All too many of us have replaced learning with entertainment. We rent films, remote-control our way through hundreds of television stations and spend hours surfing the Internet but most of our entertainment is more mind-numbing than thought-provoking. We have forgotten how much fun learning and brain challenge can be!
Exercising our little grey cells is important and beneficial to living a happy, healthy life. Brain challenge makes us more alert and mentally agile. Learning, even later in life, can make us happier, reduce stress, improve memory, raise our self-esteem and may actually help us live longer, more satisfied lives. Doing even simple mental exercises helps keep our neuron pathways active and develops our problem-solving skills. Here are a few ways to give your grey cells an easy but consistent workout.
Read an encyclopedia entry every day. You can get old encyclopedias for next to nothing at yard sales or thrift shops. There is probably one in your basement or attic already. Just read an entry or two a day. You will expose your mind to a wide variety of topics and learn new things all in less time than a television commercial break.
Pick up a prep book and answer a few questions every day. The general ones like G. E. D. or S. A. T. are the least intimidating and most accessible. Take your time with questions; there is no rush. It feels great if you answer the questions correctly but don't worry if you get them wrong. As long as you are trying, you still give your grey cells a workout in the process.
Solve puzzles. Puzzles combine playing with learning. Puzzles are cheap and easy to find both in stores and free online. Even simple puzzles keep the grey cells working. One or two per day is enough. Just mix up the kind of puzzles you do. Word puzzles, logic puzzles, trivia quizzes, crosswords, math puzzles, number puzzles and picture puzzles all use different neuron tracks in your brain.
Attend a lecture. Combine a social activity with a learning experience by attending a lecture at your local museum or library. Bookstores often have author readings or topical discussions. Local colleges and universities often hire guest speakers for special topics and you can probably attend free even if you are not enrolled in the school.
Join a reading group. Reading groups are pretty common across the country. A group of people agree to read the same book and then meet to talk about it. The meetings are usually social but often very engaging and thought-provoking. You might make a few interesting friends in the bargain.
Take a class. The local college or university probably has a community education program. Enrollment is usually cheap and there is no pressure to get good grades. The subject you choose to study is not as important as the activity of learning. As long as the subject holds your interest and you remain active in the class, you are reaping the benefits of an active mind.
Learning and mental challenge are not just for kids. Humans are naturally wondering and learning creatures at all stages of life. Just a few minutes a day with a puzzle or learning activity can keep the grey cells active and you will have taken one fun but important step toward a healthier, happier life.
Joseph Onesta, M. A. is a speaker, trainer and coach working in the field of Human Performance Improvement, consulting with organizations and individuals to improve their performance through focused strategies, enriched work/life balance and enhanced communication. You are invited to visit http://www.integrityhpi.com and subscribe to weekly Tips for a Balanced Life.