It’s back to school time! Children nation-wide are getting on big yellow buses to go to buildings where inside lies a promise to help them develop intellectually to the extent of their capacity.
…except, for some of us, we don’t realize that capacity until after our time in those buildings is over. That leaves us with a question: How (and where) can we learn, after we’re done with school?
For September’s Wellness in 10, here are 10 ways adults can find new education and inspiration, even if our school years are long behind:
1. Get inspired
It’s probably not a surprise that we’re more likely to learn things that we find fascinating, and it’s probably also not a surprise that we don’t necessarily find the things in our day-to-day lives too fascinating. So to learn, find something that sparks your interest. Whether it’s archaeology, engineering, or professional wrestling, find something outside of your normal routine that makes you think “Wow, that’s cool!”
2. Set a Goal
We all spend time thinking “I’ll do that one day…” but few of us ever reach that magical day when everything is supposedly going to happen. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, set small measurable goals to learning your new knowledge or skill. Perhaps “finishing this textbook by the end of the month,” or “completing this beginner’s project in two weeks” are small goals that will move you forward. Combining a number of these small goals toward your overall achievement is how you’ll accomplish your learning objectives.
3. Rediscover Creativity
Many adults think that creativity is the domain of the young, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Creativity can spur learning, and vice versa. Try picking up a pencil or paintbrush and sketching out a story or a drawing. Starting will be the hardest part. If you allow yourself to drop some of the creative restraints that many find in adulthood, you’re bound to expand and improve your creative skills and abilities.
4. Do it different
We get stuck in ruts. This is the nature of most people. To learn something new, though, we have to do something different. Rather than doing things the same old way, try doing a routine task in a new way. Drive a different way home, baking a recipe with different seasonings, or telling your kids a story from the perspective of a different character. Working through these tasks in a different way will stretch your mind in ways it’s not used to being used.
5. Get a fresh perspective
Just like we can’t learn something new by doing things the same way we always have, we can’t learn something new by approaching things from our own standpoint. Challenge yourself to learn empathy by understanding others’ perspective. For example, try watching the news from the perspective of someone from the opposite side of the country, of the opposite gender, or from the other end of the political spectrum. This can be really hard to do, but you’ll experience real growth if you’re capable of achieving it.
6. Get some exercise
Recent studies have shown substantive connections between physical and intellectual wellness. If you’re feeling like you’re in a learning lull, try stepping up your exercise level to stimulate the blood flow to your brain.
7. Take up an instrument
There are direct correlations between playing music and learning. Not only can playing music decrease your stress and give you a new skill, but playing an instrument has been shown to increase your intelligence in other areas. For as little as a few dollars you can pick up a harmonica and begin to develop the latent musical abilities you didn’t know you had.
8. Sleep on it
Lack of sleep can have lasting and permanent effects on the brain, in as little as 24 hours without rest. To make sure that you’re taking full advantage of your brain power, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night for adults.
9. Make it a single
Though some studies say that intelligent people tend to drink more, there are serious long-term effects of alcohol abuse on intelligence, so if you want to be a life-long learner, be sure to keep your drinking in moderation.
A recent study has found that as little as 20 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation over a 4-day period has a positive impact on the cognitive abilities of test subjects. Coupled with the added benefit of reduced stress, there doesn’t seem to be any downside to taking a little quiet time to yourself to refocus your mental energies.
Thanks for checking out this month’s Wellness in 10. We hope you have an intellectually stimulating September!