Tips for keeping your brain active:
- Read a lot. Reading is much better for your brain than passively watching TV.
- Watch documentaries and factual programmes.
- Take opportunities for talking to others and getting into discussions albeit without getting into destructive arguments. Join a club or a volunteer group and keep in touch with others.
- Have a hobby or something you can learn about and take an interest in.
- Play games and do puzzles.
- Do memory exercises.
- Be curious about the world and develop an interest in history and art.
- Regularly learn something new. You can do adult learning courses or find a free on line course of which there are many. (Or even pay for an on-line course if you’re confident it will be good and it is from a respectable organisation.)
It is also important to eat reasonably well and to get some physical exercise. See Exercise, Diet, and Living Habits.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford
You should be continually learning. It is a great way of maintaining an interest in life, keeping your brain active, and potentially meeting new people. It will also give you more and better job opportunities.
There are many ways of learning new things, including:
- Take local adult learning courses. You can find out about these in your local library, or simply do an internet search for adult learning courses. [Just stick ‘adult learning courses (place)’ in your browser, where (place) is your local town or area.]
- Take on-line courses of which there is an ever growing number. Some sites are given below.
- Buy or otherwise obtain teach yourself material.
- Find a private tutor.
- Take advantage of any training opportunities that might be available through your work.
Some ideas for what you might learn include:
- Learn particular skills relevant to your work or what you might want to work on in the future;
- Learn general life skills such as communication and interpersonal skills; organisation skills; problem solving and decision making skills; maths and statistics skills; financial management skills;
- Learn a language;
- Learn a musical instrument;
- Learn to draw or paint;
- Learn to cook;
- Learn about your garden and what you can do in it;
- Learn first aid;
- Learn yoga, and/or meditation, and/or tai chi, and/or self-defence;
- Learn how to take great photography, and how to edit photos and make photo books, or similar with videos;
- Learn how to create a website or create an app.
The following are a few tips when learning a new subject:
- Try to ensure you have got the best resources or learning material you can reasonably get hold of. Good learning material can significantly speed up your learning process.
- If self-studying plan a regular time to study, and choose a place conducive to studying
- Don’t kid yourself that you can learn or study just as well whilst listening to music with words. Music without words is likely to be less distracting though not as effective as studying in silence. However if there are lots of other distractions around you, listening to some classical or instrumental music can help you concentrate.
- If you are reading a book for information or knowledge then taking notes as you go along will help you focus on what you are looking for and help you remember. Either note down key points, or represent key ideas in some visual way. When making notes be sure they are readable and make sense. There is little point in taking notes that you are unable to read or understand later.
- For almost any subject there are a few critically important concepts which once you have grasped provide the scaffolding off which most of the rest of the subject matter hangs. These are your mental models for the particular subject matter. Be continually looking for how best to summarize key ideas and how best to relate them both to each other and to other ideas you already know. Look to represent key concepts in a diagrammatic, visual, or mindmaping format.
- Start with basic ideas before trying to tackle more complex ones. If you don’t master the basic concepts first, you will rely on memorizing more advanced concepts rather than understanding them. You will then end up misunderstanding and misapplying the concepts.
- Be an active learner by asking yourself questions that you can seek out the answers to as you continue your learning. Don’t be concerned about the fact that you don’t understand something but see it as an opportunity to better understand. There is a lot of satisfaction in finding ourselves understanding something we previously hadn’t.
- If you are trying to remember information then you need to regularly review it and remind yourself of it. Typically you should space out your reviewing of the material with initially closely spaced reviews, and then more spaced out ones. Example spacing might be 1 day after, then 3 or 4 days after, then a couple of weeks, and then a couple of months later. If in reviewing it you find you have largely forgotten it, then you might need to reinstate more regular reviews.
- A very good way of learning something is to try to teach it. Even if you are not intending to actually teach it, prepare material as though you were, and ask yourselves questions that you imagine a student might ask.
With respect to learning a new skill:
- To learn a new skill you generally need to be pushing at your limits. This means you will be continually ‘failing’. This is a vital part of learning and improving. If you are not frequently failing then it is likely you are not trying hard enough and you will not be learning nearly as effectively as you could be.
- If you are trying to learn a skill, then read up on or get taught the best way to do it, then practice, practice, practice, with focused practice sessions and pushing the envelope as you do so. Get a mentor or someone who can help ensure you are not practicing bad habits. It is important to get frequent feedback which you use to continually improve your performance.
- When developing skills look at how masters do it. Then try to copy them. Compare your outputs with theirs and look at how to improve.
- Have patience when learning a new skill. Keep practicing and you will learn it. If you expect to magically learn it with little effort you will be disappointed. If however you put in the effort, and keep putting in the effort, and keep going despite obstacles and sometimes slow progress, you will succeed in getting very good.
- Mentally practicing a skill, rehearsing it in your mind, contributes to your getting better at it.
- Improvement is often not a linear response to our learning or practice efforts. Often we are seemingly making no improvement at all, before we then we make some quick and significant improvements, get to a new level, and then seemingly level off again. Do not get disheartened during the periods of seeming lack of improvement. Without you continuing to learn or practice during these periods you would not make the dramatic improvements later on.