During the month of March, we’ll explore habit-forming and how a self-care checklist can help you attain mental, academic/artistic, physical, and spiritual wholeness. Come back each Sunday for a new self-care checklist and suggestions about how you can form healthy habits.

If you missed last week’s post on creating habits for mental self-care, make sure you check it out (and download the free printable self-care checklist to get you started). This week we’ll explore another kind of self-care—one that often gets overlooked. Taking care of the creative and inquisitive sides of our nature will help us maintain a habit of lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning can help you stay happier, healthier, and wealthier (improved job skills might mean improved wages). Some studies have also shown that learning new skills (especially ones that involve speed and processing) can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And even if you don’t think you have a creative bone in your body, you can benefit from stretching your creative muscles, as well. I always thought I wasn’t artistic because I can’t look at something and recreate it with pencil on paper.

But artistry goes beyond painting or drawing. It includes writing, cooking, baking, poetry, composing music, playing a musical instrument, photography, carpentry, interior decorating, sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint—the list goes on and on. Anything where we have to envision an outcome and then try to make it happen classifies as art.

If you don’t believe me, look up the word ‘artisan.’

This week we’ll look at LARC—the acronym that helps us form healthy artistic and academic habits. This week’s self-care checklists will help you track habits that will enrich your academic and artistic nature.

‘L’ Stands for Learn

Lifelong learners take time on a regular basis to learn new information that will benefit them personally or in their work environment. My parents set exceptional examples of lifelong learners. My mom, a licensed dietitian when I was a child, went back to school in her mid-50s to become a teacher. At 77, she still works part time as a librarian and reading specialist.

Some people might call my dad a jack-of-all-trades (and they’d be correct). At 78, he knows more about computers and networking than anyone else at the school where he volunteers. He has a master’s degree in teaching reading, and has worked as a plasterer, teacher, contractor, goat farmer, and entrepreneur.

My parents plan on retiring at the end of the school year so they can spend more time working on their off-the-grid shipping container house in the Arizona desert. They have never stopped learning, and it shows.

So, whether you go back to school, start college for the first time, take up a sport such as birdwatching, enroll in classes at your local community college, or buy a language immersion app for your smart phone, just keep learning. A person will never reach an age where they are too old to learn something new.

A person will never reach an age where they are too old to learn something new. #lifelonglearning Click To Tweet

‘A’ is for Appreciate

Did you know that forming healthy lifelong learning habits is essential to our well-being? You can download a free self-care checklist that will help you track your habits. #selfcare #nurture #lifelonglearning #lifelonglearner

Even if you hesitate to immerse yourself in an artistic endeavor, you can always expand your artistic knowledge by learning to appreciate art and music. A quick search on You Tube brings up instructional videos on understanding a symphony or classical music in general. Likewise, you can find plenty of tutorials on understanding art. The Internet provides a huge university of free resources.

Perhaps you prefer learning from libraries—they, too, have books on art and music appreciation as well as video and DVD libraries to enhance your learning.

Once you understand the basics of appreciating art or music, make a date with yourself to visit an art museum or buy a ticket to a symphony performance. Put your new skills to work. Even better if you take a friend along to discuss your reactions with. We all appreciate art differently, and what speaks to me might say nothing to you.

If you don’t have time at this season in your life for learning to appreciate art or music, learn to appreciate the beauty around you. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate the beauty of a flower, a butterfly, or a finely made car. Appreciation is akin to gratitude, and thinking positive thoughts will go a long way towards lifting your mood and brightening your outlook on life.

‘R’ is for Review

Lifelong learners will tell you that reviewing your new skills or knowledge on a regular basis will help you learn and retain the new facts or skills. Take time each day to review something that you learned that day. It doesn’t have to take forever—a simple entry in your journal will suffice.

In education, we often have kids write ‘exit tickets’ that release them from class. Each student writes what they learned that day on a slip of paper and hands it to the teacher as they leave class. For non-writers, a drawing or a verbal explanation works, too.

Reviewing helps us move information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory, according to an article on Mind Tools. When we schedule time to review new material, we have a higher probability of actually reviewing it. And thus remembering it.

‘C’ is for Create

God created us in his image—and that means he created us with a built in need to create. We all have different creative talents, though, and we need to remember that we don’t have to create just like someone else in order to ‘be creative.’

Some people use their math skills to create, while others use words. For one person, the camera provides the perfect creative platform, and yet another uses the kitchen. Chances are, you already have a creative outlet in your life. How can you gain more skill and knowledge about creative endeavors that you already enjoy? What do you miss doing that you haven’t done in a while?

A blogging friend purchased a musical instrument and lessons for her husband’s 40th birthday. What an amazing way to nurture someone else’s creativity. But no one says you can’t do the same for yourself.

If you live near a community college, they may offer free or low-cost classes in the evenings that cover a variety of creative topics. Sometimes local school districts have classes, as well. When we lived in Nevada, I taught adults beginning Spanish in the evenings for the Washoe County School District.

Heather L. Stuckey, DEd, and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, in a review of the literature showing the connection between creativity and health explain,

More specifically, there is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.

The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature

Set a goal for the year to create something—and then use the handy habit-tracking sheet to help make your goal a reality.

Lifelong Learning

You CAN learn new things—both academic and artistic—no matter what your age. Furthermore, learning new things will enhance your well-being. What would you like to learn this year? Download this free self-care checklist for forming lifelong learning habits today!

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