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You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?
Just because you’ve received your degree and diploma from school—however long ago that was—that doesn’t mean you can’t go on to learn new things in your life.
There’s a difference between learning in life and academics. When we choose to learn something new, we are choosing to learn information relevant to our life on our own terms.
There are no tests, there are no expectations, there’s no final report—just the benefits that come with accomplishing something personal and gaining new insight and information.
Intellectual self-care is just as important as taking care of any other aspect of our being. Sometimes our brains fall into a repetitive routine; learning something new can help shake that up.
Take care of your brain by offering it what I call an “intellectual sweet.”
Have you ever bitten into a delectable and indulgent treat after weeks or months of focusing on healthy eating and living?
Did your entire being suddenly light up and fill with joy?
That’s because you broke the cycle of mundane eating. I’m sorry, but while healthy eating can be delicious and exciting, it’s nothing compared to a piece of chocolate, a bite of pizza, or a spoonful of macaroni and cheese. At least for me it’s not.
Our brains work the same way. As soon as we introduce something that our minds have been deprived of, our neurons fire up. In the case of an intellectual sweet, that “something” is new information.
It’s been proven that when we take the time to learn new information, or a new skill, our brain chemistry changes. Myelin (the white matter in our brains) becomes denser and neurons become stimulated. This results in the formation of more neural pathways, meaning that we can learn more quickly over time.
And it’s never too late to indulge in an intellectual sweet. No matter our age, we can always benefit from learning.
The Benefits of Learning Something New
Apart from restructuring our brains and creating new neural pathways, there are more external benefits we’ll notice in our lives when we learn something new.
Learning builds self-esteem.
They say that “practice makes perfect,” but I like to think of it as “practice makes better”. Striving to be better, which varies from person to person, builds self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy gives us the confidence and faith that we can succeed at whatever task we set out to accomplish.
In turn, it helps us to increase our sense of self-esteem.
Learning broadens our social circle.
Learning not only makes us more interesting to others but helps us relate to more people. The more we know, and the more we have to offer as far as knowledge and skill, the more we will find something in common with other people.
This sense of empathy helps to bridge gaps in communication, making it easier to build strong connections with other people.
Plus, the more we get out there to learn new things, the easier it will be to meet new people and make friends. Social interaction is essential to feeling happy.
Learning empowers us.
Being empowered means having the confidence to make better and more informed decisions in our lives.
This could mean choosing to establish boundaries in our lives to maintain our life balance by saying “no” when necessary. It can also mean taking control of our life and finding contentment.
Learning new things will help to give you this sense of strength and happiness.
Learning fuels creativity.
Learning new things can trigger new ideas and help us to build psychological connections between things that are seemingly unrelated.
This will fuel our creativity and help nurture our intellectual self-care.
Being creative will also help us gain new insight into the world around us.
How to Learn Something New
When thinking about learning something new, don’t worry about focusing on information or skills that are completely novel to you.
You can always build upon what you already know and broaden your current knowledge.
Here are some ways that we can learn new information or a new skill:
1. Take an online course.
There are many free online courses on any topic you can think of. Or you can always peruse YouTube for tutorial videos or check out a TedTalk or two.
2. Seek a friend with a cool skill.
Maybe you know someone who is good at something that you want to learn. Reach out to them and see if they will become your mentor.
3. Visit the library.
The library is a great resource of printed information on a variety of topics. Maybe you want to learn more about your country’s history or how to crochet socks. Anything can be found at the library.
4. Find a local class.
Attending an in-person class in your community is not only a great way to learn something new, but you get to meet new people and build new connections.
5. Try a different learning style.
The idea that people learn more efficiently according to one learning style is unsubstantiated. While people tend to gravitate toward a particular style (tactile, auditory, visual, etc.), studies show that an individual can learn equally across all of them. Shake things up and create a sense of interest by challenging the learning style you are generally accustomed to.
6. Make it meaningful.
Unless the new thing you want to learn is important to you, you are likely going to find learning it a chore and give up. Make sure to choose knowledge or skills to learn that have meaning in your life.
7. Apply it in real life.
It’s one thing to sit down and learn something but another to be able to use what you’ve learned in real life. For example, you can take the time to learn more about positive psychology, but nothing feels as good as actually using it to help a friend or family member.
8. Share what you’re learning with the world.
As they say, give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, he can feed himself for a lifetime. Teach him how to teach others how to fish, and he can change the world. There’s power and strength in sharing your knowledge with the world.
Whatever you choose to learn, and however you learn to choose it, rest assured that you are providing innumerable benefits to all aspects of your life.
Indulge Your Brain
If you find your brain feeling drained as you sluggishly go about your everyday life, it may be time to indulge your brain in an intellectual sweet.
Go out into the world—real or digital—and find something you are interested in learning. Take some time every day to focus on expanding your knowledge.
Don’t like what you’re learning? Go learn something else. There are no rules.
It’s all about what makes your brain feel happy.