Word search puzzles help me with my anxiety and depression because each puzzle gives me a list of words to search for that are related to a specific topic. I often pick topics that are good for my mood, such as animal related ones. Focusing on these clusters of related words makes me focus less on what I’m depressed or anxious about and more on the puzzle’s theme. For example, I did one about cats yesterday. One of the words in the puzzle was “sunshine,” which made me think of a cat sleepily soaking up the sun’s warmth, and another was “ears,” which made me think of how pointy a cat’s ears are and how they easily flick when there’s even a slight noise. The puzzle really immersed me into thinking about cats.
For me, doing these puzzles feels similar to meditation due to how they shape my focus. They keep me concentrated on a specific thing that doesn’t need to go anywhere aside from brief mental imagery and looking for the word. Since I tend to over-analyze, they’re a good way for me to give my brain a bit of a break.