By Brenda Nichols
For the sole use of manhattanmft.com
Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” In other words, learning is a lifelong process. That’s because a lifetime of learning is good for you, as it will not only keep your brain sharp, but it's also good for your mental well-being. In this article we will look at why lifelong learning helps a person’s wellbeing and what you can do to make sure you never stop learning.
A brain boost
Learning of any kind can boost mental wellbeing, whether it's a hobby or going through a full online education course. Case in point, an editorial on adult education published in the International Journal of Lifelong Education notes a point made by University of Stirling professor John Field: That adult learning not only increases people’s chances of “making it in life,” but also improves their mental well-being. This follows the research done by other higher education institutes on the subject, with psychology professionals at Maryville University pointing out how newly recognized connections between learning success and mental health are being discovered. These connections show a clear link between the ability to learn and a good mental wellbeing.
Furthermore, continuous learning actually boosts brain power. HelpGuide’s ‘How to Improve Your Memory’ article notes how the brain’s neuroplasticity helps enhance one's cognitive abilities, as well as their memory and ability to learn new information. But you can only enhance this neuroplasticity by exercising your brain – and that means learning something that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. In this way, you challenge your brain, and the reward is enhanced brain vitality, sharper memory, and better mental performance.
Even better, in a study about potential stress buffers published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers explain that learning something new is one of the best ways to counter workplace stress. This is because learning equips you with information and knowledge to better handle future stressors. It also makes you feel competent, which gives that sense of accomplishment that helps build confidence.
Finally, lifelong learning can also lower your risk of acquiring neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Research on the link between cognitive reserve and dementia published in JAMA Neurology found that enhancing cognitive reserve through educational and mentally stimulating activities can reduce dementia risk, even for those with high brain pathologies. Cognitive reserve is the brain’s ability to compensate for any physiological changes, especially those that can adversely affect it.
A variety of ways to learn
As you aim for lifelong learning, you must embrace uncertainty, as advised by our resident writer Angie Sadhu in her reflections about changes and new experiences. Doing so prepares you to take risks. It will, in turn, allow you to explore the world, and the opportunities for learning that it offers.
Such opportunities may involve learning a new skill, like dancing, or even a new sport or hobby. They may be in the form of reading good books, discovering new words, or exploring different cultures by traveling. You may even want to continue formal education, whether in a traditional institution, or even through the internet via eLearning. The latter option, in particular, has become quite popular nowadays, especially for retirees and older people, as eLearning is more affordable, and allows a level of flexibility as you can choose your instructional modalities, courses, and even your own schedule.
Regardless of the opportunities you pursue, the takeaway here is to not put a cap on the amount of knowledge you can take in. As Einstein said, the only time you stop learning is when you've reached the end of the road. Until then strive to learn every single day of your life.