Want to understand how to strengthen your brain? Then you are in the right place.
What if there were an exercise or skill that would improve your mind’s performance at nearly every level – in both the sciences and the humanities?
This is a skill that we are guided by a study published this year in the American Journal of Educational Psychology. And not just any other research, because it lasted 5 years and involved more than 110,000 participants – students from several different schools in Canada.
In this article you’ll find out what one skill has been used to connect students that thrived and how it can benefit you.
How to Strengthen Your Brain:
In the broad sense of personal development, there are already “magic skills” that are expected to have a beneficial effect on the mental performance of those who will invest in their training.
This includes juggling, language learning and meditation. In some cases, “something makes sense,” while in others, through myths or incorrect interpretations of research, the influence of these skills is exaggerated.
Today, one of these “magic skills” has been promoted from “we have reason to believe” to “research confirms” that this is it. A study published this year analyzed the academic performance of more than 110,000 students from 4 different schools, based on years of schooling.
Students, who during class selection “to choose” brush up on our arcane abilities, have over the years proven statistically better than their peers.
Better, in a way, in subjects like Math or “IPA”, which are an introduction to chemistry and physics. On the other hand, they also prove to be better in normally humanistic subjects, led by English, i.e. they devote themselves to the humanistic skills of reading, writing, and analyzing texts.
What’s more, students who had started improving their skills in primary school, but they continued to practice them also in secondary school, had an average of one year of schooling ahead of their peers in all basic subjects, which was also confirmed by the final test.
As you can see, the difference is gigantic. So what is our arcane skill?
It is learning to play an instrument.
When I read it for the first time, I instantly had doubts in my head. An ordinary student hardly ever reaches for a musical instrument. A student who is at least reasonably wealthy, from a good family, whose parents can afford a musical instrument or private lessons – obviously.
So it is clear that kids from good families who play an instrument learn better, not because they play, but because their parents care about and are invested in it.
However, the study authors also thought about it. In Canada, you can simply choose an instrument at school and get the instrument that the school has for that purpose.
In addition, with a sample of 110,000 students, researchers were able to exclude the impact of additional factors such as family wealth, ethnicity, gender or previous academic performance.
The results of this study were clear – students who started practicing playing an instrument began to do better and made faster progress. Why is that? Good question.
I would not be surprised if researchers said, for example, that learning to play games improves the ability to use the hands properly, which would impact some techniques, manual work, or increased auditory sensitivity, which aids learning. foreign language later.
But why increase efficiency in math, scientific subjects, or generally the humanities?
The research confirmed the thesis about the beneficial influence of game science, but was unable to investigate the causes. Scientists were able to share their assumptions with us, and this turned out to be very interesting.
According to Dr. Martin Guhn, co-author of the study, a student who was learning to play an instrument at school studied at the same time:
- Reading and notation – which in many fields is analogous to learning a foreign language.
- He makes better hand-to-eye coordination.
- He learned to listen carefully.
- And at school conditions, playing together in a team is an exercise in team and group activities.
But Dr Guhn spoke about yet one more factor – how learning to play an instrument makes for self-discipline.
The side effects of self-discipline training can be more important than any other factor.
Coincidentally, I have been dealing with music as a hobby for several years now. And from this perspective I can confidently say that there are various more benefits to playing an instrument! Reading and note-taking, for example, also develop skills… math!
Music has in common that each sound comes at the right time. And this property is reflected in the notation of notes, which determines not only the pitch of the sound, but also the duration of its duration. This in turn forces us to enumerate and summarize all notes and stops at bars.
With easy melodies it does not appear to be a big deal, but with more complex melodies it becomes a challenge. What’s more, playing from the notes requires improvement of memory, both short term and long term.
For example, each song can be played in a number of various notes, which in turn requires a constant hold in the head of the person sounding this time must be played half a note higher or lower.
When playing an instrument, it’s important to coordinate not only the hands with the eyes, but also the hands and sometimes the feet. Sometimes what one hand is doing seems fully unrelated to what the other is doing, and this is a common situation when playing the piano.
This in turn improves communication between very different parts of our brain. When playing an instrument, it’s also very important to be capable to focus deeply. It’s not just about hearing, which needs to be sensitive to every sound you make and, consequently, many-sounding consonants, but also counting, maintaining, changing, and then coming back in tempo, listening carefully to the band members, etc. .
Playing games also develops sensitivity and imagination, which allows us to interpret certain songs correctly and offers them emotional depth. Although it becomes more complicated to reach a higher level than the students participating in the study, there are more general developmental benefits than at the start.
As someone involved in gamification, I would add another factor to the scientist’s assumption – learning to play an instrument is an area in which we quickly see our own progress.
We do not have to wait to test ourselves for the next exam, like in math or in most other school subjects. We took the challenge to play a melody and saw the results right away.
This, in turn, means our brain sees that practice and practice lead to continuous progress. And he learns it at a really deep level, which can then make us more motivated, because we intuitively see more sense in learning and in training in general. Not only in this, but also in other areas.
So playing an instrument, learning to play it’s a miracle. But how can this knowledge benefit you?
Because the statement that a person ceases to develop mentally with age can be placed amongst fairy tales for a long time. You can participate in musical instrument training, whether you are still in college, studying, working or even retired. Even as an adult or an elderly person, you’ll feel the difference in your mind after a while.
If you want to do it yourself, yes – the price of buying the instrument can be inescapable. But in the age of YouTube and the Internet, you can bypass the initial cost at least for personal lessons, using the various courses and video lessons available online for free.
One note – if you want to pave the way to a rather higher level of learning, to maximise the benefits of playing an instrument, you may want to consider hiring a teacher.
This can stop you from learning the wrong habits, which are very difficult to change later. But obviously that doesn’t suggest self-taught is impossible – if your time or budget is limited and you do not plan to go beyond the hobbyist level.
Research hasn’t shown huge differences in the impact of individual instruments, so if you are looking to expand your mental capacities, you could invest in a budget keyboard or guitar, for example.
A classic guitar adequate for beginning lessons can be purchased for up to $100. However, I suggest allocating a rather larger budget to the instrument. Cheap, mass-produced instruments have in common that they can be extremely disappointing to play with nasty sounds, wear incontinence or structural defects that affect playing comfort and sound clarity – and thus provide you with the false impression that playing is not for you.
If you want to save money, it is worth buying a better used guitar for around USD 200-250. When deciding on an instrument, particularly from a lower cost range, it’s best to consult the opinion of somebody who has been playing for some time, or if that isn’t possible – search the Internet and read their opinions.
You will find many tests and reports on the web. You can even learn to play musical instruments from numerous cultural establishments. Who knows, maybe your local community center has something for you?
Here’s a note for those who want to start singing where you play. Unfortunately, the positive side effects of developing vocal skills are much less than in the case of playing musical instruments.
Thank you for reading this article.
Maybe you know of a hobby or interest that you think has had an incredible influence on your physical or mental development? Especially in an unforeseen and invisible way. Or maybe you see in yourself some passion that has a positive effect on your development?