Times, they are a changing, and in order to catch up you must change (read learn) too. However, being a well-adapted member of society is not the only reason you should strive to be a lifelong learner. Learning something new, no matter what your age may be, will have a definite and specific impact on your brain when it comes to both physiological and psychological level.
So, here are some of the ways for gaining new skills that will improve your mind and your life together with some tips on how to make it as smooth as possible.
“I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” – Natalie Portman.
You have probably heard that the brain is plastic. The science-y term would be neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, and it refers to a fact that the human brain is able to change throughout life by reorganizing and forming new connections between neurons (brain cells).
Plasticity is a capacity of the brain to change with learning.
Here comes the most amazing part: Learning is the key. Namely, every time that you learn something new it causes the brain to form new neurons and connections. In fact, research has shown that, through learning, brain never stops changing. Dendrites that are a part of the neurons, get signals from the other dendrites. These signals travel on the axon, which is what connects them to the other dendrites and neurons. These signals go very fast and many are sent without the brain even knowing that it is happening. So, through life, your brain is ever changing and the more that you learn, the more “plastic” it will become.
Make it Permanent
When you first learn something, it is held in your short term memory. Some of it will then transfer to long term storage within the brain. One of the most important aspects for transferring something from your short term memory to your long term memory is sleep. This is why when you suffer from sleep deprivation, your memory often suffers.
Since memories travel through many neurons and synapses, degradation may occur, which can render memories incomplete during transfer. You probably got it already: learning and regular, proper amount of sleep are great friends. Since we live in a crazy, busy world nowadays try to keep this in mind.
Release of Dopamine
By rewarding your brain with some knowledge, your brain will reward you with some dopamine.
Learning will also make you excited. You have probably heard about dopamine, the chemical released in brain released every time we are rewarded. New experiences can cause a dopamine rush which will in return make you want to repeat the experience. So, for many of us learning is a very awarding adventure. Pretty awesome, right?
Dopamine is even referred as the “save button” in the brain. If you live through some event or experience and dopamine was present, you will surely remember it. And in order for it to be present, we must make gaining new skills as exciting and smooth as possible for ourselves. So, keep calm and learn on.
Myelin is what makes the signals of the neurons move more quickly. What really helps myelin to grow is learning, which further, to say it as plainly as possible, makes the brain more connected and functioning better. When a new experiences is repeated more than once, myelin works really well. This is why practicing new skills is important.
What Types of Learning Experiences are Best for the Brain?
Now that we have a basic understanding of how acquiring new knowledge can help with brain growth, the question becomes what types of skills are best for promoting it. Learning almost anything new can have great impact on improving and sharpening your mind. From sewing to building to fixing things around the house, there are numerous skills that you can learn at any time of life that can help to improve your mind.
Learning a Foreign Language
Not only is learning Spanish great for your brain and mind, but it is also a very useful skill to have.
One great thing that you can do in order to improve your mind is to learn a foreign language. There are several reasons you should start learning Spanish, for example. Next to English, Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world. If you do not currently know a foreign language, now is as good as time as any to learn one, no matter what your age may be.
While it is true that it is much easier to learn Spanish or another language when you are younger, it is still possible to learn one at any age. You will just need to practice each day. The good news is that while you are practicing you will also be improving your mind overall, making it a win/win situation.
Learn to Play an Instrument
If you do not know how to play an instrument, pick one up and start playing it. If you currently know how to play one or more instruments, trying a new one is a great way to improve your mind. Not only does the learning process help to improve your brain, but music is also great for the body, mind, and spirit.
One of the great things about learning an instrument is that you can often teach yourself to play. Once you are comfortable playing a bit, if you really want to improve you can always hire a private teacher to help you progress.
What Happens When you Stop Learning
There has been a lot of research about the brain and how it works.
When it comes to being bored or not taking the time to learn new things frequently, it can actually be harmful to your health. People who state that they are bored over long periods of time had rates of heart disease that were nearly twice as high as those who did not report being bored.
When you do not attempt to learn new things or have new experiences it can cause your brain to begin to slow down and become less responsive. It is good for your health to learn as an adult. In addition, learning new skills when you are older has shown to help slow down the progression of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. It also helps to simply help prevent the natural slowing down of your mental faculties.