Laughter is a good medicine, but learning is even better. Learning isn’t just fun. It can serve a powerful purpose. Today we’ll appreciate a bit more how learning can have an impact on both physical and mental health.
To oversimplify, learning in the macro of our lives is good for us. It is healthy. We’ll talk about the fact that learning can actually help us be physically healthier and share a couple of books, The Myth of Normal & The Big Leap that help us appreciate this mind-body, learning connection.
The Mind Body
I recently had the opportunity to interview Daniel Mate, co-author of the best selling book, Myth Of Normal. His dad also wrote the incredible books, Hold On To Your Kids, When The Body Says No, Scattered Minds, and In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts. Essentially his life’s work has been helping people live better lives by better understanding their minds, or the minds of their children.
To again oversimplify, if we don’t take care of ourselves, and heal from the inside out, then eventually addiction, mental illness, or physical illness will catch up to us because as humans we are not just a body, and a mind, rather a body-mind, we can’t separate the two.
Learning Keeps You In The Moment
Well, my favorite, super biased way to keep our body-mind healthy is to focus on learning. Arguably “stay in the moment” is the most important advice to be a healthy person. But that can be difficult to actually do. One trick I love to do this is to stay in learning mode. You can’t be deeply learning and be worried about past, or future. So not only is learning cool, but because it helps our body-mind stay in shape, it will actually prevent illness.
See that is one of the “myths” that we make normal in society. Of course everyone get’s a cold here and there and has to fight it off, but it’s not normal to be getting sick all the time. Yet for many people they are getting sick all the time. Right when it seems like everything is going along great, you get sick.
Why is that? Well there are many reasons why someone could get sick, but it’s not just because you came in contact with germs.
Why Might We Get Sick As Sabotage?
Of course, sometimes there is disease beyond our control and that’s just a matter of math. But for the majority of people, this should not be a normal thing!
If you do get sick at times when you are just about to break through to a new level, then it can be helpful to understand what Gay Hendricks, author of the big leap calls the Upper Limit Problem.
The Upper Limit Problem is that sometimes we deny our positive progress, by consciously, or subconsciously focusing on the negative elements of success, someone compliments your work, and you immediately deflect it by thinking of what you could have done better, instead of saying thank you and soaking in the progress.
Many times this will be manifested through physical illness, think back to how many times you were making great progress, as you continued to expand and grow, were you then held back by a bout of illness? This may be because you aren’t fully ready to be the next person you need to be to succeed.
Learning Helps You Become A New Person
Well again, in a learning mindset, we don’t feel these mental barriers. When we are focused on learning, it forces us to stay in the middle of leveling up, focused on the process and not assessing success, or failure, simply learning the next thing.
Learning also keeps us from becoming judgemental of other people, or things. If something breaks down, or a person is mean to us, rather than judging them, we should learn “why” that might be? When we do this, it is more of a curious, exploration on our part, and we won’t be struck with negative feelings, or stress that way on us and can lead to illness as well.
So next time you are tempted to be mad at someone for something they did, stay healthy by learning about them, or the situation. The next time something like a car, or tool breaks and could frustrate you, think about why it happened, what could prevent it, or again, what can you learn?
Never Grow Up (Just Keep Learning)
It’s important to point out that this mindset is easy when we are little kids. It is our default to learn at every opportunity. But as we age, and I’ve seen it many times in the very young teenage years, we often slow down our learning, some of us stopping all together. We detach from our natural desire to learn and start to wonder what’s the point.
Or we get so focused on one specific belief, end goal, or answer that we are blinded from other things we would love to learn. As we grow up we get further away from being parented, formal education, and job training, which increases our risk of brain aging.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt to stimuli. As we learn something new, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, removing neural connections that are no longer useful, and strengthening the helpful ones. If we focus on our desire to learn what we are passionate about, we improve the ability of our brains to make these changes in a positive way.
An Amazing Example Of Learning
The hiphop artist logic showcases this beautifully in a behind the scenes document of him learning piano on tour. As a spoken creative, he no doubt understands memorization, writing, pace, lyricism, and singing. But the clip where I have seen him most vibrant, and alive while on this tour was not doing any of those things (he was probably super engaged when he learned those things the first time) BUT he was so energized in this case by learning the piano from one of his bandmates.
The idea of learning this skill really made him appear like the inner child was bursting through his smile, laughter and focused eyes.
In order to learn effectively, we need to create these cycles of setting and achieving, or failing on goals throughout the duration of life. This cycle keeps us energized. We stay fresh and excited. We wake up in the morning knowing we get to improve something we value. It also leads to improvement in overall health, or at least gives us the best chance to be healthy. This is because it triggers positive emotions like joy and affords us work, life balance.
I’m so, so bullish on the benefits of learning that I think any time we start to feel down, or a bit off, we should find something we really love learning about and take a deep dive asap. There is no better medicine.