Advertising
Advertising

8 Benefits of Culture Shock

8 Benefits of Culture Shock

“Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

-Emerson

Through the glass doors I could see distant lights that were diffused by a copper haze in the night.  The automatic opening of the doors triggered in me a similarly automatic response of movement, and soon my feet felt the transition between tile and concrete.  The heaviness of burning plastic and petrol smoke attacked my lungs as I processed my surroundings.  A cyclone fence topped with spiral razor wire boxed me into a 60 foot (20 meter) square.  I could see a cow on an overpass ahead and a crowd of about 10 men deep pushed up against the perimeter of the fence.  The only way out was through an opening guarded by a gauntlet of increasingly frantic men in odd dress who were desperately shouting and raising their hands at us as we approached.  I was afraid.  I wanted to run back inside the terminal and wait for the next flight home.

Advertising

The year I’d spent preparing for this trip was threatened in that moment. I didn’t feel ready to walk past the threshold guardians at the fence, and into India.  The mob of men stood before me threatening all I had dreamed and planned for. Though I well outside of my comfort zone, I continued to move forward anyway.

Though it can be extremely uncomfortable, culture shock caries with it the seeds of 8 profound benefits. There are countless types and ways in which we experience it.  Whether we take employment in a new field, have a baby, experience a divorce, or travel to a distant land, we all experience culture shock to some degree.  It’s a disorienting step (or nudge) outside of our comfort zone.

1. It Heightens Senses

As we pushed through the cloud of people in the scene above, I was feeling the onset of that lost-in-a-supermarket feeling when I was a kid. With four times the population in one third the space, India has a relative factor of twelve times the people as compared with what I was accustomed to back home.

Advertising

Before that moment, I had never felt so awake. It was a bit like the moment before the whistle starting one of my high school wrestling matches. At the time, I felt my survival depended upon that lucidity. The heightened awareness of culture shock can place us into a frame of mind much like what a warrior or athlete experiences at the height of a contest.  It’s an absolute mindfulness where time seems to slow, where our judgements come quickly and where we’re ready to react before we cognitively process the threat.

I later learned that the people pressed to the fence were only awaiting relatives and that the overzealous gate keepers were just hungry cab drivers.  What an entrance experience though.

2. The Magic Happens Out There

With the heightened awareness that comes from being in a new environment, a foreigner will notice the gorgeous architectural appointments, the deep lines on the face of a elderly man tilling a field or the spectacular colors in the the clothing of children at play that a local will take for granted. The drama is in the details, and we are far more aware of the details from the framework of the shock of being immersed in a novel environment.  Inspiration tends to come to so many while on a journey in a strange place.  The novel situations seem to evoke this inspiration.

Advertising

3. It Builds Intuition

It didn’t take me long while traveling to become a quick judge of the intentions of people around me. Within a couple weeks, I learned to quickly determine whether a local was interested in talking to me because he wanted to take advantage of me, or because he was genuinely interested in having a conversation with me.  this intuition was awaken while I was traveling and has stuck with me in the years since that first trip.

4. It Promotes Growth

Growth occurs when we step out of our comfort zone. It is important to know that stress is not a bad thing. We learn when we are in stressful situations. People who consistently avoid stress don’t grow (…until they are forced out of their comfort zone by a good teacher or life experience).  People who constantly seek comfort, grow at a much slower clip than people who push themselves into the unknown regularly. Our experience should be an ebb and flow between comfort and stress. To grow on our own accord, we need to bring ourselves into reasonably stressful situations, learn a lesson and then return to comfort. Culture shock is one source of this stress that promotes growth.

5. It Begins the Journey of Discovery

Once we are outside our comfort zone, we see things anew like a child. While I was in India, one of my favorite places to visit were the local markets. From the vibrant colors of fabrics and bindu powders to the odd fruits being sold. The lack of refrigeration of meat and dairy was difficult to process too. Culture shock allows for some fresh perspectives on life and the various ways it can be lived.  I had an opportunity to live closer to the ground an learn new skills which taught me about myself in the process.

Advertising

6. Traveling Solo is Seldom Lonely for Long.

There is vulnerability in the experience of culture shock. One thing I found while traveling the world (especially solo) was that I was far more open to the company of strangers around me. There is safety in numbers especially when those home sick feelings creep in.  I made great friendships with people who i met in hotels/hostels, in restaurants, on busses and trains, etc. On this planet, we really are more alike than we are different. This comes out readily while we travel. Culture Shock helps this along.

7. It Frees up Blocks

William Pollard is credited with saying: “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement.” Culture shock has a way of exposing our deepest values, motives and prejudices. Not all are clean and friendly. Travel is a pursuit that oddly brings us home to our core with greater ease than if we’re sitting comfortably in our armchair at home. Being exposed on the outside exposes us on the inside too. Taking advantage of this exposure is an opportunity for personal growth.

8. It Positions Us For the Discovery of Our Current Personal Limits

There is a limit to how much we can endure as humans, but the truth is, our limits are far further off than we can ever begin to imagine.  Culture shock is an opportunity that positions us to discover our mental and physical endurance (or lack thereof).  Arriving in a new city in the middle of the night with no reservations is a chance to learn something new about ourselves.  Stumbling into an alley empty of all but the most unsavory people and stray dogs is a chance to push through the boundaries of what it really means to be “safe”.  As we survive the experiences that inevitably arise through the culture shock of travel, we find our limitations flee from our conscious.

Growing as we spend time outside of our comfort zone is necessary for our development.  Taking comfort in this is a muscle that needs to be worked.  It’s a skill that can be developed.  I’ve found no more immersive way than surrendering to the inevitable feelings from culture shock that arise as we explore a culture different from our own.

Featured photo credit: CandyBoxImages/shutterstock.com via shutterstock.com

More by this author

8 Benefits of Culture Shock

Trending in Lifestyle

1 How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower 2 How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive 3 8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life 4 How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries 5 27 Healthy Pressure Cooker Meals (with Easy Recipes)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

Advertising

2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

Advertising

This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

Advertising

6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

Advertising

Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

More About Boosting Memory

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Read Next