or not a person otherwise enjoyed constructing it.”
It keeps your mind busy.
“Mindfulness is an activity that involves cognitive discipline,” says Corrie. “It is the practice of observing how other thoughts or feelings may try to intrude on your focus on the present, and disengaging from these thoughts and feelings to refocus.”
Doing mindfulness meditations without a potent point of focus – like, for example, breathing – is possible, though difficult. Having an activity that doesn’t inherently generate negative thoughts or feeling to focus on can be a good form of mindfulness practice.
“The aim would be to try to enhance the focus on building, being aware of when other thoughts try to intrude, acknowledge those thoughts but nevertheless bring your focus back onto building with LEGO pieces, and repeating this process throughout the build,” says Corrie.
What’s more, LEGO play can be completed collaboratively, making it a social exercise, too. Undertaking group projects, Corrie says, can create and restore social bonds.
“Overall, LEGO play is a positive activity that is based on something objective,” says Corrie.