Evanston RoundTable, Aug. 24, 2017
Are you feeling dull, depressed, muddled? Looking for ways to brighten and improve your life?
To stay mentally sharp, change things up! Change can be accomplished in lots of ways big and small, many of which are easy and free. For instance:
- Go to work a different way. If you take the train, try the bus or even the bike instead. Observe what’s new and different along your new route.
- Listen to a different radio station. Tune into a station that plays a music format different from the one you’re used to. There is one jazz and one classical station in town, plus lots of country, R&B, hip-hop, news, and talk stations. Plenty to choose from.
- Read a newspaper from another city, to get a feel for local issues and perspectives and discover different columnists. It’s easy to access great newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, and New York Times, and most of their content is available online free.
- Listen to a talk radio station that reflects a different outlook from yours. Exposing yourself to a different slant may be uncomfortable, but it will give you insights into how other people think and feel.
- Check in with a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages and make a coffee date.
- Try dressing differently. Put on your shirt by looping your arm through the opposite sleeve from the one you’re used to, and button from the bottom up. It’s harder than you think.
- Take up a new brain game, such as crossword puzzles, Scrabble, or Sudoku.
- Pick a new restaurant with unusual cuisine.
- Pick a great foreign film director, like Bergman, Truffaut, or Kurosawa, and watch some of their classic movies. The Evanston Public Library’s main branch has a terrific selection of movie DVDs you can borrow at no cost.
- Take up a classic novel you have always wanted to read. The library offers an annual Mission Impossible Book Club to study some of the great classics, like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.” Last year’s selection was Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” often considered the first great novel. If you cannot join the book club, tackle these books yourself.
- Try eating while blind folded. It’s amazing what a different perspective this gives you on the taste and smell of the food you’re eating, as well as the conversation you have with the others at your table.
- Write with your other (non-dominant) hand.
You get the idea. These are not major life-altering changes, and may even seem silly. But they challenge the brain, disrupt old habits, and reinvigorate one’s thinking with simple, easy-to-do ideas.
The goal is straightforward. Get out of your rut, because the view there is narrow and always the same. Introduce more variety into your world, because variety is the path to discovery, and discovery is the path to a more stimulating and interesting life.