We all know that regular exercise is good for our bodies, but our brains also benefit from a workout. Learning a new skill or building on existing skills helps keep our brains healthy and builds new neural pathways. As to what – well, it can be just about anything. So, why not choose something that interests you and commit to learning more!
Some very personal examples:
1. Making a cake (that’s edible!): I mostly enjoy baking, but since moving house a few years ago, many of my cakes have been burnt or have undercooked centres. During lockdown, I decided to master my oven, which required me to read the instruction manual (repeatedly!) and experiment with different settings. I made the same kind of cake a number of times until I had figured out how to cook it almost perfectly.
2. Making a photo book: Our son was recently married and I wanted to create a photo book. I had to learn how to use the photobook program on my computer, upload photos and then arrange them. There were many small processes and skills I had to learn and practice. I can now apply this new skill and create other photo books to celebrate other major events such as the birth of a new granddaughter.
3. Learning how to be granny: A few weeks ago, our granddaughter was born – our very first grandchild. I’m so enjoying this new relationship and the opportunity to get to know her. I’m learning again how to cuddle, hold and settle this precious new life.
4. A new sewing skill: I love making quilts and over the last two years I have learnt a number of new techniques. I have had to read explanations, watch YouTube videos, practice, and then practice some more. I recently made a quilt with 24 different appliqued flowers. The first was pretty clunky, but by the 24th, the flowers look quite beautiful.
5. Learning about the book of Isaiah: I love the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament and decided I wanted to learn more. I have committed this year to reading the book slowly alongside a commentary and learn from different biblical scholars. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have grown in my understanding of this book but will also feel more confident in my own ability to understand a biblical text.
This is a very personal list, so ask yourself, ‘What skill would I like to learn?’ Start small and build from there. Learning a skill is a wonderful habit to build into your life. It will certainly help your brain not to become stagnant. Get those neural pathways firing!
If you want help and a structure for building small habits into your life, you will find our online course Press On: Building resilience and mental wellbeing enormously helpful and practical.