Anyone with an advanced degree has probably been told, “Oh, you’re a perpetual student” in some condescending manner. Believe me; I heard it from a number of relatives on more than one occasion. I never let it bother me though, because I knew I was on to something. Being a perpetual student is not something to be mocked at, it’s actually something we should all strive for and be proud of achieving. It’s a characteristic of individuals who value the process of learning, who continually stimulate their minds and who will maintain their intellect and sharpness of mind well into old age, while many of the “mockers” may end up with dementia or some other form of age-related brain dysfunction. Too bad they won’t remember who you are when you ask them, “Who’s mocking me now?”
But you don’t have to have an advanced degree to be a perpetual student. Anyone who loves to learn new things will continually stimulate their minds. Whether it be learning a new language, reading, doing logic puzzles, trying new recipes, traveling to different countries, starting a hobby or new sport or helping your grandchildren with their homework; all of these activities will keep your brain healthy and functioning optimally.
As we age, many people tend to do less and less both physically and mentally. This is a prescription for disaster because we truly do use it or lose it as the saying goes. That relates to muscle mass, flexibility, brain function and all activities of daily living. It’s interesting to theorize whether reducing our physical and mental activity causes aging, or if aging itself truly causes us to slow down.
There are some great resources out there today on healthy brain function and the mind-body connection. Dr. Mark Hyman published a book entitled, “The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First.” He notes that an epidemic of “broken brains” affects millions of people worldwide and conventional medical therapy is not the answer. Everything that affects the body affects the brain, since it is one of the most vital organs of the body, and everything that affects the brain affects the rest of the body. Dr. James Gordon is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. He is the Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Both of these thought leaders have recognized the connection between stress and both physical and mental illness.
The good news is that stress is preventable. I believe that stimulating the mind is one way to reduce stress and improve or maintain a healthy mind-body connection. Even just giving yourself something to think about when doing a logic puzzle or learning something new, takes your mind off of your daily stressors. While meditation is a classic way to reduce stress and live in the present moment, things that stimulate the mind can be just as effective and many times easier to engage in for individuals new to or struggling with meditation techniques.