Novel experiences cause our brains to make new connections and to maintain their neuroplasticity. This means that brains can begin and adjust to new behaviours and ways of thinking.
Neuroplasticity describes the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life. According to the theory, brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location and the proportion of grey matter in the brain can change.
As well as that, synapses can strengthen or weaken over time. In the nervous system, a synapse is a structure that allows a nerve cell (neuron) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron.
Behaviour, stimulation from the environment, thought, and emotions may all cause neuroplastic change, which has significant implications for healthy development and learning, as well as memory, in childhood.
People may have less neuroplastic change as they age, but it is just as important for a good quality of life.
I wrote about our need for novelty in my blog, ‘Brains need novelty to thrive and grow’. In that article, I suggested ways to find new experiences.
Novel experiences – more things to try.
- Learn a new language. You might like to attend a class, but if that’s not possible, what about trying an online course such as Duolingo. You can download the free app here. https://www.duolingo.com/ Make ten minutes a day to practise.
- Learn to make music. Again this might mean attending lessons, but you can also buy a cheap or second-hand instrument, such as a keyboard or guitar, and a beginner’s music book and try it out.
- Join a dance, yoga or Tai Chi class because new movements demand concentration. Rewards will include new skills, better balance, new friends and fun. If all else fails, dance to your own music.
- Read books from a different genre from those you usually read. If you usually read romance, try science fiction. If you usually read crime, try travel. Mix up your reading. You will learn new information and may enjoy the change.
- Watch movies and television programs different from those you usually choose. If documentaries interest you, try an arthouse movie or an action one. Switch channels.
- Listen to different music from your normal choice. Classical instead of rock, opera instead of folk. Mix it up!
- Travel, alone or with others. Take a cruise, visit part of the state you have not seen or have not seen for a while.
- Enjoy adventures close to home. Make a list of places that interest you and spend a few hours in a different environment from usual.
- Picnic. Hike. Walk. Swim. Fish. Move!
- Find out what’s happening in your community. Go to talks at the library, street festivals and the theatre.
- At home, change ornaments, cushions, bedspreads. Move the furniture. Tidy storage cupboards. Throw out things that make you feel depressed.
- Say, ‘Yes!’ to invitations.
- Say, ‘Yes!’ to new ideas. Work out what to do later if you need to.
New experiences can range from tiny moments to life-changing events. Some need little effort, while others demand commitment. Experiment, have fun. Find out what suits you and your present lifestyle.
Variety of stimuli and experience will help build lateral connections in the brain that will help nurture your creativity and imagination and improve your executive function and decision making.
For a fascinating account about neuroplasticity, you might like to read Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself.