Spring is change. The two words are synonymous to me. The earth knows it, the birds know it, children know it – it is a wonderful door-flinging, habit-busting time of year! Time to launch into that daring house reno, that walk across Spain, to take up tennis, to get serious about learning that instrument or language you’ve always wanted to learn. Each require a bit of courage, belief and a lot of dedication and determination, but the outcomes – the new kitchen, proficiency or skill – fulsomely reward our grit and efforts.
Change is for Everyone!
And for those of us cowering behind our ‘but I’m too old to do that!’ excuses, let’s remember what current neuro-science is telling us, namely, that our brains are plastic and far more adaptable to change than we ever give them credit for. Take the findings of reseracher Richard Doidge, reported in the book “The Brain that Changes Itself”, for instance. In working with people with any number of brain injuries or disorders, he found they could overcome their limitations by stimulating unused circuits of the brain, thereby building new neural networks. Researchers have reached similar conclusions about adult learners: “As adults we have well-trodden pathways in our synapses – we have to crack the cognitive egg and scramble it up so that new synapses grow. Stretching the brain best keeps it in tune – you need to push yourself, to get out of your comfort zone to truly nourish the brain.”
Some Personal Testimonies….
So if brain cells and connections can grow and learning can improve throughout our life span provided we are dedicated to it, what is preventing us from trying? Certainly the success of my own ventures into new learning – into a new language (Spanish), new technology (WordPress), and memorization of piano repertoire (2 hours worth!) – testify to the surprising plasticity of our brain. It certainly isn’t like ‘falling off a log’, however, studies have shown that long-lasting change in the setting up of new neural connections take at least ten months of repeated practise. Or in my case, three months of obsessively repeated practise!
Your Journey into Learning Starts Now!
So, hats off to all you multi-linguists and adult learners out there! I intend to keep testing the neuroplasticity theories on my travels and experiences ahead in Greece. And that could involve cracking the Greek alphabet! In the meantime, would love to hear about the new learning in your life!