Your brain’s exposure to new types of stimuli – whether you learn to swim, paint, or complete a crossword puzzle – helps keep it strong and healthy with age.
A follow-up study of adults spent three months learning complex things, including quilting and digital photography. They found that participants who engaged in “challenging and novel cognitive activities” improved their memory function.
Diane Finley, a psychology professor, says, “If we do new things, our brain connections continue to develop. It is a muscle that has to be exercised, like any muscle. It exercises the brain.”
Ongoing social interaction and community attachment are also associated with positive health outcomes. Still, they can be challenging to sustain for retirees who moved to a new area to get closer to adult kids or lost a spouse or partner.
What’s On Your Mind?
If you pick a new hobby based on something you’re already good at—Italian lessons when you speak Spanish; making bread when you’re a passionate baker.
After years of tennis lessons and racquetball, maybe you won’t get the full range of brain-stimulating benefits, says Finley.
It can be the best guideline if you are already nervous about meeting new people.
Getting in touch with other people who share your interests offers an immediate opportunity to make new friends.
Do you Need To Cheer?
Not many people, if any, feel comfortable in a new situation, explains Finley.
But pushing you to join a group gives you an integrated support system while conjugating French verbs, perfecting your Zumba movements, or traveling through a foreign country.
Finley says, “If you’re going to try something new, you may not be good at it—but you just have to not worry about it.”
How Long Do You Wish To Spend?
If you don’t want to spend hours each week practicing a new skill to become competent, choose something more “low-stakes,” says Finley.
What Is Your Aim?
Making a new hobby with a group of people you already know has advantages for introverts, which may be hesitant to join the community center basketball team or a book club filled with strangers.
Finley says, “You have to decide on your primary focus.”