07/11/2014 01:42 EDT | Updated 07/17/2014 10:59 EDT

How To Keep Learning Once You're Done With School

Thinkstock Images via Getty Images

Once you leave the hallowed halls of learning institutions, it can feel like a challenge to keep your brain engaged and expanding — but that's no excuse to just sit around and do nothing.

After all, as you age, your brain could use the work in order to function at optimal levels, and can even improve as you get older if you do the right things.

We've taken a look at the best exercises you can do to keep the brain firing on all cylinders, but what about the activiites you can engage in to actually develop new knowledge, and, dare we say, wisdom?

Take a look at these recommendations for expanding your skill set and perspective, even years after you've left your last lecture hall.

  • Learn To Think For Longer
    Learn To Think For Longer
    Polka Dot Images via Getty Images
    How can one "think for longer"? Well, though learning how to quiet the mind and allow thoughts to move in and out freely — otherwise known as meditation. According to author Sogyal Rinpoche, meditation helps people rest in the "essence of mind," quite literally, where thinking comes from. Meditating for even five minutes each day can help train your brain to think for longer.
  • Get Over Your Grudges
    Get Over Your Grudges
    Ben-Schonewille via Getty Images
    You might think that forgiving someone for a wrong they've done to you in the past will show weakness, but in fact, this can help your mental strength immensely. According to the Mayo Clinic, letting go a long-held grudge can lead to better spiritual and psychological well-being, making room in your life for healthier relationships and opportunities to grow. Physically, it can also result in lower anxiety and blood anxiety, and is correlated with fewer symptoms of depression. Take the time to think about old hardships you're still holding onto, and take steps to let them go.
  • Sit Down With The 'Enemy'
    Sit Down With The 'Enemy'
    PeteSherrard via Getty Images
    You likely have people in your life with whom you disagree (and if you don't, you have to tell us how that's possible). In an attempt to expand your horizons, make a date to sit down with someone who is generally on the opposite side of the fence as you and agree to talk about your different points of view rationally and intelligently. While you may not end up agreeing with them completely, a conversation like this can help you gain perspective, as well as respect for each other.
  • Learn From Your Elders
    Learn From Your Elders
    Nick Clements via Getty Images
    It's a familiar trope that in Western societies, we tend to relegate older people to the sidelines — and with that, all of the amassed knowledge they've gained over the years. Take advantage of that collective wisdom and spend quality time with the older people in your life, asking them about their experience over the years. If you need some help getting started, check out this great list from (though you needn't just talk to family members). It will help you gain an appreciation for them, and possibly even give you some tidbits on how to live your own life.
  • Question The Headlines
    Question The Headlines
    Ridofranz via Getty Images
    You read the news every day, and that's fantastic — but are you just accepting what's being given to you? If there are topics in which you are interested and you're wondering about whether you're getting the full story, do some research. Find the original sources for the article, look for additional background information and get yourself acquainted with the history for a fuller picture on specific topics.
  • Get Physical
    Get Physical
    Jupiterimages via Getty Images
    Yes, yes, get lots of exercise because we know that has its benefits, but get your hands dirty too. Learning a skill that employs physicality can bring about a sense of happiness and knowledge difficult to attain in an office job, as Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman found while learning stonemasonry. It also has the added bonus of giving you a finished product (even if it's just a repaired toilet) when you're done.
  • Go Somewhere Completely Out Of Your Comfort Zone
    Go Somewhere Completely Out Of Your Comfort Zone
    helovi via Getty Images
    Travellers know there can be a big difference between a holiday and a trip. While everyone needs downtime, going to a place that challenges your ideas of what a "normal" schedule looks like, how family life works, even who is valued in a society can really increase your worldview. Even the annoyances that come along with a difficult location can be a learning experience (and make you appreciate home).
  • Get Up To Date With Your Industry
    Get Up To Date With Your Industry
    Hero Images via Getty Images
    When it comes to practical knowledge, it's hard to find a better resource than trade publications. Particularly if your chosen career path has been feeling a bit monotonous as of late, discovering new research and ideas that are cropping up in your field can turn everything around. Besides giving you a whole bucketful of new wisdom, you'll also have a leg up in your industry, and that's never a bad thing.
  • Get Rid Of The Junk Boxes In Your Basement Once And For All
    Get Rid Of The Junk Boxes In Your Basement Once And For All
    UpperCut Images via Getty Images
    You may be wondering how getting rid of, say, your childhood toys will help you gain wisdom, but to us, the correlation is obvious. The more stuff you own that isn't getting used, the greater the psychological space it's taking up. Think of it as a physical manifestation of the skills you keep meaning to learn, but never quite get around to — and while you're cleaning up, be sure to take note of the things you simply do not need to buy ever again.
  • Optimize Your Daily Routine
    Optimize Your Daily Routine
    Paul Bradbury via Getty Images
    Speaking of habits, are there a few you'd like to break? One of the best ways to gain wisdom is to incorporate it into your daily life and make it part of your regular behaviours. We have some suggestions as to how to get more out of your day, but would love to hear your recommendations for how you've changed your life in some way to make room for new things. Let us know in the comments below!