There is an old saying which I believe in very deeply: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Once you have reached adulthood, however, you really should stop growing physically, but definitely continue growing mentally. Unfortunately, most people today get this equation completely backwards, continuing a rather impressive horizontal physical expansion thanks to the standard American diet (SAD) and halting mental development due to the totally idiotic perception that learning becomes redundant after high school. This social norm is highly detrimental to health and longevity, not only because of the SAD, but also because of the mental stagnation.
It really is vitally important to give your brain regular stimulating workouts. After all; if you don’t use it, you lose it. This old maxim is just one of the many parallels between body and mind: just like a fit body will make exercise progressively easier and more fun and thereby lead to more exercise, a fit mind will make learning progressively easier and more fun and thereby lead to more learning. The benevolent cycle of exercise we have talked about in the fitness section will be echoed in this section as the benevolent cycle of learning.
Unfortunately, these benevolent cycles can just as easily turn very vicious as well. The vicious cycle of sedentary living is very hard to break simply because your body can become so bloated and weak that exercise becomes very strenuous. Similarly, the vicious cycle of a sedentary mind can make even the tiniest mental challenge seem insurmountable, thereby causing you to shy away from many stimulating intellectual tasks.
The most terrifying expression of the vicious cycle of a sedentary mind is Alzheimer’s disease. Mental stimulation plays an important role in preventing the terrible emotional, practical and financial implications of this degenerative condition. Just like paralysis can cut away access to your arms and legs even though you still have them, Alzheimer’s can cut away access to your entire store of memory, knowledge and experience even though you still have your brain. You quite literally lose your life while you are still breathing. Don’t let this happen. Keep your brain fit.
As always, the hardest part of the journey to mental fitness is the first few steps. But if we simply apply the good old One in a Billion formula of intelligent micro-environment design in this area, we can end up with a situation where learning becomes natural and automatic just like exercise becomes natural and automatic in the healthy fitness environment we constructed earlier. We’ll look at some brief practical guidelines tomorrow.