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Lifelong learning: the key to a healthy life

By Laura Gallo, Applied Neuroscience PG Dip

“Put your notes away. It’s time to take the test.” Those few words can really bring back some dreadful school memories … 

In some cases, these words even made your heart beat a bit faster, didn’t they?

Yet remember that your heart also gets a workout when you are euphoric. So how can the same physical sensation (accelerated heartbeat) fill you with either joy or fear? It is all down to how you reappraise your bodily sensations. When you start considering certain situations as a challenge rather than a threat, you will see a positive shift in your performance. Remember that your thoughts will drive your emotions, even when it sometimes feels like the other way around.

Sadly, when most people think about learning something new, they mainly recall the fear of exams, or the effort of studying. 

But what about all the other positive aspects that continuous learning can bring into your life?

Being willing to learn can make you excel in your career.

It is very common to think that excelling at your career means just how much money you make. The truth is that once our basic needs are covered, the psychological benefits of money are questionable.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said:  “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” 

Joking aside, it is only natural that the longer you work doing the same job, you might start getting bored with it, no matter how well you get paid. It goes without saying that once you feel less motivated, then your performance will start going downhill. 

This is why taking advantage of informal, on-the-job learning or taking opportunities for further education or training can open opportunities for more interesting jobs. You might find the motivation to excel and enjoy your work again.

Learning nurtures your brain and ensures you stay healthy.

As the average life expectancy increases worldwide, we are becoming more aware that medicine has focused on increasing quantity of life, but in some cases at the expense of quality of life.

How can you increase your chances of adding quality and not just quantity to your life?

Obviously, your lifestyle choices will have a direct impact on your health, such as the food and drinks you consume, as well as the physical activity you perform on regular basis.

However, keeping your body healthy is just half the battle. 

A study analysed the genes of 1,354 healthy participants over 80 years old with no chronic diseases to understand the genetics of disease-free aging (Erikson et al, 2016).

The results revealed that all these people had in common were genetic variations was cognitive performance. Basically, these results suggest that it will be your brain health determining how healthy you will age.

Learning can boost your mood.

Learning doesn’t have to be intended as a proper academic challenge, you just need to think about something new and stimulating.

Something as simple as learning a dance or signing up for cooking classes can make you feel highly energised with the ‘joy of learning’.

Studies keep reporting several positive mental benefits from lifelong learning, including enriching your life with self-fulfilment while increasing your self-esteem (Simone & Scuilli, 2006).

Learning can also allow you to meet new people (offline or online) and feel more connected.

The positive impact is so strong, that some people have reported that learning has kept them from getting depressed, or even helped them cope with the onset of illnesses. 

Engaging in lifelong learning has never been easier.

In the past, we were limited by the education choices we had around us, but this isn’t a barrier for you.

With online learning, not only can you have access to different online resources, but, most importantly, you are in complete control of your schedule, learning at the time that works best for you.

From free courses and YouTube tutorials to online degrees or certifications, the chances are that you will be spoiled by the choices.

In summary, if you decide to become a lifelong learner, you will benefit from sustained mental clarity and keep neurological illness at bay. And, most importantly, you will benefit from all perks that come with improved cognitive ability, as continuing to be productive and functional will allow you to form and maintain meaningful relationships.

Simply put, lifelong learning is the key to living a fuller life.

Now that science has found that the secret fountain of youth is made of new knowledge, make sure to gain some.

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