Mahatma Gandhi once said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as you were to live forever.”
This is one of my favorite quotes and it became a way of living for me, as well as for many successful people who share a deep appreciation and passion for learning. People like Bill Gates, who occasionally picks up a copy of Time magazine and reads every article from beginning to end. “That way you can be certain to learn something you didn’t know previously”, he says.
Education is essential to slowing brain aging and it improves your happiness. In his book YOU: The Owner’s Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider’s Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger, Dr. Mehmet Oz, gives an example of a study performed on nuns, in a monastery. After analyzing the sentence structure of essays the nuns wrote before entering the convent, and looking into their cognitive function some 65 years later, researchers found that those who used the most complex sentence structure when they entered the convent had the highest cognitive function as they got older. Also, those who were most optimistic in their entries also had higher cognitive function. So happiness keeps you young as well.
Learning is not only about formal education. You can keep your brain young through different informal learning activities and habits.
We put together a list of suggestions that can help you stay happy and avid for learning:
1. Update your “online reading room” weekly
Subscribe to different RSS feeds, in areas that interest you or that are related to your work field. You’ll surely be on your A game if you’re connected to the latest updates in your field. Being a Google Reader fan, I had to find another tool to replace it, so now I use Feedly, for both web and mobile.
2. Get your hands on a hardcopy book at least once a month
There’s nothing like the smell or the touch of a new book and you can escape from your day-to-day stress by simply reading on a bench, in a park. Of course, the same goes for tech savvies who are inseparable from their Kindle or other eBook readers. Dive into a book once in a while and let your mind play with new information. I usually browse The Book Depository once a month, to try to keep up with my too long To Read list.
One of the most effective learning methods is by teaching others. It could be a hard skill, a soft skill or just sharing a story. Talk to people with similar interests and launch a debate or a fun conversation about your recent reads.
Or scribble. Or draw. Figure a way to reinvent and review your ideas. The best way to activate the information you gained is to connect it with the existing data you have. Train your creativity to re-use everything you know and come up with new solutions when needed. Try a Moleskine notebook, they’re one of my favorites. They say that Moleskine objects are partners for the creative and imaginative professions of our time.
5. Start your engines
Act on the things that you find interesting. Experiment new things and set some acting steps whenever you come around a valuable piece of information. Just last month I read this compelling article about dancing and I remembered how much I used to do that, as a teenager, so I took some salsa lessons and I had a great time learning something new.
6. Keep a diary or any personal tracker
Make sure you’re making the most out of every day and learning as much as you can. You can always revisit your notes and follow-up on some action steps you wrote. Try using Hppy to write down your mood every day and keep track of what made you happy, especially at work.
Always challenge your brain. Like a muscle, the more you train it, the more flexibility it gains and the happier you get. Improve your brain performance in a fun way by playing different mind games and puzzles that you can find on Lumosity, Brainmetrix, Play with your mind or SharpBrains. Or you can even go old school by solving a Rubik cube.
Most of the people who consider themselves to be happy have this one thing in common: they love to learn. They stay young by keeping an open mind, a hungry brain and they are happy living their life to the fullest.
Get started by choosing 2 of these ideas and making sure you follow them in the next 2 weeks. If you’re not sure you can stick to them, just post them on your Social Media profile, so that way your friends and colleagues can support and motivate you. Visit the list once in a while and chose your next 2 ideas.