joy-fuelled learning

It’s quite normal for me to pick up a book to read when I’m in my husband’s office at church.  His new office is right up the top of the building, after a few short steep flights of stairs, you’re there. I take them at a run. Otherwise I stop half way up!!


Today’s book, for no particular reason, happened to be The Accelerated Learning Handbook (by Dave Meier). While my husband printed out some things for the service, I nosed through the bit about the brain.

I like reading bits about the brain; I did it quite a lot in my research for Forgetful Heart. I also looked into quite a lot about learning, because it seemed reasonable – after all, in the book I’m talking about how we remember what we have learned.

I chanced upon a paragraph reflecting on the integrative nature of our brains and how our emotional state affects our abilities to learn. Negative emotions slow down our learning; feeling positive speeds the process.

One sentence leapt out at me in particular; it was in parentheses, an aside:

There is nothing that accelerates learning more than a sense of joy.

I realised immediately that was true of myself – that excitement and enthusiasm drive my learning, help me grasp new ideas and revisit old ones. This ‘fairly obvious’ realisation led me to reflect on  the other side – that when I’m low and feeling negative, my ability to learn is hampered.

This could have depressed me, but oddly it had the opposite effect. It means that my potential to learn is not diminished, but simply muted by negative feelings. So easily we can get brought even lower when we struggle to grasp what once seemed so bright, dancing in our minds. But if we understand that our emotional state and the circumstances causing them have had this effect, we can begin to believe in ourselves again.

My mind, hurtling now, began to pick away at the idea from a ‘spiritual’ perspective – how we struggle to learn about and perceive the things of God when we are influenced by negative emotions. Again, this felt a good thing to realise. Just because I’m struggling now doesn’t mean I will be here forever, that somehow I’ve gone ‘offline’ completely.

The delight at this realisation cut through my weariness momentarily. I then proceeded to read (and learn!) quite happily from the following paragraphs. I’ve been despairing of my ability to concentrate and to learn of late; the fact I was completely absorbed is case in point. The moment of pleasure – a positive emotion – fuelled my interest and my heightened my senses.

I’m encouraged, that despite my fog of tiredness, I am still capable of learning, reflecting and yes – remembering. The energy powering the headlights may be lacking, but they still work. And they still have the ability to shine.

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