How to Keep Your Brain ‘Learning Fit’

How to Keep Your Brain ‘Learning Fit’

How to Keep Your Brain ‘Learning Fit’ 1920 1080 The Conscious Professional

We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker

 

The world moves and changes fast. More than ever, older people can get left behind, not because humans are intrinsically unable to adapt as they get older, but because many of us do not foster that part of our brain that practices learning when we get to adulthood.

Not only is continuing to learn as an adult nourishing, but it is also great for our personal and professional resilience. Resilience can mean many things, and keeping the ability to adapt to unknown situations is one of them.

Having a brain that still knows how to learn helps one to remain relevant, as well as connected to the world. Here are a few thoughts on how to keep ticking over in that regard…

1. Pick Up A Pastime

The idea of a new hobby can seem overwhelming. There’s this idea that hobbies aren’t worth it unless you go for it all the way and spend loads of your time doing it. But hobbies needn’t be life-swallowing projects or stressful. My wife, over lockdown, decided to learn how to decorate cookies. It is something that she learned gradually. It is something that she found claiming. It is also something that she doesn’t do very often now, and she has managed not to judge herself for it. It’s a small new skill that she sometimes returns to and is always very happy when she does. It has brought her joy and it kept her mind active in a period of mental stagnation.

2. Learning Something New About Something Old

If you are not in need of a new skill but want to engage the learning part of your brain, try to look for ways to advance the skillsets you already have. I often do this with cooking. I am an enthusiastic good cook and will often try to add a new skill to my arsenal. For example, I once spent six months working on how to make bread. I once decided to learn how to fillet a fish and joint a chicken. They were not such big exercises that they took up a lot of my time, but extremely satisfying, nonetheless.

3. Into the Unknown

I always used to wonder why my parents took us to the same place on holiday every year. ‘Why not try somewhere new?’, I would think. ‘This is boring!’. But, as an adult, I totally get it. You go on holiday somewhere; you work out where everything is and acclimatise to the status quo… you have a lovely time. Then, next year, you think, ‘I could go somewhere new. But why would I, now that I have a stress-free option that I know I like?’

There is a lot to be said for visiting places that we are familiar with. It’s much less stressful and doesn’t require us to learn anything new. That being said, sometimes it is good to be somewhere new. It forces you to engage the learning part of your brain. Sure, it could be a new holiday destination. But maybe it’s as simple as trying a new coffee place from time to time, or going to a new supermarket and having to work out where they keep the cheese.

You don’t always have to ruffle the feathers of your routine like this, but it helps to do it on occasion.

4. Become Conscious of Your Optimal Learning Style

Seeing out things to learn also helps you to work out what learning processes are the most effective for you personally. When taking on a learning process, try to consciously engage with how you are learning, and question whether it is working for you. The skill itself might not be that difficult, it might be the way you are going about learning it.

5. Break Down Your New Skills

If a new skill you have to learn is overwhelming you, break it down into smaller components. The idea mastering of a many-faceted skill can feel like too much, especially if you haven’t learnt anything new in a while. Consciously break the skill down into components and concentrate on mastering each component in isolation. Try to concentrate on laying each brick, not on building the house.


By Chris Thomson

 

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