Five Little Ways to Boost Your Learning Skills

By the end of January, the “New Year/New Me” proclamations have worn paper thin. There are countless Facebook pages, YouTube videos, and Twitter hashtags devoted to these well-intended statements. Based on studies of human nature, we can assume the majority of people who vow to change December 31 will be back to their old selves by Groundhog Day. 

Truth be told, I like the old me. I think most of us are pretty decent human beings; not perfect, but we all want to live the kind of life we can look back on with more pride than regret. We all have ‘stuff’ to work on and plenty to learn. Rather than making broad claims of “brand new me-ness,” how about picking up a tiny new habit or two that makes it easier to continue learning and growing?  Here are some ideas:

If you want to learn it, teach it.
Taking a new class and want to make sure the material sinks in to your brain? Explain it to somebody else. You don’t have to prepare a 30-minute lecture, just have a conversation about what you’ve learned with someone. Maybe they’ll ask you a question that reinforces what you’ve learned – or they’ll take notice of a detail you hadn’t considered. The conversation itself keeps your brain engaged with the material and helps you commit it to memory. 

Sing out loud.
Nobody likes memorizing a list of facts, but everybody has a favorite song. Next time you’re studying for a test (or just want to make sure you remember to pick up the dry cleaning), put the facts to music and sing it loud. Especially if you’re studying a new language, education experts have found that singing taps into auditory learning skills and helps you recall what you’ve learned more quickly and accurately.

Write it down.
Like singing, the physical act of handwriting helps your brain connect with what you’re trying to learn. If you’ve become accustomed to typing everything into a tablet or laptop, the idea of using pen and paper may seem strange to you. Buy yourself a spiral-bound notebook and write down lecture notes, or your errand list, or whatever you want to remember. Educators say you are more likely to recall what you took time to hand write.

Limit screen time before bed.
We’ve written before about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and how rest helps brain function. A new study indicates that people who use their smartphone or tablet in bed do not rest as well as those who read printed books to relax at bedtime. Do yourself a favor and unplug from your screen at least an hour before you go to bed. Your brain will thank you (your partner probably will too).

Try one new thing.
Staying mentally active doesn’t have to mean starting a Ph.D. program (although that would count). Visiting a new friend, reading a section of the newspaper you don’t ordinarily read, or sampling an unfamiliar food can help stimulate your brain. Just doing one new thing can re-engage your brain and keep you mentally fit. 

Who needs a gigantic set of New Year’s Resolutions when you’re committed to lifelong learning and growing?  We’re not talking about complicated changes, just a little adjustment here or there can open up lots of possibilities. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.

By Christine Shelly


#resolutions   #newyearnewyou  
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