We’re about halfway through our wellness series, and after the social, emotional, spiritual, and environmental dimensions, we’re transitioning toward something that may be a bit more tangible. These Corona times are changing many aspects of life including time spent with friends/family, ability to work, or working from home, and the environments that surround us. It may also be providing us with opportunities for new hobbies, career endeavors, and free time.
Intellectual wellness encourages us to engage in creative and mentally stimulating activities; and allows for expanding knowledge and skills, as well as the ability to share these with others. Developing your intellectual wellness can support your own personal resources that work together with the other dimensions of wellness in order to obtain a more balanced life. This realm of wellness can be supported through academics, cultural involvement, community involvement, and personal habits.
Both during these times, and always, it’s important to explore new ideas and understandings in order to become more mindful and well-rounded. Working on your intellectual wellness encourages learning, curiosity, and inspires exploration. Being curious about the world and your surroundings provides motivation for trying new things and helps you to understand how you see the relationship between yourself, others, and your environment.
Aside from some of the behaviors intellectual wellness may affect, it’s also known that engaging in stimulating activities can strengthen the neural network in the brain. This can make the brain more resistant to things like dementia and Alzheimer’s over time. It’s even thought that cognitive decline can be prevented, slowed, or possibly reversed in older adults who partake in creative and cognitively challenging activities.
So, some things you can do to support your intellectual wellness while spending more time at home (and to help with some of that boredom or cabin fever) could be reading, learning a new language, playing a game or doing a puzzle, journaling, playing music, or taking up a new hobby. We’ve probably all done or seen some ‘quarantine home projects’ that have stretched skills and intellect! It’s also important to be open-minded so that you can better learn about things around you. Maybe try to learn more about a common debate topic, but from the stance you may not agree with. Try to delve into a culture you’re interested in by cooking its food, reading about it, or learning its language; maybe even plan a future trip to wherever this might be! While stretching your brain, many of these activities can also help with stress management and effective coping; as well as providing a sense of meaning and purpose (sounds familiar, right?).
Challenging your intellect can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and perhaps discouraging at times. Trying new things is hard! (just ask Taylor about me trying to get better at chess). But it’s always an accomplishment to learn something new, and you likely feel better after a stimulating activity (and sleep better too!).
We know there are direct benefits of expanding your knowledge and understandings – working on those brain folds! We also know that there are indirect effects on wellness through the other dimensions (emotional, social, spiritual, environmental). So why not give it a shot! Spend some of your extra time doing something new, or maybe not new; but something that challenges your brain, your beliefs, or your current view of the world (without giving yourself an ulcer, of course).
We’re on the tail end of this wellness series, so we want to give another ‘thanks’ for hanging out! We’ve got some exciting ideas for where we want to go after this series, so be sure to keep following! Next week we’ll be combining the two dimensions of occupational and financial; both of which might be the culprits for many of our stresses and concerns right now!
Elle and Taylor
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Elle Morgan, PT, DPT