Do you ever find yourself stuck in old thought processes or catch yourself saying, “that’s the way it’s always been”? Are there ever times you assume you already know everything you need to know about a subject? I know I catch myself doing it sometimes. That’s when I realize that I need to work on my Intellectual Wellness.
What is Intellectual Wellness?
At first glance we might think that Intellectual Wellness is how intelligent we are. Actually, though, how smart we are has nothing to do with our Intellectual Wellness.
Instead, it’s really more about our willingness to learn. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (1)(whose wellness wheel we saw in What Is Wellness, defines it as “recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills.” Vanderbilt University (2) defines it as “the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment.”
The key component of Intellectual Wellness seems to be a continuing desire to and effort toward expanding our creative abilities, knowledge and skills. It’s vitally important that we continue to learn throughout our lives.
For those of us who may be getting a little older or dealing with cognitive difficulties, it can become even more important to keep learning new things, fostering our creativity, and sharing what we’ve learned with others. These are some of the things that keep our brains forming new connections and maintaining our brain health.
How Do We Test It?
So how can we tell how we’re doing with this dimension? We can start by taking an honest look at how willing we are to learn new things and by how open we are to new ideas or opinions that differ from our own.
For a more objective assessment, Old Dominion University (3) has an assessment that we can take. It’s only a few questions, and can give us an overall view of how we’re doing. Just click here to take it.
Ways To Improve Intellectual Wellness
What can we do if we’re not where we’d like to be in the intellectual dimension of wellness? Here are a few suggestions:
- Read. Reading is a wonderful way to expand your horizons, learn something new, or engage your brain in problem-solving (you know, as in trying to figure out who killed the victim in a crime novel, etc.)
- Get Creative. Learn a new hobby, engage in creative activities you already enjoy, journal, blog, learn to play an instrument….. The possibilities are endless!
- Explore. Interact with the world around you. Get involved in your community, spend time in nature, volunteer, etc.
- Do the opposite of what you would normally do. Use your non-dominant hand, look at something from a point of view opposite yours, or switch up the order of steps in your routine (Switching up your routine might not be recommended if you are having cognitive difficulties, as you don’t want to leave out anything important by accident.)
- Learn a new language. Learning a new language is one way to expand our knowledge, enhance our critical thinking skills (as sentence structure is often different in other languages), and of course, build those new synapses as we learn something new.
- Try new games such as board games, Sudoku, puzzles, etc. These are a great way to improve our critical thinking skills. Some can also engage our creativity.
- Feed your brain with a healthy diet. Good nutrition is vital for a healthy brain. There are many nutrients that are critical for optimal brain health.
- Exercise to improve brain health. Improved brain health can help improve Intellectual Wellness. Consistent exercise results in better blood flow to the brain and can stimulate neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons.
- Have conversations with people you don’t necessarily agree with. When we listen to others’ opinions and give them some thought, it can expand our minds, which in turn increases our ability to grasp new information.
Taking care of the intellectual dimension of our wellness can enable us to have a more vital, engaged life by keeping us learning and creating throughout our lives.
What type of activities do you engage in that contribute to your Intellectual Wellness? Please share!
(2) https://www.vanderbilt.edu/recreationandwellnesscenter/wellness/elementsofwellness.pdf (Link no longer available)