You might have played with Lego – its plastic bricks, people, windows, doors, bushes and myriad other shapes in a kaleidoscope of colours – as a child. Now it has found new fans among frazzled adults – as a mindfulness tool. Despite the rise of video games and the internet, Lego continues to captivate, 90 years after the Lego Group began its life in Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s workshop. The name came from an abbreviation of the Danish phrase leg godt , meaning “play well”. Vlada Botoric, an assistant professor at Zayed University in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, has researched the Lego fandom, or fan community. In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Culture in 2021, he noted that there are more than 360,000 adult members of the Lego community worldwide. In 2019, after a survey found high levels of stress and worry in adults, the Lego Group developed kits aimed at grown-ups who want to wind down, decompress and practise mindfulness. It launched an advertising campaign targeted at adults, highlighting the utility of Lego “for them to experience a moment of mindfulness in their hectic lives”, Botoric reports. Photographer recreates Hong Kong in Lego form Lego for adults combines nostalgia with intricate design. Its kits appeal to people with diverse interests – from botanical collections full of craftable orchids and cactuses, to architecture sets that replicate structures such as Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower. Some, like the Nasa Space Shuttle Discovery model, are based on science and technology. All are designed to help people enter a Zen state of mind when piecing together the plastic parts. The concept of mindfulness has caught on as a way to reduce stress by focusing on the present moment. Adults have taken up repetitive tasks like colouring, typically seen as a child’s pastime, to feel more relaxed and creative. Activities of this type enable our brains to make cognitive links and form neural pathways that help hone our problem-solving skills and stimulate our imaginations. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes those moments when you are completely absorbed in a challenging but doable task as “flow”. “The human mind functions like an efficient factory, effortlessly churning out thoughts. Some of them are meaningful and useful, a lot of them irrelevant and maybe damaging to one’s well-being,” says Deenaz Damania, a therapist and counsellor in Tamil Nadu, India. Mindfulness, she says, helps us develop the ability to observe and not identify with these constantly evolving thoughts. “It is tremendously liberating, mentally and emotionally, and can mean the big difference between living a highly stressed life or a moderately stressed life,” she adds. This is where playing with Lego can help. “The rhythm and repetition of [building] Lego ensures that you are able to be in the moment and not feel pushed or pulled in multiple directions, or in a state where there is continued pressure to do something,” says Kamna Chhibber, a clinical psychologist in Delhi, India. “This enables people to be able to manage their thinking and improve their state of overall well-being.” From mental hygiene to meditation, expert tips for good mental health Millennials across the world have embraced building things out of Lego as a mindful and relaxing hobby. Sakshi Raman, a young advertising professional, favours creating flowers, plants and buildings. “When I select a Lego piece and follow each instruction slowly and create something beautiful, it’s such a mindful exercise, almost meditative and spiritual,” she says. “I am just paying attention to my fingertips and thinking about patterns, connections and revelling in the colours and textures, noticing the ribbed sides or the smoothness of a roof, with the reassuring sound of the plastic crunch of the bricks.” Ramesh Raja, 31, an IT professional, is also an unabashed Lego fan. “I love the breaking down of a big task into small, manageable parts and love to follow instructions. Just the sorting out of the pieces can be therapeutic,” he says. “The world we live in has so much visual and auditory stimulation that we use our hands less and less, and this really affects our well-being. Being more tactile somehow makes me happier.” For Akash Mohan, 33, who works with DBS Bank in Singapore, Lego is his go-to de-stress mechanism during weekends. “It’s simply addictive. I usually pair it with some light TV or music that plays in the background,” Mohan says. “Just following the steps requires very little brainpower … just the perfect amount to be engaged in the building, getting lost in the engineering of the little blocks, and yet allowing the mind to wander to thoughts about life, work and to-dos for the week ahead. “The icing on the cake is when the final product is done.” Further evidence of the thriving online Adult Fans of Lego – or AFOL – community can be found on YouTube at JangBricks, Brick Builder and others – many of which have subscribers in the millions. To guide newbies in using Lego as a mindfulness tool, Abbie Headon wrote Build Yourself Happy: the Joy of Lego Play in 2019. It includes the chapters with the headings “Builds to help you sleep ” and “The life-changing magic of tidying your Lego bricks”. The book suggests as many as 50 Lego activities for adults, from building something with your eyes closed, to recreating a scene from your childhood. As Headon reminds us: “As adults, we forget the fun that comes from playing and creating things.” Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .