Intellectual Wellbeing

Remember the goo-like toy that comes in a hard-plastic shell called ‘Silly Putty?’ When used a lot the Silly Putty stays soft and pliable, but if left out or unused it becomes hard and stiff. Interestingly, our brains are quite similar to Silly Putty. They both have similar textures and qualities. Our brain is a soft organ that sits in the hard shell of our skull. When we continually use and exercise our brains they remain supple. If we engage in mind-numbing behaviors that don’t require our brain to work, the neurological connections become stiff. 

In the past, science believed the brain reached a fixed state at the age of adulthood. Thankfully, this model of the brain has been discarded and science has now adopted the term neuroplasticity. In other words, the wiring in our brain can grow and change throughout our entire lives. However, the opposite is also true: if we don't use our brain, we lose it. Intellectual wellbeing is about learning, thinking critically, problem solving, making decisions, and being creative…all of which require an active brain.  Physical activity and a healthy diet (especially healthy fats) keep the brain healthy and plastic. Other ways to keep your brain and intellect active include:

Reading: with increases in fast paced media and technology, time spent reading books has dramatically decreased. Reading provides the brain with a host of benefits. Reading forces the brain to read and analyze words, sentences, and storylines. The brain makes new pathways as it makes connections throughout the plot. It also stimulates our imagination as our brain displays the story’s mental images.

Games: meaning games that are challenging and intellectually engaging. Crosswords, Sudoku, memory games, and strategic games are just a few. The key to games is challenge. If you do Sudoku all the time and become good at it, your brain is no longer making new connections. The pathways needed to accomplish the game are already created. For this reason, switching up the type and difficulty of games is important to keep your brain engaged and active in creating new pathways.

Learning: once we're out of school the intensity and frequency of learning decreases significantly. Learning is one of the greatest ways to increase intellectual wellbeing. Try learning a new language, skill, or sport. This will challenge your brain to bend in new and healthy ways.

Sleep: during sleep, toxins are removed from the brain, memory is consolidated, brain waves slow down, and neural pathways are created and maintained. Sleep is also important for intellectual concentration and focus during the day.

Focus on doing something creative and intellectually stimulating everyday to keep your brain healthy. No matter our age or position in life we can always increase our intellectual capacity. There is always more to learn. Michelangelo wisely said at the age of 87, “I am still learning.” Here at Orriant we are always learning, and hope you are too!