Staying Mentally Sharp: The Benefits of Learning New Skills in Midlife and Beyond

I feel a little jealous whenever I see my son mastering the most incredible skills through YouTube and other resources. I’m studying psychology, and the first few months weren’t easy. My head felt like a giant sieve. Everything I read went out the other side. Does that sound familiar?

As we get older, it is normal for our cognitive abilities to decline to a certain extent. This decline could start as early as 40 when our brains begin to rewire (link in the comments).

Does this mean we might as well sit on the couch and start ordering our favourite geraniums for the windowsill?

Definitely not! We can slow and even reverse this decline by engaging in regular, mentally stimulating activities. One effective way to improve cognition and retain information is to learn new skills, and isn’t that more fun? Consider activities such as

💎 Learning a new language as it improves memory and attention.

💎 Engaging in problem-solving activities, such as puzzles or brainteasers.

💎 Take a class or workshop to learn a new hobby or skill, such as knitting, painting or photography.

💎 Using technology to access online learning resources, such as tutorials or educational videos.

💎 Regularly reading books, newspapers or magazines.

Why is it important to continue learning throughout life?

One important reason is to slow down or even reverse this decline. We still have about half our lives to live, and I, for one, intend to live them fully. But there are many other reasons to pick up a book or a new hobby. Some of the main reasons are

🔥 Personal growth: Learning new things has exposed me to new perspectives and ideas. Going back to university has given me opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. I bet the subject (psychology) also had something to do with that.

🔥 Career opportunities: Imagine you’re at a dead end. Your current job or even sector doesn’t challenge you anymore. In that case, learning new skills can open up a whole new can of career opportunities. Who knows what unexplored paths lay ahead?

🔥 A sense of accomplishment: Certain life changes have a major impact on your well-being. I’m talking about your youngest leaving the nest or you approaching retirement (thinking about those geraniums again? Don’t). Completing a course or learning a new skill or hobby can give you a sense of achievement and pride. Nothing wrong with that.

🔥 Staying involved in the community: Learning keeps us informed and updated with current events and trends. Consequently, we feel more connected to the world around us.

🔥 Improving the quality of life: By providing opportunities for personal and professional development and a sense of purpose and fulfilment, learning improves the overall quality of life. And that makes the second half of your life much more satisfying.

And never forget: learning is not limited to formal education. Experiences and simply reading books and watching YouTube videos are great ways to keep learning. You’ll be amazed at the exciting topics a search on YouTube can bring up. Let yourself be surprised and find out what works best for you.

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Angelique Hersman
Angelique Hersman
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