Intellectual nourishment and the brain
What feeds you intellectually? Is it reading, researching, attending a play or a concert, creating or trying a new recipe, or maybe playing an instrument? These are just a few of many activities that support intellectual nourishment.
An integral part of our well-being is an intellectual diet comprised of the kind of nourishment that serves up excitement, interest, growth, and new experiences. It can be easy to settle into the familiar of what we know, think, or experience, because it’s comfortable. However, if we think about it from our brain’s perspective, the brain much prefers being intellectually nourished and it increases the probability of being kinder to us as we age.
While a brain is not plastic, research has shown it is malleable. It has the ability to reorganize, forge new connections, and potentially create new neurons. The goal is to support healthy brain changes through nourishing activities. Providing intellectual nourishment that is varied and challenging, and gives life to new opportunities and experiences keeps our brains more fit.
Intellectually nourishing brain activities
Various activities can stimulate and benefit the brain differently. Below are some examples of brain research and how the brain is impacted in each activity.
Reading: Getting away from the TV, and instead picking up a fiction book to read enhances brain connectivity and improves its functionality.
Music: Playing a musical instrument impacts multiple areas of the brain, especially enhancing our executive functions and researchers note it is comparable to a full-body workout. Listening to music also benefits multiple areas of the brain processing the sounds, taking it apart, and putting it back together in a cohesive experiential manner.
Cooking: A lot of our cognitive skills get exercised when cooking in the kitchen from the time we start planning all the way through sitting down to a meal with friends and family.
Balancing out brain overdrive
Sometimes nourishing our intellect means stepping away from extended learning periods, work deadlines, etc. and providing a different activity that can help refresh us, such as the following:
Art: Engaging in any art creation can de-stress us and clear the cobwebs. By immersing ourselves in a creative outlet, we enable our brain to temporarily suspend all the chatter, lending itself to a more tranquil state.
Meditation: Taking time to meditate has the capacity to impact the brain in many positive ways, including dual brain hemisphere function, enhancing memory, growing brain size, and increasing our emotional intelligence capacity.
Walking in nature: Getting out for a nature walk can be soothing for the soul, which impacts the well-being of the brain. Stress seems to melt away unless one has a dirt phobia.
Where to start
The world is our oyster when it comes to intellectual nourishment! Take some time out to step up to the buffet of life, and start sampling an array of activities. Here’s a few suggestions to get you thinking:
- Visit art galleries or museums.
- Take an art, dance, or photography class.
- Play chess or brain games.
- Learn an instrument.
- Try your hand at composing music.
- Take up a new hobby.
- Join a book club.
- Write a book.
- Partake in some good conversation.
- Seek out a social group with shared interests.
Take advantage of the many intellectual nourishment avenues right here on campus through our activities calendar.
Where do you currently stand in your intellectual wellness? Take the intellectual assessment and find out.
Visit and join our Facebook page!
Challenge yourself to make YOU a priority! Seven is a free program from Health Promotion and Wellness for students, faculty, and staff that focuses on the importance of the seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational. Seven runs from September to the end of April, and you can join at any time. Participants log wellness activities to earn points toward monthly prize drawings and compete toward end of the year overall point totals. Participants also receive the Seven e-newsletter and information on campus wellness events.
For additional details and to sign up, visit Wellness.IllinoisState.edu/Seven.