Why we should all try to learn new things
Hello! Yes, I’m still here!
Surprising, I know, since I’ve been quiet for a few weeks (I think?). It’s true, though, I’m still here, this blog is still active. I’ve had a few health problems recently (which I might tell you about the next time I post here), and am trying to get back to being productive at the moment.
This is actually a post that’s been sitting in my draft folder for a while. Did you know I’ve been learning Spanish for over a year now? Maybe, I’m not sure if I mentioned it before on here.
I started practicing Spanish in 2017, when I was 26 years old. I used Duolingo, which was good, because they use elements of gamification to keep things engaging. Which was perfect for my ADHD brain. I finished working through the Spanish course there a while back, and am now mainly using the app to keep from forgetting everything I learned.
Why am I telling you this? It’s not like I want to advertise for DuoLingo, in all honesty, for all its good, it’s one of the most annoying apps I’ve ever used, too.
No. I’m telling you about this, because when it comes to adult ADHD, I don’t think it’s stressed enough just how much we can benefit from learning new things.
You see, I personally love learning. Always have. I don’t know if this is true for most ADHD people, but for me, my brain just craves engagement, challenge, new-ness!
But even so, I didn’t like school too much. I mean, I went through school for almost twenty years. First elementary, then secondary school (which qualifies people to either learn a profession or go to university here), then six years at different universities and college-y schools. I did not particularly enjoy the first thirteen years, when I was going through elementary school and so on.
You know, considering how much ADHD brains want to learn new stuff, how incredibly interested they can become in new things, it’s really impressive how most educational systems manage to make ADHD kids believe that they don’t like learning. Personally, I wasn’t aware of how much I loved learning new things, how happy and satisfied it made me feel, until I started my second year at uni (which was when I started studying educational sience).
It’s easy to forget just how wrong this perception of the ADHD kid having trouble learning anything is. ADHD brains, not just those of kids, are great at learning. They just aren’t so great at participating in the kind of school setting we have in most parts of the world. And it’s so sad, because this is how children get the idea that they don’t like to learn. Which, for many of us, leads to growing into adults who believe they don’t like learning.
Which sucks, since we’re really so, so good at it!
Just think about how many ADHD adults out there have all kinds of hyperfixations. They know everything about that stuff! I mean, once my brain really hyperfocuses on something, there’s no stopping it from learning all kinds of stuff about that thing. And the fact that these are often not things that are valued in our productivity driven society, doesn’t change that we learned them.
The thing is: How do we use that ability to learn in a way that doesn’t just lead to, in my case, me knowing that the BBC threatened to sue the Elementary people back in 2012, if Elementary was too much like Sherlock (which, in all honesty, is really funny to me, since Elementary is fundamentally different, and in many ways better than BBC Sherlock…but that’s a topic for another day). I think the key is to not try and learn things that you think you should learn. Learn about something you’re genuinely interested in.
Personally, I love learning from reading. I love language. So after getting to the limits of what an app can teach me, I’m starting to practice Spanish by reading a Spanish children’s book. I also made it a point this year to read as many diverse books as possible, since that way, I can learn about other people’s experiences in an engaging way. I also love learning about crafting and baking, or how I can do some things better than I’ve been doing them so far.
This is great, because it gives my brain something to do. And not just anything, but what it was actually designed to do (not that I actually believe that anyone designed it): Gather up information, connect it, use it , improve it. I find that if I give my brain oportunities to do just that, I feel a lot better, both about myself, and in terms of satisfaction. Because it is crazy satisfying to understand something new, to figure something out, to have that sense of accomplishment. It’s funny that I hardly ever got that in school, even though I should have felt it constantly.
Learning something new, however, doesn’t just make our ADHD brains happy. It also keeps them “on their toes”, so to say. The human brain isn’t designed to learn a certain amount of stuff and then just use that forever and ever. It’s designed to keep improving, to keep learning. I don’t think the brain is an actual muscle, but yes, it needs to be used to stay in shape. And what better way to keep our brains in shape than to learn exciting, new things? I feel like learning a new language is especially beneficial there, since it’s quite challenging, and opens up a whole lot of new possibilities to connect things I already know to new stuff.
It’s a little bit tricky to explain what I mean by that, but I’ll try: Having ADHD, it’s easy to slide into that comfy spot, where things are just kind of happening, without you doing anything (similar to how you can waste an entire day scrolling through Instagram, without really doing anything). I felt that way for a bit, when I decided to quit school, and start working. For a while there, things were just happening. But really, that is way too boring for my ADHD brain, so I started learning Spanish. And since I’m doing that, I actually feel more interested in learning other stuff, too. I notice more things, that relate to stuff I already know. I pay more attention.
I love that! And what’s more, it makes me feel good about myself, since learning something new is clearly an accomplishment. It makes me feel a bit more connected to the world in general, too.
Really, if you’re looking at something you’re really, genuinely interested in, and can figure out a way to keep at it, I don’t see any downside to learning something new.
Personally, I’m not sure what I want to tackle next. I’m thinking about learning Turkish, since there is a huge Turkish speaking minority in Germany, but I’m kind of thinking I should work on my French first, before I forget all of it? But then again, when do I ever really need to speak French, and also, I just really don’t want to have to think about that language again. So, you know, in keeping with my own advice, I think I’ll try to learn Turkish. Once I feel certain my Spanish is good enough, that is.
How about you? Is there anything you would love to learn? Tell me in the comments!
Image by jarmoluk