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The Importance of Continually Learning in Brain Development

If you have children or spend any time with them, you have probably heard about the importance of brain development in childhood. In order for a child’s brain to fully grow and develop in a healthy manner, parents and caregivers must continually speak to the child, play with them, and interact in a positive way. Encouraging a love of learning and exposing children to many different arts, sciences, languages, topics, and ideas can also be a great way to help develop their curiosity and breadth of knowledge. The brain also develops by learning emotional intelligence, so communicating with children and encouraging them to do the same is another key way to aid in that growth.

But what about adult brains? It’s widely understood that children’s brains have the capacity to grow and change, but scientists previously thought that the brain stopped developing around age twenty-five. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the term neuroplasticity became commonplace. Neuroplasticity refers to our brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to experiences throughout life. In children, neuroplasticity generally refers to the creation of neurons or gray matter. While adults lose neurons as we age, we also have the potential to create new gray matter through neuronal connections. In addition, we can experience changes in our white matter which facilitates connection between different regions of our brain.

Scientists and researchers have found that we can increase our neuroplasticity and brain development even in adulthood. Learning new things, engaging in physical activity, practicing problem-solving and memory, and giving our brains an adequate amount of mental downtime are all great ways to increase neuroplasticity. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” The famous artist and theorist makes a crucial point about creativity leading us to form new connections in our brains. Interacting with science and art in unconventional ways leads us to question what we already know and promotes neuroplasticity. 

Indulging in a favorite hobby like music, art, or even video gaming is not just relaxing after a day at work—it’s mentally stimulating and promotes neuroplasticity, too. Art and music can help you express your emotions and improve your mood, concentration, and focus. Shockingly, video gaming, especially games that involve puzzle solving, motor coordination, memory, reasoning, and decision-making, can also promote neuroplasticity. These are all vital skills that your brain can lose over time if not regularly practiced. Your brain needs to be exercised just like every other part of your body, and sometimes, routine cognitive exercises at work aren’t enough. It craves something different.

Incidentally, traveling to new places or exercising can also help increase neuroplasticity. Exercise increases the level of blood flow and oxygen that your brain receives, and traveling to a new place can help open your mind and your understanding of different cultures. You don’t even have to travel the world to accomplish this—sometimes it’s as simple as visiting a new neighborhood or switching up your daily scenery. Writer and businesswoman Miriam Beard once said, “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” If travel has the potential to change the way you view life, imagine how much it can improve your neuroplasticity and innovative thinking at work.

Continual learning and creative expression has the potential to improve not only your personal satisfaction and mood, but also your professional satisfaction and knowledge. Read on for some insights into how continually learning can improve your life at work and at home.

Improve Multicultural Awareness

We’re taught from a young age to take note of experiences that are different from ours, but there’s still so much we probably don’t know about cultures around the world and the experiences of people we have never met. Sara Alshamsi, Chief Operating Officer at Big Heart Toys says, “When I travel, I bring those new experiences back home with me. When I go out into the world and see how other people live, what amazing things other people are doing, I feel inspired. I feel motivated. I find myself wanting to share everything I’ve learned with my family and coworkers. It’s an incredible feeling. Travel really is the best teacher.”

Read Every Day—And Take Time to Process

Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer at Readers.com recommends setting aside time to continuously read and learn every day. He says, “I think the best way to keep learning at our age is to keep reading. We may not need to use our library cards anymore, but why are we letting that stop us? We have a whole library at our fingertips and it’s the Internet. I learn every day just by reading the news or reading about the latest scientific innovation. We control how much we learn, and I say don’t ever slow down. The world is moving too fast. And yes, sometimes that gets overwhelming. But part of the learning is the thinking. You read something and then you’re going to think about it. Maybe you’re going to make something out of it. If you read something and then you write about it, or you make art about it, that’s when you know your brain has really processed it. It’s going to stick with you, for better or for worse.”

Exercise to Lower Stress and Improve Memory

Ryan Azimi, Director of International Development at ETIAS suggests a regular exercise routine as a way to process and remember the new knowledge you picked up from the day. “I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, I start to forget things. I forget where I put essential household items. I forget a task at work. The more I forget, the more stressed I get. Exercising helps me get my mind off things. We’re so busy thinking and learning throughout the day, but I think it’s important to give our brains a half hour to an hour a day to think about nothing. For me, exercising helps me lower my stress levels, and it’s proven to increase memories and get more oxygen into your brain.”


Incorporate Puzzles into Your Morning

Lina Miranda, VP Marketing at AdQuick, starts her day out with a few minutes of learning. “We solve so many problems at work, and that’s why I like to make my first puzzle of the day a fun one. It doesn’t have to be an old-fashioned crossword puzzle or sudoku either. You can play a game on one of those word puzzle apps or install a word of the day app to build your vocabulary. Engaging yourself in a few minutes of learning each day is more significant than you might think.”

Conclusion

No matter how you choose to learn and improve your mental processing each day, there’s no doubt that learning continuously has positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. Even if you’re a busy business person, you can find ways to create a daily routine that involves a bit of learning—whether that’s in the form of art, languages, puzzles, or exercise. Remember that your brain development is (almost) as crucial as a child’s and can seriously improve your quality of life, so set aside time to exercise that gray and white matter just as you would your body.