By the time you turn 20, you’ve spent the vast majority of your lifetime learning. But don’t think that because you’re 30, 40, 50 or even 60 that learning should ever stop. Like the old saying, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Keep the left and right sides of your brain sharp with some of these ideas…
There’s a theory that says the two hemispheres of the human brain control vastly different types of thought. People who are “left-brained” are said to be more logical, analytical and objective while those “right-brained” among us are said to be more intuitive, creative, thoughtful and subjective.
While the left- vs right-brain theory might be just that – a theory (even a myth) – what is true is that your brain is a muscle that needs to be trained.
When you consider ‘learning’ and ‘education’, many thinks of school kids, oversized hats and loaded backpacks. But learning shouldn’t be limited to the early years. Learning is something to be enjoyed throughout our entire lives.
And just like legs’ day at the gym, you don’t want to skip training your brain via learning. According to Alzheimer’s Australia, keeping your brain active is important to keep it functioning well.
“Scientists have found that challenging the brain with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them,” the Alzheimer’s Australia website states. “This helps to give the brain more ‘reserve’ or ‘backup’ so that it can cope better and keep working properly if any brain cells are damaged or die.
“Mental exercise may also protect against accumulation of damaging proteins in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“As we grow older we tend to prefer doing the things we’ve always done, tasks that we are familiar with – and that’s understandable – but the brain bene ts by having to tackle something it doesn’t know. It could be learning a new language, taking up a new sport, doing a course in something you’ve always wanted to do – anything really, as long as it’s learning something new.
“Challenge yourself often and keep learning new things throughout life. Higher levels of mental activity throughout life are consistently associated with better brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”
So, which hemisphere of your brain could you sharpen? What is that ‘thing’, that ‘something different’, that will have the muscle in your skull learning something new? Here are some ideas suited to each hemisphere…
LEFT BRAIN: MUSIC
The thought of starting music lessons probably takes you back to the days of dreaded piano lessons, squeaky clarinets and school band. But music is actually a great skill to pick up as an adult. Not only is it satisfying to create the music to people’s ears, but it’s the brain’s equivalent of a full body workout.
“Learning an instrument strengthens the corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerve fibres connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain,” says Georgie from Byron Community College. “It’s one of the only skills to combine the linguistic and mathematical precision of the left side of the brain with the creative domain of the right side.”
The result? Musicians are more than just skilled performers – they have above average abilities in executive functioning, problem-solving, memory and more! Alongside the mental health bene ts of learning, adult education is also a great way to build confidence, interact socially and meet some new friends.
Byron Community College runs vocational and general courses throughout the year and has some great music classes coming up in Term 3.
Visit www.byroncollege.org.au or phone 02 6684 3374
RIGHT BRAIN: PAINTING/ART
It’s not often in life that you get something for free but that’s exactly what Ironlak Art & Design is offering local learners – free art sessions!
The Brisbane-based global art supplies company invites art enthusiasts of
all levels to join in art classes at their flagship Queen Street Mall store in the Brisbane CBD every week. There is a broad mix of free sessions and paid art classes available, allowing participants to express their creativity and ex their creative muscle (the right side, of course!) in a non-judgmental space, as you’ll see in the images above.
Ironlak creative director Luke Shirlaw says their classes are designed for participants of all ages and all levels – right from kids up to professionals.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even picked up a marker before. Our classes are taught by a variety of artists who guide participants through the process of making art in their chosen medium,” Luke says. “We love seeing people come to our classes who are unsure of their ability with a paintbrush, aerosol paint or even a pencil. Our artists provide a relaxed lesson and help them unwind, open up and have fun! This allows class participants to leave with not only new skills but also a piece of art that many say they’ll be featuring in their own homes.”
Ironlak Art & Design’s July class list o ers an impressive array of art mediums including pencil drawing, watercolours, Ironlak ‘Pump Action’ paint markers, graphic markers, charcoal, pastels, acrylic paint, aerosol paint and mixed media. Art sessions are free (with equipment supplied) while hosted art classes require payment. Bookings for all are via the Eventbrite website.
“July’s lineup includes some really exciting art classes with amazing Brisbane artists including Elana Mullaly, Buttons and The Brightsiders,” Luke says. “Ultimately, we want to help people of all backgrounds discover their inner artist and enhance the world through creativity – whatever their level of artistic expertise.”
LEFT BRAIN: CODING
Coding is the language of connections – it connects us to a fast-adapting world, helps us understand the global business environment and sharpens our technical brain. Learning to code can expand brain functions like reasoning and problem solving better than any puzzle or game, and o ers the ability to work on a variety of tasks and problems as each project is different and requires a unique solution. Plus, doesn’t it feel good to use a different corner of your brain?
Understanding programming fundamentals and scripting will help you understand the types of work that can be automated and the value of automation – a crucial skill considering the business world moves incredibly fast. And, we’re sure you’ve noticed, but no job is one-dimensional; people are adapting as quick as the workplace is growing. Outside the world of software engineers and front-end developers, there are a number of jobs that bene t from knowing how to code. Whether you work in law, finance or marketing industries, jobs are becoming more tech focused and you’ll need the skills to adapt and stay relevant.
RIGHT BRAIN: POTTERY
The tactile nature of clay – getting mud under your nails and shaping a lifeless blob into a work of art with your bare hands – provides a rewarding right-brain learning experience. Most people will remember playing with modelling clay, even Play-Doh, as a kid. For many adults, clay play is not common but it’s a great new experience to master. And there are hidden benefits in this right-brain-training experience: amazing bespoke homewares!
One of the newest pottery studios to open in Brisbane, The Ceramic House, is a passion project of mother and daughter potters Charlie and Mieke De Deyne, aka “Mas and Meik”.
“Each of us has an innate desire, tracing back to childhood, to dig our hands deep into the sticky-icky mud and squish it all about,” Charlie says. “We can take that desire even further and have the most amateur student walking out of The Ceramic House with their new favourite bowl.”
Based at Newstead, The Ceramic House is designed for everyone, from
those who’ve never touched clay before, right up to the professionals. Mas and Meik initially guide class members through hand building and/or pottery wheel throwing techniques and provide clay inspo. Once your masterpiece has gone through its first ring, you’ll be invited back to enjoy a glazing class. A second are and your new fave bowl, vase, plate (or whatever!) is done.
“Seeing as ceramics is an endless craft, we see endless possibilities from having people of all experience working together in a shared, open space.”
LEFT BRAIN: LANGUAGE
Would you like to feel a little smarter, help your kids with their French homework or just be able to sing along to that Latin music that you love?
“As our local schools expand their LOTE programs it becomes increasingly apparent that learning a foreign language has a lot of advantages, and not just for kids,” says Pablo from The Language Academy at Mermaid Beach.
“Imagine taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip to your dream destination – how much richer would the experience be if you were able to chat to locals and make truly personal connections? Most us would be pretty chu ed even if we could just order a beer.”
The Language Academy is one of the only language schools between Brisbane and Byron Bay to offer such a wide range of languages. With an enthusiastic community of teachers, it’s no surprise that student Amanda Attard and her daughter were able to nd their feet on a recent trip to Spain.
“We enjoyed being able to put what we had learnt into practice, and we were able to speak enough to be understood!” says Amanda.
Visit www.thelanguageacademy.com.au or phone 07 5578 6838