In my blog Oh the Places You Will Go I wrote: 

In the mid-1800s Abraham Lincoln stated, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” My perspective of Lincoln’s quote is that undertaking self-improvement throughout life is the aim of enhancing knowledge, skills, and competences. Lifelong learning is a continuous development and improvement process aimed at personal fulfillment.  The result of this effort will be a life well lived.

The Feature Articles this month shows that integration of life and self-improvement can come from a variety of experiences.  Below I share my thoughts on benefits of small talk, power of introverts, and how making art contributes to well-being.

The Big Benefits of Small Talk

Small talk or chit chat is often a way to start a conversation. Casual conversations can sometimes lead us to moments of real connection. Small talk can also be a gift that we give each other. Even conversations that appear inconsequential can be profound (Halton, 2020).

Finding common interests is the core of tapping into your ability to carry on casual conversations. The ability to start small talk through common interest is the anchor to relationship building. You build rapport, and it is where you also build trust. Moving from topic to topic without getting bogged down with lengthy details guides small talk toward a launching pad toward engaging interactions with others.  

In addition, listening is one of the most important skills you need when trying to master small talk. Through thoughtful and attentive listening you will discover commonalities which builds rapport and shows respect for the person you are talking to. If the discussion is on a topic, you know about, the best way to enhance the conversion is to listen first and ask open-ended questions. Always make you questions supportive, not challenging. Instead of saying: “I don’t think you are correct with your opinion”, we can say “That’s an interesting point, what do you think about this idea” (McCarthy, 2020).

Small talk can enhance your wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.

One of the first benefits is that small talk can be a great social function for you and your friends. This can be a chance for you to get to know other people who share similar interests. For example, if you love gardening, then finding someone who enjoys talking about plants and growing them can be a fun way to bring an additional element to your conversations. Similarly, if you enjoy music or spending time with musicians, small talk with people who share similar interests can enrich your social experience.

While most people use small talk to make acquaintances and establish bonds, some use it as a form of intimacy. I enjoy the opportunity to learn about another person. Our discussions deepen our understanding of each other’s thoughts and feelings.

Talking about stuff that matters is good for you and good for the person you are chatting with. Try to have at least five substantive conversations a week—not only will they boost your spirits, they will open your mind (Boardman, n.d.)

Read the full article: The Big Benefits of Small Talk
Read more on the topic: An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips and
8 Ways to Make Meaningful Small Talk

The Power of Introverts

Introverts are often thought of as timid people that dislike social activities or are shy. However, introverts are not shy, quite the contrary. Introverts are self-confident, assured, directed, and sufficient individuals. Introverts thrive in a small group environment where there is a level of comfort and security. Both introverts and extroverts thrive and achieve success in groups and in isolated situations.

When thinking about the personality spectrum, introvert and extrovert are most familiar. However, no one is a pure introvert or extrovert. We live a hybrid style/flexible style that is situation specific known as ambivert; a blending of introvert and extrovert traits. Combining, blending, and integrating aspects of life requires social adaptability. This is the core strength of an ambivert.  

Read the full article: The Power of Introverts
Read more on the topic:  Are you an Ambivert, Introvert, or Extrovert? Learn the science behind your personality and
The Introvert and the Extrovert (Collaboration) 
NOTE: See the image How to Care for Extroverts/Introverts (you may find that you appreciate aspects from each list).

What Happens in Your Brain When You Make Art?

The Split Brain Theory (Sperry, 1960), identified the specialized behaviors of the right (creative, spatial and visual thinkers) and left hemisphere (logical, analytical, and word oriented). Recent research (Brincat et al., 2021; Corballis, 2014; Nielsen et al., 2013;) support that idea that the left brain and right brain rely on each other and there is “interhemispheric communication”.  There are several types of stimuli that have proven effective at stimulating creativity and the brain. Paintings, drawings, video art and audio art all require the use of the right side of the brain, which deals with emotions and ideas, along with the left side of the brain, which deals with logic and precise detail. 

Creativity and the ability to see a task through to completion depend on a steady stream of ideas from the creative side of the brain and the analytical side. Music, solving problems, and movement along with artistic endeavors stimulate creativity and analysis…using the right and left brain. Many of us engage in artistic and creative activities because we enjoy them, but did you know that art and creativity also have significant wellness and personal development benefits?

Stuckey and Noble (2010) completed a meta-analysis of over 100 studies and found creative expression to have a strong positive influence on health and well-being. A growing body of research (Benefits of Creativity, 2018: Grigonis, 2018: and Martin, n.d.) focuses on the role creativity plays in the development of mental health and its health implications. Researchers have found that the way creativity affects the brain and body leads to increased mood, reduced anxiety, increased cognitive function, reduced risk of chronic disease, and improved immune health. In this study, cognitive neuroscientists find that by creating art, people can create a positive state of mind in themselves. For example, the researchers examined the effects of visual arts using biofeedback to find it promotes health or well-being and promotes an adaptive response to stress. 

Creative hobbies not only contribute to brain health, but creativity allows people to change their perspective on life.

A handmade life is a beautiful, happier and healthier life (Winnicot, n.d.).

Read the full article: What Happens in Your Brain When You Make Art
Read more on the topic: Feeling Artsy? Here’s How Making Art Helps Your Brain

Lifelong learning and personal development is an individual pursuit to find your own path.  Choices made to guide the path taken differ with each of us…”one size rarely fits all”.  

More February Feature Articles include:

10 Keys to Happier Living

Critical Thinking Skills