The Benefits of Maintaining a Curious Mind

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What are you most curious about? Is there a skill or hobby that you love? A new talent that you have always wanted to develop and explore, but have never found the time?

Generally defined as a strong desire to know or learn something, curiosity, at its core, is all about noticing and being drawn to things we find interesting. It’s about exploring the pleasures that novel experience offers us. Or deepening our knowledge about the familiar.

For residents at All Seniors Care Living Centres, last week’s Endlessly Curious national event highlighted the power of curiosity.

The Power of Curiosity and Lifelong Learning

Curiosity – although it declines with age, plays an important role in healthy ageing.

To boost brain power, seniors need regular engagement and involvement in tasks that challenge the way they think, such as learning a new skill. The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) calls these cognitively stimulating activities (CSAs). How can engaging in CSAs help keep the mind healthy and active?

  • It can help your brain generate new neurons (the cells that send information to your entire body) and create new neural connections. This impacts memory, attention, thinking, language, and reasoning skills.
  • Continually learning new things can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • It may help you cope better with age-related brain changes and reduce the severity neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Adults who engage in more CSAs every week report a higher sense of cognitive functioning, health, and overall well-being than those who don’t.

The greater the range and depth of our curiosity, the more opportunities we have to experience things that inspire and excite us, from minute details to momentous occasions.

How To Develop Your Curious Side

Challenging yourself to learn skills over time, such as drawing or a new sport, helps improve cognitive outcomes like episodic memory and speed of processing. While the long-term benefits of complex skill learning are still unknown, activities motivated by interest and curiosity can lead to long-term engagement. And long-term engagement leads to longer-lasting improvements in cognitive functioning and quality of life.

Here are some tips on how you can develop your curiosity:

1. Keep an open mind

Two older women participating in a laughter yoga instructor.
Marcus from Laughter Yoga Edmonton/Central Alberta had seniors hooting and hollering with joy.

This is essential to having a curious mind. Be open to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Being prepared to re-evaluate beliefs and opinions is key. You never know what you might discover about yourself and the world!

2. Ask questions relentlessly

To quote the novelist José Saramago: “Old age starts where curiosity ends”. Remember when the world seemed big, bright, and new? Since a toddler’s life experience is minimal, their wonder and imagination is huge! From an evolutionary standpoint, questioning forms new patterns in the brain. So, get in touch with your inner child and ask “why” more often!

3. Adjust your perspective

Curious people are unlikely to call something boring. Instead, they see everything as a door to an exciting new world. The best way to change your perspective is to avoid taking things for granted. Try to dig beneath the surface of experiences and nothing will ever be boring again.

4. See learning as fun

Researchers from the University of California conducted a series of experiments to discover what exactly goes on in the brain when our curiosity is aroused. It turns out that curiosity helps us learn information we don’t consider all that interesting or important by making it more fun. At the same time, when having fun, our information processing and long-term memory storage is turned on. So, look at life through a lens of fun and enjoy the learning process.

5.Develop your imagination

Curiosity is the spark that ignites the imagination and vice-versa. It’s important to try and create opportunities to let your mind drift rather than filling it with something to passively consume. Open your mind to unexplored paths. Experiment and try to turn the daily routine into “excursions” where something new is learned each and every day.

6. Explore Your Environment

Whether you live in a bustling city, a rural retreat or somewhere in between, the world outside your home is teeming with points of interest that are just waiting to be explored. Maybe there’s a wonderful shop just minutes away, or a wooded path that smells like adventure. Perhaps try a different activity in your retirement community or speak to a stranger.  The world is your oyster.

7. Practice Empathy

Practice putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; try seeing the world from different perspectives. You may not agree with other perspectives but by shifting your focus to include other views you will get a much deeper, richer understanding of the world and of others.

Endlessly Curious at All Seniors Care

Maintenance Director Joey at Cite Parkway helps a resident learn a new woodworking skill.

This past week, retirees came out to mingle, giggle, and indulged their desire to discover new things during our Endlessly Curious event.  We learned to shoot a puck, tried a stimulating Laughter Yoga class, attended wellness talks, and sought the answers to some of the worlds most enduring riddles.

If you want to be a part of a community that encourages you to build your inner Sherlock, our senior living centres create many interesting ways for residents to keep learning. They offer things like educational and creative classes, lectures, current affairs discussion groups, book clubs, and cultural excursions, just to name a few.

Whatever your age, interests, or abilities, you can enjoy activities that make you laugh, lose track of time, or feel like a kid at heart. Indulge in your curiosity: find a residence near you and keep up with all the latest events by following us on social media.

Writer  – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.

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