Intellectual Health And Wellness

You're probably familiar with physical, emotional and mental health, but have you ever heard of intellectual health and wellness? Sounds a bit nerdy, academic or related to IQ doesn't it?

Well, it isn't. In fact, intellectual wellness has nothing to do with grades, tests or performance. Intellectual wellness can even be explored in many ways that don't seem so intellectual at all, such as hobbies, arts and even things like video games. So, what is Intellectual Health and Wellness? Why are they important? How do we achieve Intellectual Wellness?

What is Intellectual Health and Wellness, Why are They Important?

Intellectual health and wellness are about finding and doing things that engage your mind in creative and challenging ways. For some, this will be bookish things and traditional learning, but for many, it will simply be about developing their passions and exploring their curiosities throughout their life.

Intellectual wellness is what keeps life fresh and enjoyable. In short, Intellectual Health and Wellness are about engagement with the world, self expression and expansion of consciousness. 

According to the Harvard University Center for Wellness and Health Promotion, engaging in intellectual health and wellness activities might improve:

  • Cognition
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Open-mindedness
  • Lead to a more stimulating life
    I personally think that last one is the most important. Yes, improved cognition, concentration, memory, etc. are great, but most of all, we want to live fun and exciting lives, right?

    How To Achieve Greater Intellectual Health and Wellness?

    One of the saddest things in the modern age is the astounding number of adults who spend the majority of their time toiling away working at a job they may not even like, but have no hobbies or idea what they actually do enjoy. If they had all the time and money in the world, they wouldn't know what they would want to spend thier new found free time doing. However, it can be quite difficult to find your passions and achieve intellectual wellness. So, how do we go about fostering greater levels of intellectual health and wellness in our lives?

    Well, remember earlier when we said that intellectual health can be developed through non brainy things (brainy things work too, if that is your jam) like the arts and video games? Are you wondering how can that be? What does this have to do with the intellect?

    Well, rather than trying to perform or show knowledge and mastery on some sort of test, intellectual wellness is more about doing enjoyable things that engage our minds. A few key things about activities that improve intellectual wellness are that they are active, instead of passive, and they are things we would do for intrinsic value. Ok, so what does that mean? 

    Studies have shown that watching TV does not engage the mind very much, but for better or worse, playing video games do (Although the impacts of playing violent video games on mental health are still being explored). Both are sedentary activities done on a TV screen, but TV is passive, you're just sitting there and the brain is nearly turned off. Video games require a level of engagement, you have to respond and react to what is happening in real time, which makes it a more active activity than passively watching TV. The same goes for reading books. Although reading is also a sedentary activity, your brain is turned on as you create an imaginary universe in your mind. A lot of this has to do with learning.

    Within the field of education, there is a model known as the Learning Pyramid. The Learning Pyramid shows that the more actively involved in something we are, the better we learn and retain it. Funny enough (or maybe not so funny), lecture based learning is the most widely used form of education, yet it is the least effective, coming in at a mere 5% learned and retained. Next come reading at 10%, watching and listening at 20%, being shown at 30%, discussing at 50%, doing at 75% and teaching at 90%. What this means is that the more engaging an activity is, the better we learn and retain things, regardless of whether it be biology, sports or art. This is probably why we love games and playing so much, they are engaging and seldom passive activities. 

    People typically do things for intrinsic value or extrinsic value. Extrinsic (also known as instrumental value) are things one does to meet some need other than the activity itself. For example, someone might work a job they do not like because they need the money. In contrast, intrinsic values are things done just for the sake of doing them, the act is the end in itself. Intellectual health and wellness come from activities with intrinsic value to you personally. You do them for no other reason than the enjoyment of the process. You are happy to do them without receiving accolades and awards, wealth or fame.

    Finding Intellectual Health-Improving Activities 

    So, activities that are active and done for their intrinsic value curate and foster intellectual health. How do we actually find such activities? If you don't already know what these activities are for you, you must be open to new ideas and a have willingness to try new things. Some ways to discover activities to boost intellectual health and wellness are to:

    • Try things you liked as a child.
    • Take a class.
    • Accept invitations to things you think you might not like, you never know when you will discover a new passion.
    • Listen to a podcast.
    • Join your friends to try their passions and hobbies.
    • Read for fun.
    • Play games.
    • Go on guided tours of nature or cultural exhibitions.
    • Attend a live performance like a play or concert.
    • Travel.

      Final Thoughts

      As long as I remember, I have been voraciously curious and consider myself to be a lifelong learner. I have devoured books and information, moved to new countries, taken weird and interesting classes, tried new experiences, foods, types of relationships and ways of living. Through these experiences, I have learned so much about myself, the world, other cultures and my preconceived notions about life in general. I have changed my views and values more than once and quite possibly will do so again. Life can be humdrum and monotonous, but it doesn't have to be. It can be full of excitement, spontaneity, passion and fun; but to do so, you have to show up, and be open to trying new things while actually living your life. 

      If you already have a passion, make sure to prioritize it in your life. If you had something you loved that engaged your body, mind and spirit, but it has fallen on the way side, what can you do to reunite with it? Or, if you are still looking for that thing that sets your soul ablaze, we implore you to go out and try new things until you discover what it is. 

      So, I ask you, what is that thing you have always wanted to do, but never have? What is that class you'd like to try? That recipe you've never made? That place you've never been? What makes you feel alive? Don't wait to live and don't live for some hypothetical, imagined future. What are you waiting for? Go live the life you have always wanted and embrace your own intellectual growth and wellness!


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      *This blog is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.