Australians spend less than half as much on their brains as they do their bodies
Australians spend less than half as much improving their mental development as they do on their bodies.
From gym memberships, to vitamins and beauty treatments, the average Australian spends $1142 every year on their physical wellbeing.
And yet to exercise their brain – through online courses, books and education – they spend just over $600.
“We know we have a deficit of cognitive activity in Australia, we are simply not active enough,” said Dr Amit Lampit, an international expert in brain training at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre.
“It’s not enough to have a really stressful job, which may be very stimulating in one direction … we want to achieve a more diverse set of activities.”
Sydney electrician Chris Pemberton first found himself craving more cognitive stimulation when he moved from commercial to residential electrical work.
“I drive to about four different customers a day. So that’s four different commutes a day, and we all know what Sydney traffic is like,” he said.
“I wanted to use those hours as educational time, so I started listening to audio books. To date, I’ve probably spent $8000 on audio books – it’s the best money I’ve ever spent investing on myself.
Dr Lampit considers auditory stimulation among the best methods for improving mental development.
“In the last few years one of the most exciting things I’ve found is that combining cognitive listening activity with physical activity is more stimulating than cognitive activity alone.”
He recently partnered with audio book provider Audible.com.au to curate a list of 24 audio books to “grow the mind”.
It followed research commissioned by Audible Australia, which found 25 per cent of Australians claimed to have “stopped learning” after leaving school or university, while the average individual failed to finish reading two out of five books every year.
The list of 24 audio books includes “mind-expanding” fiction, such as Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four,and others on the science of the brain, like John B. Arden’s Rewire Your Brain: Think your way to a better life.
Other audio books in the list cover habit, critical thinking, mindfulness and learning a language, which remains “one of the most effective methods” of brain training, Dr Lampit said.
“Learning a language is a pretty intense approach to stimulation and we know people who speak more than one language have greater protection against cognitive decline.” Dr Lampit said his ongoing research would explore the effects of marrying physical exercise with auditory stimulation.
“Research suggests the physical component stimulates some factors in the brain, substances that promote the growth and connection of brain cells.”
He recommends at least three 45-60 minute sessions a week as a minimum for cognitive stimulation, through audio books, reading or brain puzzles, with “diversity of literature as important as quantity”.
Mr Pemberton said his interests were first piqued by audio books in psychology, before he began exploring evolution, human biology and now quantum physics.
He estimates he spends around $50 a month on audio books, as well as $80 a month on his physical health, through judo.