Recently I decided to begin online coursework in Home Repair and Remodeling. I wanted to learn the basics and framework of what I already do here and there. Of course, I am learning lots and excited to keep learning and get into some new projects. This experience has led me to think about the importance of continually learning and growing.
Many of us start our lives in a seemingly endless pursuit of knowledge (whether forced or voluntary). Think about it, we all spend 12 YEARS in a formal learning environment and then continue on for 4+ more years in the pursuit of Bachelors Degrees, Masters Degrees, and Doctorate Degrees. And then we settle in to our careers. The pace of any formalized learning usually significantly slows. We may take continuing education or professional development courses, but we rarely immerse ourselves in new learning like when we were younger.
While reflecting on “going back to school” (although I can do my coursework from the comfort of my home), I realized that a part of me has come back alive that may have been sleeping for a while. I have felt renewed curiosity and energy for learning new things. I am excited to get back to learning more, and importantly, I can immediately apply my learning. Continually learning turns out to be good not only for our minds, but our bodies as well.
Challenges Force our Bodies and Minds to Grow
It comes as no surprise that the number one way to destroy your body is to not use it. Cardiovascular efficiency will drop in a matter of days, and strength will drop in a matter of weeks. It is clear that in order to be physically healthy, we must continually challenge our bodies.
The same thing applies to our minds. We may not notice it because it happens so slowly, but neglecting to use our minds in new ways can cause our minds to begin the process of atrophy. Something as simple as taking a new route to work can help keep our minds healthy. It has been shown that cab drivers in London actually have their brains shrink in size after retiring. Showing, rather dramatically, that your brain is indeed a muscle. As I get older I see how we can slip into routines and find almost a groove that we can kind of “coast” on. Of course, life continually throws us challenges, but we find routine ways of responding (or sometimes not responding) that help us continue to coast along. There are many ways that we can keep our minds healthy, so here are a few I have tried and have immediately noticed a renewed sense of aliveness and vigor:
- Taking courses in your career field
- Learning a new recipe
- Playing a musical instrument
- Improvisation (telling jokes, writing stories, etc.)
- Creating and building (home repair, making furniture, replacing old light fixtures, etc)
- Learning a new exercise
- Crossword Puzzles and Sudoku
I think you get the idea. In conclusion, find new ways to use your mind. Or in other words, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!