After introducing you to LeafCo’s six domain model of wellness and specific domains such as the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual, we are continuing our wellness journey by defining the cognitive domain and interesting things related to it.
You may have already heard about the butterfly effect - a phenomenon that explains how small occurrences can influence a much larger complex system because the world is deeply interconnected. Meaning something small like changing the place where you buy your coffee can change your life because you will meet a new bartender that will happen to know about new job offer that suits you is being opened. This is only one of many examples, but what is crucial in this story is how all our choices and actions have different consequences. In this example we were talking about getting your coffee, just imagine how much choosing our high school, university or profession changes the course of our life.
As kids, we were all having some ideas about what we would like to be when we grow up. That was also the question we were asked quite a lot. Of course, while growing up we are exposed to various circumstances and our possibilities, ideas and needs are changing. Some of us really tried and followed our childhood vision, but some of us pursued a completely new vocation.
Take a moment and think about the profession you wanted to do when you were little. What were your interests, what made you happy, and which hobbies did you have? Unfortunately, nowadays you may hear people talking about hobbies in the past tense – there is no more time for things like that since they are working a lot, having families and trying to balance everyday life. That’s why we’re going to talk about the importance of the cognitive domain and why you should make hobbies a part of your everyday schedule!
What is meant by cognitive wellness?
What’s interesting about cognitive wellness is that, unlike most other domains, it is not considered the main component of some wellness theory models. Authors don’t even agree on the name it should be called – some are using the term mental wellness (Hudson-Vitale and Waltz, 2020), some intellectual wellness or even academic domain of wellness (Roscoe, 2009) and some.
Hudson_Vitale and Waltz in their six domain model of wellness define the mental domain as strategies whose purpose is to excite and stimulate the mind, but at the same time, are not work-related.
Furthermore, for defining the intellectual domain, different authors agree that it includes orientation toward education, creativity, cultural experiences and personal growth while sharing one’s knowledge and skills (Roscoe, 2009). It implies doing activities that stimulate the mind, but at the same time bring joy to the individual and satisfy one’s soul (Maguire, Baraki and Phagoora, 2021). Creativity is an important component of the intellectual domain, but some other wellness theory models that has a higher number of domains (for example nine) separate it and differentiate two specific domains: the intellectual and the creative one (Melnyk and Neale, 2018).
The academic domain of wellness is defined as an effort to develop talents and abilities, higher-order thinking skills and learning how to learn (Roscoe, 2009).
If we take into account all the above definitions, we see that they are all focused on stimulating one’s mind with learning, experiences hobbies and activities that excite our mind and are not directly related to our professional vocation. LeafCo wanted to include all these components under one specific term and that’s why we are talking about the cognitive domain.
How can I work on my cognitive wellness?
Now that you know what all is included in the term of the cognitive domain, take a moment and think about where you currently stand in terms of this domain. If you feel like you’re mostly focused on your work, study, or your vocation in general, maybe you’d want to improve your cognitive wellness and by that enhance your overall wellness! Here we bring you a couple of simple steps you can try to indulge in your everyday life:
Reduce screen time! Nowadays we are constantly surrounded by technology and obliged to use different devices. Therefore, you’re most likely not able to reduce your screen time during your working hours, but you can try and do your best to regulate it for the rest of the time. Sometimes we’re not even conscious of the time we’re spending in front of our TV screen, on our computers, laptops or mobile phones. On some devices or applications you’re able to check how many minutes you have spent on it, for example, Instagram. When we’re scrolling, what may feel like 5-10 minutes easily can become 50-60 minutes. That’s why it is useful to check mentioned data from time to time.
The most important action you can take regarding this step is to reduce your screen time in the morning and in the evening. To be precise, you shouldn’t stare at any screen for at least one hour after waking up and one hour before going to sleep. In the morning you should allow both your body and mind to wake up before you start with your daily tasks. On the contrary, most people start their day by scrolling on their phones – bombarding their minds with a lot of pictures, sounds, videos, information and news. You could start to use the analog alarm clock for waking up and that way you won’t have to have your mobile phone next to your bed and be tempted to use it first thing in the morning. The same applies for a good night’s rest. Avoiding screens an hour before going to sleep improves the quality of your sleep!
Read books! This step goes hand in hand with the previous one. You can try and replace your screen time with an interesting book. When going to sleep you can read a couple of chapters before it. Reading any genre of books is beneficial for our cognitive abilities, you are learning and improving your vocabulary. But since the cognitive domain is focused on exciting the mind outside the boundaries of your profession, you should try and at least from time to time choose a book that is dealing with some other topic or maybe a genre like science fiction whose story you find interesting.
Do crosswords/sudoku! Also, one of the possibilities for avoiding technology early in the morning! You could make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and prepare your mind for the day by solving a crossword or sudoku. This is also beneficial for your cognitive abilities and helps you learn something new. You can use them in your workplace also when you need a break to refocus your mind for a short time. Besides being educative, it is fun! Challenge yourself – knowing that you were able to fill in the whole crossword by yourself or that you have completed a higher level of sudoku in a shorter time can be really rewarding.
Go to the movies/theaters/exhibitions/concerts! Any type of cultural content and events benefit our cognitive wellness domain. By watching different types of movies, plays, listening different music, visiting art galleries and museums you’re working on your personal growth, broadening your horizons. Here you can combine working on a couple of different domains – cognitive, social and emotional. You can go see a movie with your friends and later discuss with them how did the movie make you feel while also getting their feedback. To get to know your work colleagues better you can propose going to the theatre once a month and each month one of the colleagues gets to choose a play.
Practice visualization! Sometimes you don’t need any extra tools – just a little bit of time to focus on your imagination. Visualization is a tool that can improve your creativity, help you relax, set your goals and focus on yourself. It can be practiced daily, you just need a calm place where you can sit, relax and focus on your mental images. Once you’re sitting, laying or whatever is the most comfortable for you, think about the goal that you want to achieve. It can be anything from improving your relationships to finding your spirituality while traveling. Pay attention to the details, there are really no boundaries within your imagination. After forming a mental picture of your goal, try to imagine achieving it and feel the emotions connected to it. To help solidify that mental image in your mind you can use some words of affirmation (positive statements that reinforce your desired outcomes). That way you can facilitate the whole process next time you want to practice visualization.
What can I get from those tips?
Working on the improvement of your cognitive domain of wellness, you’re not only doing something for personal satisfaction and enjoyment, but you could also be affecting your cognition, body, emotions and even spirituality.
Not only physical exercise is important for your health, you also have to keep up with your mental exercise! By learning new skills and exciting your mind you are boosting your brain’s health and you add to the prevention of mental decline that comes with aging. Working on your cognitive domain of wellness can help existing neurons in your brain to form new connections, but also support the growth of new neurons (Melnyk and Neale, 2018).
A review of research by Strout et al. (2016) showed that interventions within the cognitive (intellectual) domain of wellness have a big significance for cognitive health in adults. Interventions used in the research gathered in the review were for example crossword puzzles, computerized games, education courses, reading, writing, musical instruments, cooking, arts and crafts. In 50% of the interventions, groups that were included in some of the activities mentioned above showed improvement in memory, attention, reasoning and processing speed.
Moreover, working on the cognitive domain is not only associated with a higher level of cognitive functioning, but also with a higher level of positive emotions. Conner, DeYoung and Silvia (2018) did a research with 658 university students on New Zealand. Their results have shown that participating every day in a creative activity increased well-being in young adults. Students were feeling a higher level of enthusiasm and flourishing in the days after the creative activity. Furthermore, those higher level of positive feelings helped them to be even more creative in the following days. Also, research has shown that self-perceived creativity is associated with having fewer depressive symptoms (Israel, Adams-Price, Bolstad and Nadorff, 2022).
Conner, T. S., DeYoung, C. G., and Silvia, P. J. (2018). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(2), 181-189.
Hudson-Vitale, C. and Waltz, R. M. (2020). Caring for our colleagues: Wellness and support strategies for remote library teams. College & Research Libraries News, 81(10), 494.
Israel, S. M., Adams-Price, C. E., Bolstad, C. J. and Nadorff, D. K. (2022). Age and recognition for one’s creative hobby are associated with fewer depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older adults. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 16(4), 610–617.
Maguire, R., Baraki, B. and Phagoora, J. (2021). The Six Domains of Mental Wellness by Learning Labs.
Melnyk, B. M. and Neale, S. (2018). 9 dimensions of wellness. American Nurse Today, 13(1), 10-11.
Roscoe, L. J. (2009). Wellness: A review of theory and measurement for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 87(2), 216-226.
Strout, K. A., David, D. J., Dyer, E. J., Gray, R. C., Robnett, R. H. and Howard, E. P. (2016). Behavioral interventions in six dimensions of wellness that protect the cognitive health of community‐dwelling older adults: a systematic review. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64(5), 944-958.