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Over the past year and a half, the pandemic has forced us to become flexible and adapt to numerous changes in the way that we live and work. A fresh perspective is that perhaps these changes have put us on track to embrace what is new to us. Many people have decided to try new hobbies or learn a new skill during this time, and it turns out that there are major health benefits of doing so:
Improvement in brain function: Our brain is responsible for many activities including controlling physical movements, processing all the information that we get through our five senses, and a host of other skills. When we exercise our brains by learning something new, we improve our ability to continue learning. Exercising our brains in this way is an important strategy to prevent decline in brain function as we transition to older adulthood.
Increased creativity: Studies suggest that regularly engaging in new hobbies, trying new things, and learning unfamiliar subjects can foster creativity through the creation of new connections between brain cells.
Boosting mental health: Engaging in a hobby you enjoy or learning a new skill you find interesting enhances your mental health and well being by acting as a buffer for stress.
Increases dopamine release: Dopamine is the chemical in our brain linked to love, pleasure, motivation, learning and memory. When you are engaged in an activity you like, you lose your sense of time and enter what is known as a ‘flow state’ where you are completely submerged in an experience. Being in a flow state raises dopamine levels in your brain which can help explain some of these beneficial effects.
Keeping these benefits in mind, we invite you to try something new. Be open and maintain a sense of curiosity about what you might enjoy trying. For any new activity/skill, we recommend trying it a couple of times before deciding whether you like it or not. Another piece of good news - the more you try new things the more you’ll learn about yourself, your likes, and dislikes, what you are passionate about and what makes you feel truly alive.
Author: Natalia Ramirez, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre intern