Happiness Series: Continued Learning

Remember back in childhood when each day was a magical adventure? When did we lose the awe and wonder for life? I watch my toddler explore every aspect of life with the wide-eyed excitement that comes with each new and unique experience. I don’t remember the last time something as simple as a spider crawling across the sidewalk was an amazing, mind blowing experience. She has taught me that the more knowledge and experiences we gain, the less wonder and joy we have in our lives.  

To children the world is unfathomably large, and every day brings a brand new first to figure out. How can you not be excited to jump out of bed and start the day when any number of new magical things you have yet to imagine could happen to you at any moment. As adults, we often get bogged down in the stagnated routines of our day to day lives. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Yes, we have lived (much) longer than those wide eyed two year olds. We aren’t likely to get excited about velcroing our shoes all by ourselves. However, we certainly haven’t experienced everything there is to experience! Bringing excitement and wonder back into your life is as simple as making a real effort to keep learning new things!

Learning creates new connections between neurons, giving you a rush of those happy hormones. If you feel stuck or bored with your life, try something new. You don’t need to quit your job or move to a new town, something simple can give you the spark you need! There are more opportunities for learning new things in your community then you may realize. Don’t stop with just one! Make lists of things that you are interested in learning; things that will improve your career, personal life and mental well-being.  

Where do you start? How do you decide what you are interested in learning? Instead of Googling what other people suggest learning, take a few quiet minutes to think about you want to gain in your life. Here are some helpful mindsets you can start with. 

How did you play pretend as a kid?
 I used to go around our yard, carefully selecting plants, tree bark and other earthy elements to grind into a magical concoction. To this day I am fascinated by natures healing capabilities. When I committed to learning something new, I went to my local holistic wellness shop and signed up for their herbalist classes! As children, the possibilities were endless! We didn’t let money or practicality dictate our passions, we prioritized fun. As adults we now have the ability to look back at those young dreams and find a way to make them a reality, in a way. Not only will you be learning something new, you will also be bringing a nostalgic piece of your childhood wonder back into your life. Were you that kid on a pretend stage, acting or dancing your heart out for an audience of teddy bears? Take an improve class or dancing lessons! Did you pretend to cook elaborate meals and insist your parents “eat” it. Take an exotic cooking class! The possibilities are still endless! Learn something fun! 

What will help move you toward your goals? First step with this one is to decide what your goals are. Visualize what your ideal future looks like. Don’t limit yourself through self-doubt. You are just as capable of reaching any goal as anyone else. Do you have that ideal life in mind? Now what steps can you take to reach it? Maybe your goal is to manage your money better or pay off debt, take a business or money management class; you could even take the more one on one approach and meet with a financial advisor. Maybe your goal is to be more productive or efficient at work, look into learning time management skills. Maybe you want to start a whole new career path, there is someone out there teaching what you need to learn! Maybe your goal is to write and publish a book (this is one of my goals!), there are tuns of resources to teach you how to self-publish successfully. What I’m getting at is, no matter how big your goal is, there are things you can learn right now that will get you leaps closer! Some helpful online learning platforms for this may be Lynda.com or Mindtools.com. 

What will Improve your personal wisdom? Choosing something to learn based on this mindset may surprise you in how deep an impact it has on you. No one, not one single person has ever known everything. It is astonishing how little we actually know, even about our own little day to day world. Learning something to simply better understand your own surroundings can drastically open your eyes to a deeper and more connected daily life. The options here are endless, take a look at your day to day life and expand your knowledge of it! How well do you know the history of your own town? In Portland and Seattle they have underground tunnels and cities, the local tours are incredible! Most towns have a local history tour of some kind, look for one! How much do you know about your own family? Research your ancestry and discover where you came from! Websites like Duolingo.com can help you learn a new language; which might just inspire you to travel to new places with even more opportunities to learn about different cultures! How much do you know about how the things you use every day are made? Do you know how your favorite foods are made? My most recent learning expedition was to Creo Chocolate, a local chocolate factory, to learn how chocolate is made (from bean to bar). Learning how things are made enhance your appreciation for those things. Local businesses all over the county (if you are in the USA) offer tours to demonstrate how the things we use and love are made. Museums hold exhibits dedicated to science and industry, making it easy to learn more about the world around us. 

What is something that scares you? Fear is a natural part of life but can be crippling to happiness. If we let our fears control us, we close the door to a potentially valuable path on our journey to happiness. Most fears come from a lack of knowledge or understanding. Some fears come from a traumatic experience we are afraid to repeat. Either way, by learning something new we can overcome these fears. If your fear is due to a traumatic event in your life, I suggest you seek out a therapist that can teach you the best way to overcome your specific fear. Take small steps to help better understand the subject of your fear. For example, if you have a fear of bugs, go to an insect exhibit at a zoo and learn how those bugs live their lives and how harmless they are to yours. If you have a fear of heights, go to an indoor rock-climbing gym where you can safely learn how to push past your self-imposed limits. If have a fear of water (like me), take swim lessons to build your confidence. Learning more about the things that scare you can help lift the vale of mystery and show you there is nothing to be afraid of. 

What will inspire your creativity? 
Creativity is an important part of happiness. I used to believe that I was not naturally a creative person. We are all naturally creative, we just have to learn how to use it! Those artists and musicians that make it look effortless, had to spend years learning their craft. Your brain is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. You wouldn’t work out only your left leg each day and neglect your right leg, don’t ignore half your brain! Some creative activities won’t be for you and that’s ok. Each person will connect with creativity in different ways, I don’t enjoy drawing or painting but my husband lives for it. Find what you are passionate about by trying new things! Try painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, digital designing, interior design, photography, stained glass making, jewelry making, videography, piano, guitar, harmonica, landscaping, the list could go on forever. Try everything you can think of and you will find at least one that you love! 

Start making a list of things you want to learn! Never stop adding to that list and never stop checking things off! This will open your path to happiness in ways you can’t even imagine! 

Share what things you are learning in the comments! 

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