It’s no secret that the only way to truly master anything in life is through deliberate and constant practice. That is how you first learn to walk, talk, and pretty much everything else. It’s no surprise, then, that practice is also needed once you set your mind to learning something new in your adult life.
Luckily, though, there are also other things you can do to make the learning process easier for yourself. For example, you can choose to spend your free time on a few hobbies that have proven to prime your brain for success when it comes to learning.
Meditation brings clarity
Meditation and mindfulness are all the rage these days. They’re hailed as the solution to everything from anxiety to corporate profits. Be that as it may, the benefits of meditation have been known for centuries and it’s high time you took advantage of them to advance your learning.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Dalai Lama and neuroscientists, evidence exists that experienced meditators can actually alter their brain structure and wilfully steer their brains. While they used these magical powers to focus on empathy and compassion (certainly worthy goals for everyone), other applications could also be suggested. For example, guiding your brain would be incredibly beneficial if you were to focus on learning new material, for example.
But, even if you don’t get as far with your meditation as to be able to command your brain at will, it is still a great tool for lowering stress and becoming more focused. Concentration is, of course, one of the key elements of learning anything successfully.
Sports, any sports
It’s not only your brain you need to take care of when you’re trying to learn something new, it’s your whole body. There are so many connections between mental and physical well-being that it’s no surprise doing regular sports can improve your memory and help you analyse new content much better.
The thing to keep in mind here is that the exercise needs to be regular if you want to see the greatest benefits. Although even 15 minutes of physical activity can have a positive effect on your cognitive abilities, the real magic starts once you make exercise a part of your schedule. The CDC regularly recommends 90 minutes of high-intensity exercise or 150 minutes at a more relaxed pace that you should be doing each week.
The reason why really any type of sports is good for you brain is that it increases your levels of a specific protein – BDNF. BDNF helps your brain cells remain healthy and high levels of it correlate with better memory and cognitive function. Besides, sports is just fun and if you happen to go for anything you can do in a group, you’ll also improve your team-working and social skills.
Exercise your brain with puzzles
Much like a muscle, your brain will become stronger the more it’s used. Of course, there are several ways of keeping your brain fit, some of which were already mentioned above. But what really flexes your brain-muscle, are specific puzzles that test and improve your capabilities.
For example, popular games like sudoku, crosswords, and chess are all a great way to exercise your brain and they’ve been around centuries. For a newer approach, you can try one of the several “brain-training” apps that have successfully gamified the concept. Computer games are another pastime that have been shown to have beneficial effects, improving your memory, decision-making skills, and bringing better attention.
All of these games serve to improve your neuroplasticity, essentially making your brain limber and flexible, ready to reorganise itself and build better neural networks. Keep in mind that your brain-training techniques should also correspond with the abilities you need in your learning process: play Memory for better memory and chess for strategic thinking, not the other way around.
Learn a new language
The learning process itself is a skill that you need to get good at. And what better way to practice learning than acquiring a new language. Not only does learning a new language open a window to a different world, its positive effects on your brain are almost as well documented as that of exercise.
As with the brain exercises, learning a new language really helps your brain remain young and pick up new information on the go. There are other benefits as well: you get better at multitasking since switching between two languages requires your brain to swap between different vocabularies and grammar and are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Learning new vocabulary increases your memory, you get better at recognizing patterns, and also improve your decision-making skills. And, as an added bonus, you definitely get more hirable.
All of this is, of course, just means that your brain becomes more primed to acquire new skills and knowledge, making learning a language a great way to segue into learning pretty much anything else.
Conclusion – To become a better learner, take care of your brain and body
There is only one completely foolproof trick to learning – practice, practice, and practice.
But with clever techniques and strategic time-planning, you can definitely reduce the number of times you need to practice for your new skill or knowledge to stick. Take care of your brain with learning a new language or other brain-training exercises, do the same for your body with sports, and lastly, keep the stress at bay with meditation to supercharge your learning capabilities.