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How To Use The Internet As An Enriched Environment For Rapid Personal Growth

How To Use The Internet As An Enriched Environment For Rapid Personal Growth
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Personal growth happens faster in the right environment. This environment shapes our mind, body, and character in a positive way.

Do you think of the Internet as an environment? If you’re like most people, you find this a stretch. For most people, the Internet is nothing more than a massive networking infrastructure. All across the world, millions of computers talk to each other. That’s all.

Yet, a small shift in perspective can change your life.

How Is The Internet An Environment?

When you start thinking of the Internet as as environment, you see it in a different way.

What is an environment, anyway? It could be a city or a country. In any city, there are good and bad neighborhoods. Around the world, there are peaceful, prosperous countries and countries that are ravaged by war and famine. If you have a choice, you’d rather stay in a city or a country that enhances your wellbeing.

Now, think of the Internet as a conceptual environment. Real people populate this virtual world. They communicate through images and text, audio and video. They collect in groups. They voice their opinions. They help you or they hinder your progress.

A real environment has bright and dark sides. The Internet offers the same contrasting duality. A real environment can shape your thoughts and feelings about the world. The Internet offers the same type of transformation.

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Still, there is one significant difference. In the real world, you might be stuck in an environment. You don’t have the means, resources, or permission to leave it. In the virtual world, you can leave a bad neighborhood at the click of a mouse button.

Does It Get Any Better?

Absolutely!

What is better than a good, clean, wholesome environment? It’s an enriched environment.

A school can be an enriched environment. A playground, too. Or a club. Or a Dojo.  An enriched environment is any place that improves your life.

The Primary Benefit Of An Enriched Environment

In essence, an enriched environment enhances your brain. As a result, you become more intelligent. And with more intelligence, there is a higher rate of adaptation and success.

In an enriched environment, you experience an increased rate of neurogenesis. This is a complicated process of brain growth. A simple way to understand brain development is by comparing it to exercise.

When you lift weights, you develop bigger and stronger muscles. When you do yoga, you become more flexible. And when you run, you improve your level of physical endurance.

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Good things happen when you exercise your brain, too. You’re able to increase cognitive speed and flexibility. You’re able to expand your attention span and memory. And you get good at analyzing problems and coming up with ingenious solutions.

Here are some things that happen during neurogenesis:

  • Your brain has a higher rate of synaptogenesis.
  • Your brain develops much more complex dendrite arbors.
  • Your brain has more synapse activity.
  • Your brain creates more glial support cells.
  • Your brain has more capillary vasculation.

The activation of your neurons, glial cells, and capillaries encourages your cortex to thicken. In other words, your biocomputer builds a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

What Research Says About Enriched Environments

Research on animals has shown that enriched environments can help with brain dysfunction. They can mitigate or heal aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

There is also something known as the cognitive reserve — a resilience to brain dysfunction. An enriched environment helps here, too. By contrast, the lack of an enriched environment creates impaired cognitive development.

Social studies and brain scans on human beings also show similar results. Humans who live in enriched environments have higher mental acuity. They also enjoy better brain health.

7 Ways To Use The Internet As An Enriched Environment

You can use the Internet as an enriched environment by using it in a more intentional way.

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Most people use the Internet to check their emails, do work, or join social media. This is fine, but it’s not using the Internet as an enriched environment.

Here are 7 suggestions on how to use the Internet as an enriched environment:

1. Limit time-wasting activities. There are many ways to waste time on the Internet. While they stimulate your brain, you don’t receive a lot of cognitive benefits. Limit how much time you spend on low-value activities or websites.

2. Increase social networking. Join groups or associations with likeminded and like-hearted people. On Facebook, for example, join groups where you can learn and share ideas that enrich your life.

3. Sign up for a MOOC. MOOC stands for “Massive Online Open Courses.” You can learn anything from the top Universities in the world at no cost.

4. Join a brain gym. Neuroscientists have found many ways to increase cognitive abilities. Brain gyms offer games and puzzles that stimulate your speed of comprehension and memory.

5. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Some of the leading experts in your field share their knowledge during interviews. Eavesdrop on life-changing conversations. You don’t even have to be on your computer — you can be walking in the woods and listening on your smartphone.

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6. Read blogs. Blogs can give you bite-sized information in a few minutes. You can read in minutes what it took someone hours to research, organize, and summarize.

7. Watch documentaries. Video-sharing websites offer some of the most cutting-edge documentaries. You can find out about anything. Study the biographies of leading thinkers. Catch up on the latest findings in quantum mechanics.

Of course, these are only suggestions, but you get the idea. If you use the Internet with deep intention, it can become an enriched environment. You will not only develop your brain, but you’ll also improve your life.

Think about it. Never before in the history of the world have you been able to learn so much. Why not take full advantage of the opportunity to nurture your personal growth?

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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