Category Archives: Learning

Things to do While Walking

Whether you’ve been participating in National Walking Month 2016 or just do a lot of walking in general, we thought we’d give a few suggestions of things to do while walking.

As we listed in our Mental Health Benefits of Walking article, walking is an easy, cheap exercise which is excellent for both physical and mental health.

Listen to something

Music (whether it’s the tunes you love or something new) is the obvious choice here, but podcasts, newspaper articles, and audiobooks are excellent for longer walks. Podcasts on many subjects are easy to find from various sources, and a directory of free audiobooks can be found at the Open Culture website.

Link [via Open Culture]

Call someone

Walking time can also be a great time to catch up on family or friends. They can provide virtual company which helps to pass the time, and conversation with good friends is an excellent way to maintain good mental health. If you can talk for a long time with people on the phone, then they may also be good walking company if you want to invite someone along.

Take a photograph (or ten)

Depending on the time of day you go for a walk, you can have plenty of opportunity for taking photographs. You can challenge yourself by limiting yourself to just one photograph, or just go for it and take pictures of anything that takes your interest. These photos can act as a chronicle of your walks and the progress you’ve made.

Play a mental game

From playing a simple game of observance (“how many red cars will I see on my walk?”), to practising mindfulness, playing mental games whilst physically exercising is a great workout for body and brain.

Go on a tour

Depending on where you live, your town or city may have walking maps of local areas which can be found online, in tourist-friendly places (such as museums or art galleries), or in a local library. If such maps are not available to you, pick a landmark/spot you’ve seen from a distance or wanted to visit and go there.

Make plans

As with mental games, making plans whilst exercising can be an effective and beneficial use of time. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or general plan, thinking about which priorities to tackle once you get back home can give you a better perspective then thinking about them at home or at work.

Break it up

Whether it’s going down a street you’ve always wanted to explore, or aiming for a completely new area, anything that prolongs or varies your walk can help keep things fresh and interesting.

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

App Asks for GPS Art, Community Responds

Further Reading: Aphantasia, or “Mind Blindness”

Social media was abuzz after the publication of an article on Facebook on the subject of “mind blindness”. Software developer and entrepreneur Blake Ross wrote about his condition, which he only just discovered had an official name and diagnosis: “I have never visualized anything in my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on ten minutes ago. I thought “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m 30 years old and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.”

Aphantasia is the inability to “see” in the mind. The condition was named in 2015 after research published in the science journal Cortex. Researchers named mind blindness by combining the prefix “a,” meaning “absence of,” and “phantasia,” a term used by Aristotle for describing the capacity of the human mind to present unseen visual imagery. Aphantasia therefore literally translates to “absence of fantasy”.

Ross doesn’t suffer from lack of imagination. In addition to being a software developer, he is also a writer. Comparing his own experiences with that of friends, he has discovered that his memory, imagination and thought processes are vastly different: “Overall, I find writing fiction torturous. All writers say this, obviously, but I’ve come to realize that they usually mean the “writing” part: They can’t stop daydreaming long enough to put it on the page. I love the writing and hate the imagining, which is why I churn out 50 dry essays for every nugget of fiction.”

The whole essay is a fascinating insight into a condition which still hasn’t been researched in major depth.

Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind [via Facebook]

For further reading, this article regarding the discovery and classification of mind blindness is excellent:

Picture This? Some Just Can’t [via The New York Times]

Further Reading: Boost Your Productivity

Boost your productivity with these useful links and inspiring stories.

Know your work

Knowing the difference between “deep” and “shallow” work can help with structuring your day around what needs to be done. Not replying to emails immediately, or going out to lunch may be seen as lazy by some, but as this article argues: “If you’re driven to produce things that matter, then you need to put deep work at the center of your professional life.”

Link [via 99u]

Revise your to-do list(s)

It’s easy to fall into bad habit with to-do lists: vague goals, mixing of short and long-term goals, and making the distinction between tasks and projects are amongst some of the factors explored in depth in this handy article.

Link [via Smart Productive Work]

Change your routine

Google employee Jake Knapp took a long, hard look at his daily routine and made changes to get the most out of his work time, restore his work-life balance, and enjoy both in the process. The result was a “sprint” system which encourages approaching tasks in 5-day chunks.

Link [via Fast Company]

Take a break

Napping is a great way to take a break and boost your productivity. If you find yourself tired, but need to finish a task, a quick nap can give your body and brain a quick refresh. To learn more about the power of napping and most importantly, how to nap, check out our guide below.

Further Reading: The Power of Napping

 

Mythbusting: The Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Personality tests are hugely popular both online and offline, and the Myers-Briggs personality test (otherwise known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI) is one of the most well known and widely used. The test in based on Jungian theory of personality, and divides people in 16 “types” which are combination of the following binaries:

  •  Extraverted or Introverted
  • Sensing or Intuiting
  • Thinking or Feeling
  • Judging or Perceiving

The test is taken by 2.5 million people a year, and is so seriously regarded that it is used by HR departments, recruitment consultants, and employers in a variety of industries in order to assess employees and their potential strengths and weaknesses in their role and interacting with others.

MBTI History

The only problem with the MBTI test is that the science behind it is seriously wonky. First developed in the 1900s by a mother and daughter pair who were advocates of Jung’s notions of psychological types. They initially developed their personality test to help people better understand themselves and find jobs which suited their personalities as decreed by the test results.

MBTI Dangers

Human personalities are flexible, which the binaries of the MBTI test are too rigid to accommodate. You’re either an introvert or an extrovert, a thinker or a feeler; there’s no in between. Employees of the companies who use this test can find themselves forced into roles and perceptions of themselves which may be suitable on the day of the test, but not in the future.

People who take the test out of curiosity may find that the test matches their mood on the day of taking it, but also run the risk of false perceptions of themselves if they think that the results are set in stone.

Ultimately, there is no test for personality which can provide a magic answer for the perfect vocation, or say exactly what a person’s personality will be forever. If there is such a test, MBTI isn’t it.

Why The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Is Misleading, Inaccurate, And Unscientific [via Business Insider]

Mythbusting: 50 Inaccurate Psychological Terms

Open-access publisher Frontiers in Psychology has recently published a list of 50 inaccurate psychological terms.

This extensive list of “misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases.” is full of commonly used, but not commonly understood terms.

Aimed at students and teachers in order to curb “terminological misinformation and confusion,” the list also provides corrective terms and information.

Breaking down misconceptions into sections such as “Frequently Misused Terms”, Inaccurate or Misleading Terms”, and “Oxymorons”, the list tackles commonly used terms such as “Autism epidemic”, “Bystander Apathy”, and “Closure.”

It’s a comprehensive and highly technical list, but utterly fascinating.

Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid [via Frontiers in Psychology]

How to Improve Critical Thinking

Knowing how to improve critical thinking skills is an excellent place to start if you want to form better opinions, make better decisions, and approach problem solving in new ways.

Conversationally, critical thinking doesn’t mean being critical in a literal, or even negative sense. At its best, critical thinking allows you to analyse information from a more impartial stance in order to judge exactly what is being said and how you feel about it. This leads to gaining better understanding of your own opinions, biases, habits and instincts.

In terms of decision making and problem solving, critical thinking can help you approach problems from new angles, increasing your chances of finding an appropriate solution.

There is some training involved if you want to improve critical thinking ability. Skills website Lifehacker has put together a comprehensive guide to the process which incorporates: attention to details, asking questions, phrases to listen for, knowing your biases, and tips for practising.

It’s an intensive rundown of all you need to know to train your brain into a better way of thinking which can be of benefit in many ways.

How to Train Your Mind to Think Critically and Form Your Own Opinions [via Lifehacker]

Further Reading: Quitting Bad Habits

Quitting a bad habit can be just as valuable as gaining a good one. We’ve collected information on the latter in our Further Reading: Forming New Habits, so it’s time to look at the former.

Idea collective

There are many different methods to quitting bad habits, and Lifehacker’s top 10 in an excellent place to start for inspiration. Each of the ideas are backed up by an additional article for more reading, and the user comments are very helpful, too.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Habit replacement

Quitting bad habits is an excellent opportunity to replace them with a good one. Habit blogger James Clear has written this excellent article on just that. Full of good observation on factors such as triggers and stress, his blog in general is an excellent resource on habits and their formation.

Link [via James Clear]

Mindfulness and quitting bad habits

In 2015, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer presented this TedMed talk about using mindfulness to help with quitting bad habits. He explains the way the brain works in establishing a bad habit, and then how the very same process can used in conjunction with mindfulness to retrain the brain.

Further Reading: How to Boost Learning Ability

Whether you’ve been inspired by our Top Websites for Online Learning, or are just wanting to boost learning ability in general, here are some articles we’ve found that explore how to improve cognitive performance

Know your learning style

Knowing what type of learner you are is a good first step and can be a real eye-opener, and help you work to your strengths. Most people learn via a mix of auditory, visual and tactile means, and this short quiz can help show which type of learning you lean towards.

Link [via Learning Without Boundaries]

Absorbing information and best practice

Do you find yourself reading information but not absorbing it? One person asked users of the crowdsourcing Personal Productivity platform of the Stack Exchange website for their tips and insight, and it’s useful reading. There are no easy answers, but plenty of good advice.

Link [via Personal Productivity Stack Exchange]

Another site with an excellent breakdown of study solutions, Academic Tips gives advice on how to tackle boredom, improving your note-taking and memory, and even how to set up study areas.

Link [via Academic Tips]

Learning about learning

A recent study into the relationship between aerobic physical activity and cognitive performance has shown that one way to improve memory is to have an active lifestyle.

Link [via Harvard Medical School]

Learning new motor skills can be easier if you play fast-paced video games. A study by the University of Toronto found that playing action games led to people picking up skills such as typing or riding a bike quicker than non-gamers.

Link [via The Telegraph]

 

Further Reading: The Benefits of Knitting

The benefits of knitting are many and varied. Not only is learning a new skill good for the brain, learning to knit produces practical results. We’ve found some further reading on the benefits of knitting.

Knitting effects on physical and mental health

Following on from World Mental Health Day 2015, the LoveKnitting blog asked its members and followers for examples of the benefits of knitting in regards to mental health. Personal stories range from using knitting to tackle anxiety and depression, to the calming, repetitive action easing the stress and pain of chemotherapy.

Link [via LoveKnitting blog]

More personal experience stories on the mental and physical benefits of knitting are curated in the Craft Yarn Council blog. It’s an excellent resource of personal testimony from people with a range of physical and mental difficulties.

Link [Craft Yarn Council]

If you’re looking for a summary of the psychological science of why knitting is so beneficial to physical and mental health, Psychology Today has a helpful article.

Link [via Psychology Today]

Knitting for art and community

There’s been a recent explosion of what’s known as “yarnbombing” or “guerilla knitting”, where knitted art is installed in public spaces, with or without permission of the local authorities. You can see some of the projects by “Your friendly neighbourhood graffiti knitting art collective” Knit the City.

Link [via Knit the City]

On the subject of yarnbombing, this sweet story of 104-year old Grace Brett becoming the “world’s oldest street artist” as part of a wider arts festival in her home town of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders shows the perennial power of knitting.

Link [via Bored Panda]

On a similar note, this story of Australia’s oldest man knitting sweaters for injured penguins is simply lovely, and full of very cute pictures of the penguins.

Link [Huffington Post]

Learning how to knit

If you don’t know how to knit, or want to point people towards a good video tutorial, then this lessons covering the basics is very good.

Top Websites for Online Learning

Online learning is a growing industry, with many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available on a wide variety of subjects from educational organisations around the world. If the range of subject matter wasn’t impressive enough, the fact that the vast majority of these video, text and interactive learning tools are free is incredible.

Whether you’re exploring a subject out of sheer curiosity, or looking to re-train, the following MOOC providers are a great place for inspiration and education.

FutureLearn

An enterprise owned by the Open University, Future Learn has a wide range of subjects from universities across the UK and global cultural institutions. Classes begin on set dates and are presented in a “step” system with weekly reinforcements such as quizzes, essays and tests. Comments and class forums are available to exchange ideas, and at the end of the course you have the option to purchase a “Statement of Participation” to add to your educational portfolio.

Link

EdX

Originally founded by MIT and Harvard, EdX courses are now provided by those institutions and a vast number of renowned global educational institutions. Boasting a massive choice of subjects and courses, the site also give a handy overview of how much work and time is expected for completion.

Link

Coursera

Similar to EdX, Coursera has a wide range of subjects delivered by many global educational institutes. It also provides an timeline/workload overview. Coursera also has a “Signature Track” program where users can pay a fee to undertake an officially certified course, with certification awarded upon completion.

Link

Udemy

Udemy provided courses more focused on practical skills, which are a mixture of free and charged courses. Courses can be uploaded by users, with overviews and student reviews available to see whether signing up is worth your time or money. These lesson vary in price and come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Link

Academic Earth

A rabbit hole of online education, Academic Earth’s curative nature means that it’s less of a MOOC provider and more of a library. A hub of information and links to course material on a large variety of subjects, it also hosts overview information on what to expect from online degrees, although bear in mind that it is very US-centric.

Link

Code Academy

This online learning site specialises in teaching all kinds of computer coding skills. Learn how to make various types of website, or pick up another programming language. Programming and understanding computer language can be useful in many ways, and this site is perfect for beginner-level introductions and lessons into the subject.

Link

Khan Academy

Designed to be accessed by everyone from children to parents to teachers, Khan Academy focuses more on interactive exercises than courses. Subjects range from various mathematical disciplines to art appreciation, all of which can be added to a personalised online learning dashboard.

Link