I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t always like learning new things.
It may be the latent perfectionism that clouds just about everything I do. It could be the fact that I don’t like to acknowledge that I might not be good at something (the horror!). Or it could just be that being a beginner is tough, change is hard, and developing new skills, especially as an adult, can be particularly challenging.
While all of those truths are pretty easy to swallow, there is one that is even more universally acknowledged: if we are not moving forward, then we are just sitting still.
The human brain craves stimulation. It needs to be tricked and challenged and caught off guard every now and then to remain healthy.
In fact, studies have shown that learning new things can actually help the brain work better in many different areas, including cognitive function, concentration, attention to details, memory recall, and problem-solving. It can also help stave off dementia.
But those are just the scientific benefits. Learning new things also has amazing plus sides when it comes to fostering human interaction, creating communities, building self-confidence, and, at the end of the day, just simply having fun.
It almost sounds too good to be true. But is it?
The benefits of learning something new can never be over-emphasized. Unique pieces of information broaden our perspectives, help us to adapt to new situations successfully, deepen our characters, and boost our productivity, to mention but a few! That is why it is necessary to make deliberate efforts to learn new things every day.”Eden Bitton for Thrive Global
“Research shows there are several ways to improve the health of your brain and learning something new is one of them. Mental sweat helps your brain build new cells and strengthen connections between cells. When you learn something new you are exercising your brain, which can help improve cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall, and problem-solving, and also reduce the chance of developing dementia.” Health Navigator
I learned some new things when writing this article. And, I have to say, I’m pretty intrigued by the notion that getting a little bit outside of my intellectual comfort zone could really benefit my overall brain health. I’m intrigued enough to commit to a little experiment.
Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to try to develop a new skill. I just moved into a place with a backyard, a luxury I have never had as a twenty-something that has lived in large cities. As it gets warmer in my hometown, I have decided that I am going to learn how to take care of a yard, top to bottom. I will buy grass, learn about patios, discover all the different kinds of hoses and why I need one. It is going to involve a lot of being ignorant (particularly at the hardware store), a lot of reading (truly, why are there so many types of grass?), and a lot of patience when it comes to not knowing what others would consider general knowledge.
But at the end of the day, I am going to have an incredible backyard with a patio and nice furniture and (hopefully) a blossoming garden. Will I be an overall better person? Time will tell. Will I have an overall improved cognitive function? We’ll see.
But will I feel an overall sense of joy and accomplishment around learning new things? I am ready to call it: absolutely.
I invite anyone reading this to join me in my crusade for developing new knowledge. Is there something you have been avoiding taking on because you don’t know where to start? A topic you have always wanted to study but can’t find a way into? A question you are scared to ask in fear of looking like an idiot?
Now’s the time to get proactive, embrace being a beginner, and let yourself discover the joy of discovery.