We’re designed to crave new information. But just like your body won’t run on junk food, your brain needs the right sustenance, too.
BY HEATHER QUINLAN
As the days get shorter and the temperature starts to cool down, there’s a simultaneous undercurrent of excitement as another school year commences. The beaches and pools go quiet as kids get back to their routine, their sports, and their friends. But all of this excitement is pinned to the back drop of acquiring knowledge.
As you think of those kids, I want you to think of your own daily life and your appetite for new information. These days, that appetite is thoroughly overfed with almost constant connectivity to technology in one form or another. It’s why smart phones are so addictive. That feed of new information from a short headline, or a brief video keeps you scrolling for more and more and more. Why? Because your brain was designed to keep learning. Every time you learn something new, it releases dopamine as a way to tell you to keep learning. But there’s a big difference between endlessly scrolling for tiny new bits of information that just barely holds your attention for the moment it takes you to scan the headline and delving deep into a topic that can really satisfy your deeper thirst for knowledge. To employ a food metaphor, it’s the difference getting a candy bar out of a vending machine and sitting down for a balanced meal.
Take a cue from those kids heading back to school. You don’t need to be young to feel the incredible, positive rush of learning something new. Sign up for an art or creative writing class at your nearest community college, sign up for an online class in wood working, or French cuisine, or acting. Or just pick up a great book of self-help or non-fiction. The common thread amongst the most successful people in the world is reading. Bill Gates reads a new book every week. In 2015 Mark Zuckerberg committed to reading one book every other week on topics that would expand his horizons in a “deeper way”. Oprah Winfrey is a voracious reader and says she wouldn’t be where she is today if reading was such a “fundamental tool” in her life. To keep up on his competition Mark Cuban would read various magazines and books for hours a and accredits his success to it. The list goes on (see HERE).
Overall health isn’t just about being physical with your body or eating the right foods. Keeping your brain active and engaged through learning, is a third and crucial pillar to overall health. Quite simply, learning keeps you young. In my yoga classes, I always say that when you know better, you do better. Without continually expanding your knowledge in one direction or another, you’ll never do better. Take the example of child going back to school this fall and it will enrich your life for all the years to come.