In most people as they get older their mental faculties, while still sharp, have a tendency to become less flexible than when young. We get set into our ways and change of any kind becomes less welcome and it’s easy to fall into repeated patterns that become comfortable as we get used to them. This is normal of course and most people have no idea when it happens. One of the problems this can cause is to make our minds less able to accept changes in our environments or way of life. You don’t have to be elderly for this to happen since it can occur whenever we stop mentally growing or being active.
When we are children we are actively learning new things, which is a skill I believe we are born with. That ability to acquire new knowledge or skills is something necessary as a survival skill, a holdover from more primitive days. In this modern time it’s not as necessary once we are out of our youthful period and have matured. I believe that this ‘mental stretching’ doesn’t have to stop when we get older and I also firmly believe that it shouldn’t stop either.
What would happen if we stopped repeating those patterns we are so used to and comfortable with? What if we took the time and effort to change our patterns from what they are to something a little different? We would be increasing our mental agility and increasing our ability to cope with change. Since the nature of the world around us is towards change it’s a good thing to continue the process of coping we learned as we were growing up. Not only would continuing to stretch our mental faculties allow us to cope with new changes in our lives but also there have been studies done that show people who have actively embraced new experiences are less susceptible to some problems such as Alzheimer’s that can occur, as we get older.
Another reason to embrace change and self-growth is to cushion or protect you from the changes that occur around us all the time. Changes like being retrenched or having the company you have worked for all your life go bankrupt and leaving you without a job or the updated skills required to obtain a new one.
Without you regularly stretching your mental muscles the problems that are outside of your regular pattern of thought can be difficult to solve as your brain is subconsciously trying to fit a new round problem into an old square hole. Your thinking may be able to be forced into that mold in an imperfect manner but more likely it won’t fit and the frustration and problems that occur can scar you forever. Sadly you may never know why and not knowing about a problem makes it hard to change or resolve that problem.
You will be glad to know there is a solution that can be used by anyone.
What was that you said? How much would this solution cost you? It’s not something you can pay money for my friend, oh no it’s both harder and easier than that. The solution is simply to do something the stretches your mind and do it on a regular basis. Of course this will be easy for some and hard for others. If your brain has been regularly used for solving complex problems or challenges that are outside of its regular scope of operations, it will be easier for you to think outside of those boundaries when needed. Here are a few suggestions for ways to keep that gray matter running at peak efficiency.
Learn a new skill.
A great way to keep your mind supple is to learn new things. When you learn a new skill you are forcing your brain to create new pathways and neurons. While this is something common when we are younger, I have found that as we get older we do much less of it than is good for us.
There are many different things you can try that are new to you. Perhaps combine a new physical activity with a new set of thinking. For instance if you are not particularly fit then try something that causes you to exercise more. Exercise when it’s not something that you normally do will force you to move your body in ways it isn’t used to. When you combine that with a game of skill like baseball or soccer where you need to combine movement and accurate placement of a bat or your foot onto a ball, you gain the best of both worlds. You increase fitness and motor skills and increase your mental elasticity as well.
If you are already doing some exercise on a regular basis then you could learn how to play a musical instrument and practice regularly. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn a new language. Learning language skills are a great way to increase your mental fitness as you stretch that brain to accommodate a great new ability. When you have learned a new language and can speak it fluently you will also find it easier to learn other new languages. You will have grown a whole new set of mental pathways to cope with what’s involved with those challenges and that’s a great thing.
Step out of the comfort zone.
The comfort zone of course is simply the things we are used to. Sometimes the biggest stretching of ourselves we can do is to step out of this comfort zone and do something big and bold. For instance at one stage of my life I had the opportunity to go live in a foreign country for a few years. That was a hard decision to make and way out of the comfort zone but was a wonderful experience and something I recommend to anyone.
You may also find that there are unexpected side benefits to learning new skills and stretching yourself in various ways. You might meet people who otherwise you wouldn’t have met and you may go places you never dreamed of previously.
The universe is always giving us opportunities that most of us never realize and never take advantage of. Look around you and see what is out there waiting for you if you only stepped out of the comfort zone a little.
Learning a new skill and stretching your brain can be a wonderful thing, embrace it to the fullest and learn all you can about anything. So go on, make your brain happy and go learn something new today. Your brain will love you for it.
Thank You and Best Wishes.