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Intellectual Wellness - A brief

Curiosity expands creativity, Creativity drives intelligence

Indian Students: Bachpan toh gaya, jawani bhi gayi, ek pal toh ab hume jeene do jeene doooo (Childhood is over, youth is at its end, will we ever get a chance to live freely?)

Education system and Parents: Nah nah nah-nah… Nah nah nah-nah

I think this was the anthem for every student in India, who was struggling to keep his/her marks from dropping and avoiding a walk of shame. Yeah I know, I know what a walk of shame means but our country defines it on another level. You either get beaten up by a chappal, disowned from the family or berated in front of all the relatives from all around the world, because we’re literally everywhere. It’s funny how we are considered those ‘Stereotyped Asians’ who are intellectually taking over the world but sadly nobody knows the kind of training we have to go through to become less and less human everyday, ‘kyuki yaha students nahi, har saal gadhe manufacture hote hai’. *

Gone (Not so much)

are the days when parents and teachers obsessed over every single student becoming a Doctor or Engineer, and if someone was lucky enough to break the stereotype, they were told by their fathers ‘chal kal se meri dukaan par baithna’** to boys and ‘kal se ghar baithnna’*** to girls (Not because of marks. Shhh!). But the scoring system and reservation system still exists in India where we’re either taught to just run after marks or make fake caste certificates so we could get admission in any college.

In India, where every child’s future depends on his gender, caste and marks, and an education system that promotes rote learning, intellectual wellness is a concept far from their understanding. It was found in research that out of every 100 engineers, only 12 get placed in a well-paid company and the rest depend on basic technical curriculum without practical training required in current IT industries in India. I once met a security guard who had completed Engineering but for the past 10 years, he had been working as a guard in the same college he did his engineering from. (slow claps!) Just scoring good marks, memorising the whole syllabus and working in a rigid system doesn’t make us progressive or nurtures characteristics involved in intellectual wellness such as Critical Thinking, Creativity and Divergent Thinking, terms explained below.

What is Intellectual Wellness?

Intellectual Wellness is being open to new ideas, thinking critically and finding ways to be creative. Intellectual wellness evolves through personal and professional development, cultural and community involvements, discovering hobbies and being kind to nature and its surroundings.

Components of Intellectual Wellness -

  1. Critical Thinking- Rigorously questioning ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. What if everyone thought the earth was actually flat and continued believing it till now?

  2. Creativity- Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life.

  3. Divergent Thinking- Looking at problem solving through the lens of multiple possible solutions. Thinking to yourself ‘If not this....what else can I try?’ and viewing every problem as a way of finding new solutions.

Mental exercise is equally as important as physical exercise for it keeps the mind muscles engaged in different areas of cognitive functioning like problem solving, decision making, creative thinking, which helps expand your knowledge and skills, and exposes you to new ideas, people, and beliefs.

Here are a few ways that you can practice becoming intellectually aware such as

  • Reading a new chapter of a current book everyday

  • Reading some interesting facts or gaining knowledge about current affairs

  • Engaging in regular cardio or yoga activates the hippocampus which is involved in memory and learning.

  • Setting aside some time for family/ friends and listen attentively, and learn from them to strengthen connections.

  • The food you eat fuels not just your body but your brain. In fact, your brain consumes about 20% of your daily calories.

  • You can get creative through doodling, painting, crafting, writing, photography, pottery, or even gardening.

  • Play brainy games like Crossword, Sudoku, Puzzle, Trivia, Riddles etc.

  • Journal Thoughts to exercise your mind and understand your thoughts completely.

Critical thinking from Indian context

Have you ever stopped and asked yourselves what we study, would it ever be beneficial in the future? Your scores, would it ever matter to you or anyone when it comes to working efficiently? Have you learned problem solving skills that are flexible and don't create stress in your mind? The answer could vary from person to person but it has a universal truth to it, especially in India, where rote learning and spoon feeding is prevalent till you reach 11th and at that time, you get used to knowing your answers. It becomes hard to exercise your brain muscles to find answers that suit best as during your formative years, your mind learns to depend on others for answers and you become heavily conditioned to trust others’ knowledge over your own. But you can exercise this ability with conscious practice everyday.

  • Ask questions to yourself or others as you reflect.

  • Challenge the norm, don't take an answer for what it is without agreeing upon it yourself.

  • Find patterns and connections between what you learn in text books and what you see in real life.

This allows you to be more open minded, objective, helps you recognise your biases and desire to change the status quo but it’s not a culture India has adopted yet because according to Hindu Article which claims that at a time when disagreement is treated to be treacherous, questioning the integrity of judges is considered contempt of court, those who question the status quo are branded rebels, those who exercise their freedom of speech are targeted, everyone is scared of applying their critical thinking.

Creative Thinking from Indian Context

Colleges these days are creating an army of nodders and jotters which discourages questioning, discovery, experimentation and application in the classroom and thus draws them to rote learning. [2] As mentioned above, having a unique point of view or opinion against the authority is viewed as a sign of disrespect in our country, making it hard to have an imagination of your own. Having a passionately curious mind is the only way a person becomes limitless in his work, without having fear of failure. But unfortunately, Creativity in India is that oasis that may look like an opportunity for dreamers to finally quench their thirst and learn more freely but when looked closely, its deception leaves many disappointed. There is an urgent need to shift focus from passive learning to experiential learning i.e learning by doing.

Divergent Thinking from Indian Context

Creativity is a form of divergent thinking that looks at problem solving through the lens of multiple possible solutions and applying them in real life. Retention refers to the ability to remember what is learned and transfer is the ability to use prior knowledge to solve new problems. Indian education system emphasises using convergent thinking rather than divergent thinking and hence focuses more on developing the left side of the brain when it comes to problem solving. The need to develop and use both sides can help a person exercise both parts of their brain equally. Hence, reading and writing everyday helps open your mind to numerous possibilities, increases the use of both sides of the brain which increases hand-eye coordination. Only we can be more conscious of what we or our next generation learns from their environment and activities we engage in. For instance, A bullet journal includes brainstorming, to-do lists, reminders and schedules all in one convenient place.

As we come to the end of this article, I would really like you to ask yourself a question -

Do you feel like you have more to offer than you lead on?

If you do, don’t limit your thoughts to old teachings and take a step towards new learnings. Don’t let your train of thoughts stop in between and keep on journaling new ideas.

* Colleges manufacture Donkeys instead of Humans every year.

**Fathers to Boys: You will sit in the shop and help me.

*** Fathers to Girl: You will sit at home and help your mother.

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