The Wellbeing Journal: Keep Learning

Posted by on Aug 30, 2015 in Discussion | 0 comments

The Wellbeing Journal: Keep Learning

‘Keep Learning’ is one of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing.’ There is a growing body of evidence showing that if we keep our brains active by learning new things, new skills, new facts, we can probably delay cognitive decline – that is the onset of mental frailty and perhaps some types of dementia. Forgetfulness, and indecision may not be the inevitable accompaniments of getting older. The greatest impact occurs when what we learn is new, it is not enough to have a busy demanding job that we do very well – however complex the work we do during the day. It is the acquisition of new skills that helps our brains to remain active as we grow older. If are brains are functioning well we will benefit in other ways – apart from the pleasure we will have in acquiring new knowledge or abilities, we will be more alert, we will be less likely to be taken in by tricksters and fraudsters who prey on the vulnerable, our horizons and our social circle will widen. In the future most of us will have several careers through out our working lives, we may need to take on less physically demanding roles as we continue to work  into our seventies.  We will have greater choice if have kept our ability to learn new expertise and take on new roles. 

If we want to keep learning and have no specific need in mind, we can start simple, perhaps with a new recipe, or studying through an evening class, where there are no formal demands on us.  Learning a new skill may mean periods of feeling embarrassed at our incompetence or comparing ourselves to others who seem to be much better at French, or carpentry or painting. We may want to give up. We need what Chip and Dan Heath (in their book ‘Switch’outline the need for a ‘flexible’ rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset in order to persist through the difficult times associated with learning new skills.

When I was working with a group of people keen to improve their own sense of wellbeing, they were mostly retired women, a number of them took on new physical challenges. Two started to learn Tai Chi – a martial art that promotes balance and a meditative approach. Although it took many months for them to feel confident about the complex series of movements that they were practising they got immediate benefit from the sense of understanding and learning a completely new set of skills in a supportive environment.

More tomorrow.


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