Keep your mind sharp with these activities.

By Chelsea Pribble 

Despite the foreboding proverb, don’t let the grim fate of the cat kill your curiosity. Studying new topics keeps the brain functioning optimally and prevents and slows the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. And without the pressures of grades and vying for top academic standing, learning can be fun and stress-free. Alongside eating omega-3s and clocking in enough sleep, here are five ways to stay curious and keep your brain healthy.

Netflix and learn.

Instead of rewatching your favorite sitcom, opt for a documentary. Add a collection of nonfiction books to your nightstand. Pick topics you know nothing about or that might help improve your life or career. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out your top shows and reads. Instead, calculate the number of hours you spend watching TV or reading and try to allot half of that time per week to consuming something more informative.

Cram when you’re in a traffic jam.

If you’re ashamed of your road rage while commuting through the ever-thickening Austin traffic, you might need a distraction. Why not make that distraction educational and a way to boost your self-esteem? Instead of taking a gamble on radio stations or listening to tired playlists, download podcasts on your phone for easy listening and learning. You can learn a new language, brush up on world news or find out how to make a good cup of joe. There is also a wide range of local podcasts. Elizabeth McQueen’s This Song discusses the local music scene and artists. I Love You So Much lightheartedly explores all things Austin, including new restaurants. If you discover a topic that is fascinating, extend your learning beyond the podcast.

Earn a certificate.

The days of earning certificates bordered with golden stars don’t have to be long gone. Austin is lucky to have so many colleges at its disposal. Austin Community College offers short-term job-certification programs to advance your skills and knowledge in particular areas of study. From pastry arts to firefighting to magnetic resonance imaging, each program makes employment in certain fields possible without the time commitment of earning a four-year degree.

Get back in the classroom, informally.

Don’t let flashbacks of scantrons and standardized tests fill you with dread. The University of Texas offers a multitude of informal classes open to the general public that range from single sessions to month-long weekly commitments. Topics span from acroyoga for beginners to an introduction to the world of wine to how to travel free. There are also classes in photography, Adobe Illustrator and other programs to help you acquire new skills.

Surf the web with intention.

If you already waste countless hours aimlessly wandering the internet, it might be time to take advantage of its endless information and be more productive. From YouTube tutorials to sites like, you can learn a new instrument, improve your writing skills or simply find out how to make overnight oats. Keep track of the time you spend on the web and try to fill most of your time by absorbing new information.


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