Lifelong learning - on the importance of constantly learning new things
It might seem like learning ends with the last school bell or receiving your college diploma. It is probably the case for some, but it is certainly not a good example to follow. Lifelong learning has an immense effect on the state of our mind, our health, and our wellbeing. Today, we will briefly explain how it works, why it’s important to always keep learning, and how to prepare your space for studying, even if you’re not going back to school.
What is lifelong learning?
The idea of lifelong learning is not some new wellness fad - on the contrary, it has been practiced for centuries. Ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato, or Seneca have all stressed the importance of learning throughout our lives. According to Socrates, man is the only imperfect being in the world capable of improvement. Meanwhile Seneca emphasized the significance of constant growth by saying: “as long as you live, keep learning how to live”.
These days, the concept of lifelong learning is often subject to scientific research resulting in many groundbreaking publications like, for example, the Faure’s report Learning to be: the world of education today and tomorrow, or the European Commission’s White Paper Towards the learning society. The idea behind lifelong learning isn’t limited to academic achievement such as postgraduate studies, official courses, or professional training, but rather covers all activities meant to broaden horizons, deepen knowledge, provide new experiences, and hone new skills.
Keeping your mind fit
Neuroplasticity is an incredibly important feature of lifelong learning. It enables the brain to process an immense amount of information and quickly adapt to new circumstances, regardless of age. Regular and constant learning affects brain structure and stimulates building new neural pathways, improving our mind’s overall condition, making it more ‘pliable’ and boosting its performance: bettering cognitive function, memory, attention levels, and problem solving abilities.
This is especially significant when thinking about the future - time is relentless and none of us get any younger as it goes on (except for Benjamin Button, of course). As a result of aging, gray matter in our brains degenerates: we start having problems with memory, our thought processes slow down, and the risk of developing illnesses such as dementia increases. The good news is that this process is, to some degree, reversible, but most importantly, it is preventable through lifelong learning. Brain activity linked to absorbing new information allows our brain to rebuild neural pathways, and, in effect, helps in maintaining a functional and active mind. This can translate into greater confidence, better mood, and increased wellbeing.
An agile mind accustomed to continuous learning means an increase in productivity and creativity, the ability to adapt to new situations, and fewer worries regarding change - this can be beneficial in advancing your career, reaching new heights in your current profession, or retraining altogether.
Learning in the 21st century - the power of online education
The constant growth of the internet and the rapid advancement of new technologies makes continuous education easier than ever before - it also makes it necessary in order to keep up with the always changing world. The perfect solution, especially for the busy bees who can’t regularly attend classes or commute, are elearning and online courses. There are a plethora of options to consider as e-learning platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare, edX, Codecademy, or MasterClass offer lessons on almost anything that comes to mind.
There are also other fantastic educational resources out there: TED talks (Oakywood is an official partner of TED Vancouver!), podcasts, blogs, ebooks, even social media like Instagram, TikTok, or Youtube - these can be a goldmine for useful information, provided we do some meticulous digging for reliable sources first.
Make space for learning
Learning new things doesn’t always have to take place at a desk, in front of a computer - skills like cooking, woodworking, painting, sculpting, playing piano, or gardening need their own space. However, if you’re planning to broaden your horizons with online courses, creating a small study corner in your home can help you fully focus on your passion.
Our advice on how to arrange a study space is quite similar to creating a home office: the key ingredient is a well-fitted, ergonomic desk with accessories that help you organize your space: a pen pot, a docking station, a wireless charger, and a desk mat. Another important element is adequate lighting - ideally, your desk should be placed in a way that provides you with natural light for as long as possible. A quality desk lamp with a bulb of appropriate color and temperature is also crucial - a cool white light (4000k - 6000k) is the color temperature for optimal concentration.
One last crucial aspect of lifelong learning is that you have a drive for learning and a hunger for knowledge. Learning new things is more effective when it brings us pleasure and satisfaction - time spent learning out of obligation is time wasted. So, abandon the old-school school mindset and focus only on learning what you find interesting.