“Living Well into the Future” isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s about maintaining all areas of wellness — including not only physical but also social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational.
In this new blog series, we’ll explore each of these different types of wellness and offer tips for achieving positive aging. First, let’s talk about intellectual wellness.
Understanding Intellectual Wellness
It’s not accurate to say an older brain can’t still learn and grow. Science shows that lifelong learning can increase quality of life, stimulating new ideas and refreshing brain circuitry as it does so. Living a life of learning isn’t as hard to do as you may think.
Intellectual wellness encompasses all types of learning and exposure to new things, thoughts, and experiences. It’s not just about doing puzzles or playing a few games. Instead, it’s focused on a constant level of curiosity and expanding knowledge in all areas.
Some ways to improve your intellectual wellness include:
- Studying a topic that is interesting and important to you — whether it be genealogy, art history, or cooking.
- Participating in stimulating activities that engage the body and mind.
- Having thoughtful and educated conversations with others.
- Learning through many mediums such as the Internet, TV, books, podcasts, or even in-person courses.
- Using creative elements as a way of learning and resolving curiosities.
When a person practices intellectual wellness, they are pursuing new knowledge and information constantly. It’s not just about reading textbooks and soaking in dates or facts, either. What truly makes intellectual wellness beneficial is when a person seeks out interesting and new information. That process helps to create changes in the brain and can be particularly beneficial for seniors.
What Happens in the Brain with Intellectual Wellness?
The brain is made up of neurons that are constantly firing and communicating with each other. When a person learns, it helps to create new neurons. These cells help to send information to the body to keep it functioning. However, when learning, these new neurons help to create new connections in the brain. Each new neuron connection creates a higher functioning brain — one that’s working at its best.
When an older adult engages in intellectual wellness on an ongoing basis, numerous changes occur in the brain. With consistent access to new information, these new neural connections can impact:
- Thinking and processing skills
- Attention and focus abilities
- Memory health
- Reasoning skills
- Language development and use
Intellectual wellness helps to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. For many seniors, this constant learning may also prevent damage or a slowing down of the brain’s function.
The Benefits of Intellectual Wellness Can Be Profound
Investing in intellectual wellness through new and challenging tasks can help your brain in many ways. Specifically, seek out cognitively stimulating activities, also known as “CSAs.” These activities can create interesting changes in your life and health.
CSAs are the types of activities that stimulate brain health through the creation of new neurons. These activities also help the brain to manage brain diseases and the severity of brain-related injuries. This may not always prevent them, but when present, CSAs may help to make those events less impactful or severe.
The use of constant learning activities can help to reduce the amount of cognitive decline a person has over time. Stimulating activities can also help to spur a love for new activities and experiences. That may help with embracing activities and living a more full life, defined by what is valuable and important to you.
People who engage in CSAs typically have better overall health and wellbeing than those that do not. This type of engagement helps to stimulate healing and growth.
Invest in intellectual wellness. When you do, you’ll enjoy a higher quality of life and find yourself embracing the world around you with a renewed sense of interest and enjoyment.
How Do You Use Intellectual Wellness in Daily Life?
It sounds good – learning is a good thing, but how do you make it happen? There’s no wrong way to learn. Here are some examples of methods you can use to see significant improvement in your intellectual wellness and overall outlook.
- Engage in activities you genuinely enjoy often. That includes new things, but also things that already bring joy to your day. Stimulating good feelings helps encourage you to continue to engage in new activities.
- Make it a routine to learn something new. Whether that’s through reading or researching online, make a plan to dive deep into topics that interest you.
- Engage with others. That may include in social groups online or in-person. Learning with others helps to stimulate new ways of thinking about valuable topics.
Make Lifelong Learning Your Goal at Home
At The Episcopal Church Home’s independent living community, we offer a wide range of resources to help residents stay engaged and practice intellectual wellness. From regularly scheduled events and activities to strong relationships with neighbors and staff, we aim to give you everything you need to practice lifelong learning and ultimately live well into the future.