The great thing about being young is that with each new day comes something new to learn. There was something new to learn at school or at home or on sports teams or musical groups. The mind was constantly being given new information and forcing new things to be tried. Occasionally, however, aging decreases the learning cycle. After the age of, say–25, when we’ve graduated, moved out on our own and began a full time job, there are less momentous experiences that provide the opportunity of trying something new. Life tends to become comfortable albeit a bit monotonous.
For me, when this time in life came around, I found myself in somewhat of a funk. I am someone who loves learning the new but once I had settled into adult life, I found myself struggling to recognize moments when I was learning. This was partly due to the fact that no one was telling me what I needed to learn. Parents and teachers were the driving force behind why I learned when I was young, so when I became and adult, it took me a while to realize that if I want to learn something new–then I need to go out and find someone to teach me. The wonderful advantage that I have, is technology. Technology has provided the opportunity to have the world at my fingertips–anything that I want to know or learn can be typed into an internet browser resulting in a class to take or a youtube video to watch.
So, I made a commitment to myself last year to really try and be proactive about learning new things. I took cooking classes, started horseback riding lessons, began doing pilates and became a freelance writer for a magazine. I found that as I began trying new things, learning new skills and widening my view of the world–I became happier. I also began to realize, as I started really paying attention, that I was literally learning something new everyday. Most days, it wasn’t a life changing event–it may have just been as simple as how using vinegar water on my hardwood floors cleans them better– but it became a way of life.
Looking back to my funk, I realized the other part of my hesitation to learn new things or try something different was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be good at it, that I would’t like it, that it would be too hard, or that I would be judged. However, as I started venturing out on my own, the fear began to slip away and it was replaced with excitement to learn something that had always interested me. The great thing about learning things “just because”, is there’s no pressure to be good. I’m definitely not going to be on Top Chef, nor will I ever be a jockey, so I can enjoy the simple act of learning.
There are also mental health benefits–specifically the function of the brain. Practicing a new skill increases the density of myelin which is the white matter in the brain that helps improve performance. By finding a challenging task to complete or attempting a new trade, we are essentially helping the brain to continue functioning at a high level.
So friends, take the risk, try something new, create the challenge. Make a conscious effort to think about something you have alway wanted to do, and then find a way to do it. Not only will it make you happier, your 80 year old brain will thank you as well.
Take a Risk. Ride the Horse.