[Wellness Wednesday] The Importance Of Lifelong Learning https://reclaiminghopecoaching.com

[Wellness Wednesday] The Importance Of Lifelong Learning

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday everyone! This week I thought we could talk a little about the importance of continuing to learn throughout our lives.

Sometimes we tend to think of learning only in the context of formal education, but the truth is that more learning takes place outside of the classroom than it does inside.

For example, one day I got a phone call from my Mom. The conversation started out in the normal way, but then took an interesting turn….. She said, “I just got a smart phone, but I’m not so smart.”  Now, I just have to say, this is absolutely not true. My Mom is one of the smartest people I know. Anyway, she was having some trouble getting her new phone set up and was calling to see if I could help talk her through the process. We managed to get some basic things set up, and she was able to start putting contacts in….enough to get her started with it.

My hubby and I took a drive down to visit them shortly after that, and she and I played around with it until she was comfortable. She actually caught on pretty quickly. She had never used a smart phone in her life, but she was willing to learn. My Mom is a wonderful example of a lifelong learner. She doesn’t shy away from new technology or learning new hobbies, and she’s constantly on the lookout for new cooking techniques.

Continuing to learn throughout our lifetime is vitally important.

As we talked about in the post How’s Your Intellectual Wellness?, Intellectual Wellness involves both “recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills”(SAMHSA) and using “the resources available to expand one’s knowledge in improved skills along with expanding potential for sharing with others.” (Stanford Health Care).

In his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Dr. Daniel Amen, neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain-imaging expert, says,

New learning creates new connections in the brain, but the absence of learning causes the brain to start disconnecting itself. No matter what your age, mental exercise has a global, positive effect on the brain. Learning has a very real effect on neurons: it keeps them firing and it makes it easier for them to fire. There are approximately a thousand trillion synapses in the brain, and each one of them may wither and die if not actively firing. Like muscles that don’t get used, idle nerve cells waste away.”

Wow! That really puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? I certainly don’t want my synapses withering and dying! How about you?

“The best mental exercise is acquiring new knowledge and doing things that you have not done before.” – Dr. Daniel Amen

As Dr. Amen explains it, when we do the same things over and over, our brain adapts and starts to use less and less energy to do those tasks. Learning new things creates new connections and helps improve function in other areas of the brain, areas that we may not use as often if we’re doing the same things over and over.

The new learning doesn’t have to encompass the type of learning we do in school, though that would certainly qualify. Some other ways to continue a lifestyle of lifelong learning could be:

  • Be willing to make mistakes. Often, as we age, we think we should have it all figured out. The trouble is that if we do have it all figured out and aren’t ever making any mistakes, then most likely, we’re not learning anything new. Go ahead, try new things, and make mistakes – and when you do, turn those mistakes into another learning opportunity.
  • Know how you learn best. Do you have certain tricks you use, such as mnemonic devices, or making up songs to help you learn? Make sure you know what helps you the most and use it.
  • Take up a new hobby. Doing new things forces us to learn new skills, develop creativity or skills, and even help reduce some of the stress that’s so harmful for our brains.
  • Listen to audiobooks, podcasts, Ted Talks, etc.. The possibilities for learning are endless with this one.
  • Read. Again, the possibilities are endless!

There are so many opportunities for us to keep learning throughout our lives. Our preferences may change as we go through different life stages, but no matter the stage of life we’re in, we can continue to build our Intellectual Wellness.

The important thing is just to be intentional about continuing to learn. This will keep us strong mentally throughout our lives, and who knows, we might find a new passion in the process.

Do you believe lifelong learning is important? Have you learned anything new lately? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

Sources:

https://www.samhsa.gov

https://healthysteps4u.org

Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Change Your Brain Change Your Life. (New York, NY: Harmony Books, 1998), 354-355.

 

 

42 comments

  1. Yes! I still love learning about new things. I read A LOT. I’ve tried many new skills—though admittedly I’ve had trouble with some! I so hope that my kids grow to be lifelong learners too!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Elihu! I know what you mean about having trouble with learning some new skills….I think even if we don’t do that well with a skill we attempt to learn, we learn through the process of trying. Blessings to you!

  2. So true, use it or lose it! Yay for your mom! Learning that smart phone. I seriously had to relearn sentence structure! I went through 7 rapid surgeries over about a year. My surgeon warned me I’d (in some way) pay for the anesthesia. Memory loss and inability to write was what it cost me. So I started coloring, then Zentangling, crossword puzzles and then blogging! It is amazing how fast you can learn! I ended up writing a book that a year prior could not have been conceived! The brain is an amazing muscle. 😊💜

    1. Wow, Kim, that’s amazing! The brain certainly is amazing. The more I read about brain health and the brain’s ability to make new connections, the more I realize just how amazing it really is. I’m so glad you were able to find activities that helped you come back from your memory loss and inability to write. Thanks so much for sharing!

      1. Thanks so much for your kind words Kim! I’m glad you find these WW posts helpful. I just feel like sometimes we spend so much time focusing on our illness that we forget to work on our overall wellness. Thanks for always being so kind and supportive! Hugs!

  3. I think lifelong learning is so important. It keeps your curious about life, and your brain active. 🙂 Mine at the moment are learning the violin and horse riding. Two things I never expected to be trying to learn. 🙂 xxx

    1. Thanks for your comment Heather! I was just wondering the other day if you were still playing your violin. I hope you’re enjoying it. The horse riding sounds fun too. I used to ride every now and then when I was younger and I really enjoyed it. It sounds like you’re keeping your brain busy!

      1. I am. Can play 8 whole notes on the violin now! 🙂 Nearly ready to go onto the second finger, and then I’ll be up to 12 notes. 🙂 Definitely can feel the brain going when I’m practicing. xxx

      2. That’s great Heather! I love the violin, and I know it must be exciting to be learning how to play. Wishing you lots of success as you continue to learn!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Ana! Crosswords are a great way to keep your brain active. I’m terrible at Crosswords – always have been. That probably means I should be doing them, huh? I was just telling my husband the other day that I really don’t like doing anything I’m not good at, but those are probably the very things I need to do to keep my brain stretching. 😊

      1. Yes! Keep practicing Terri! They’re so engaging and once you get started, I even find it hard to stop. I’ve found many great ones at our local dollar store.
        My kids at school now get crossword puzzles for homework some days and we make it a game. They challenge me, to see if they can find the words faster than I can. 😊

      2. Wow, I love it that the kids get crosswords for homework. I’m sure that makes learning a lot more fun!

      3. Yes! I think it’s great too! The teachers make the spelling words of the week to be searched in the crossword puzzle. I think it’s so fun. And they enjoy it so muchZ

  4. I absolutely agree – ongoing learning is essential to keeping us alive. It not only fuels the brain but also passion. I feel as if I am learning new things everyday.

    1. I’m so sorry for the delay in replying to your comment, V.J.! For some reason, your comment, along with 5 others, ended up in my WP spam folder….

      I agree with you that lifelong learning fuels our passion as well as our brains. Now that I’m not working, I have more time for exploring my “passion projects” and finding new things to be passionate about.😊

      Hope your week is off to a great start!

  5. Terri, this is another amazing post. I completely agree that this is such an important part of our journey and I appreciate the reminder and encouragement as I need to remember that this is important, especially as I get older. Bless you!

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! You are always so sweet and encouraging. Blessings to you as well dear friend!

  6. Thank you Terri. Your mum sounds amazing. Life long learning is so important. I remember speaking to two elderly ladies last year who went to classes on surfing the Internet and using Facebook. It opened up a whole new world for them, and they love it.

    1. Thank you Brigid! I may be a little biased, but I do agree with you that my Mom is amazing! I love learning because as it did with those ladies you were talking about, learning new things opens up new worlds.

  7. I love your mum’s attitude! I gave my mum my old iPhone just over a year ago because I thought it would be easier for her to use (physically with arthritis and in general with doing messages etc as it’s quite intuitively set up). Of course, she’d never used one before and was terrified of even touching it incase she ‘broke’ it! But I kept teaching her little bits, repeating it all, and she got there. I now send her pictures on WhatsApp and she replies with a string of Emojis!

    It’s taking the unknown in your stride and giving it a go, step by step. I’m a huge fan of the concept of lifelong learning; it opens up possibilities, shows that nothing is perfect or ever finished, everything we do and know is in a constant flux of evolving. The book by Dr Amen sounds interesting, I do like neuropsychology and ‘seeing’ the science behind things such as memory and learning, it’s fascinating. Of course, as you’ve so well said, we have to be prepared to make mistakes along the way. This is a fab post, very motivating towards us exploring new avenues in life and continue the journey of lifelong learning with a spring in our step! 🙂
    Caz xx

    1. Caz, I’m so sorry for the delay in replying to this – I feel horrible about it! I was doing my routine check of my WP spam today, and your comment, along with 5 others that were not spam, were in it. I don’t know what happened….

      Anyway, thank you so much for commenting, and for sharing with us! I love that your Mum was able to learn to use the iPhone. I completely understand her fear of “breaking” it – I used to be the same way with computers when the first PCs came out. I know I’m showing my age here, but the first time I ever even saw a computer was in 1981 at my first duty station.😁 Sometimes being kind of “forced” into learning something new is good for us, because otherwise we might not take the chance on failing at it.

      I absolutely love what you said about lifelong learning opening up possibilities….

      What are we going to learn this week, dear friend?

  8. Love this!! One of my mottos is “learn something new everyday.” That’s what I try to do with blogging, health info, at work, at home, etc. Thanks for the reminder!!

    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! That’s a great motto! Just think how smart we’ll be if we learn just one new thing each day. 😊

  9. Such a timely post Terri. I was just talking to my children a couple days ago, both of whom are in high school and college. They were telling me how happy they’ll be once they get through with school so they don’t have to study anymore. I gave them insight into my life and how I’m constantly learning new things everyday. I reinforced to them that in life you never stop learning and that it keeps your mind mentally sharp.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Mark! It’s funny how, when we’re in school, we think we won’t have to learn anymore once we’ve graduated. Later, we find out we’re never really done learning (or shouldn’t be anyway….) I think the best thing we can do for our kids is to model being a lifelong learner. Blessings to you!

  10. Dr. Amen’s quote is a real sobering one. Wow. I’m really glad that I love reading, and learning new things, and puzzles of all sorts. Thanks for sharing this, Terri!!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Kathy! I agree with you that Dr. Amen’s quote is quite sobering… It makes me want to learn even more now!

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