Creating an Enriched Environment
Okay, for mice an enriched environment is an environment much less barren than a cage, one that simulates the complex surroundings of the wild. It might include an exercise wheel, lots of toys, lots of tunnels for crawling. It turns out mice really seem to like to crawl through short lengths of curved pipe when these are placed in their cages. And they also seem to benefit when other mice are with them there inside the cage. So. . . novelty, objects to engage with, other creatures to engage with, problems to be solved, lots of voluntary running. This leads, in mice, to good things in the brain. The movement and exercise stimulates neurogenesis. And the novelty and problem-solving foster the integration of these new brain cells into existing circuits.
All of this reminds me of my kids’ kindergarten and first grade classes. Recess where they actually ran around. And, inside, lots of stations for interaction—with the kids having choices as to which stations to choose. The water station. The sand station. Blocks. Art. Picture books.
Not to be too simplistic here, but I wonder what an enriched environment might look like for an adult. Well, for you. And me.
What stations would it have?
One way to think about an enriched environment is to think about the five senses and how to engage them.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Many enriching things aren’t.
New music? A musical instrument? A new book or two or three? A new stack of books from the library? A stack of CDs? A stack of films? A Zen sand garden? A seed tray for beginning an indoor garden? A new notebook for writing? A package of colored pens? An airplane ticket? (okay, that one might be a bit expensive.) A day trip to a new place? An afternoon taking photographs? A new cookbook? An indoor herb garden? New spices? New candles? Dark chocolate? Espresso beans? Tea?
What would an enriched environment look like for you? And how could you begin to create it in the new year?
You could write about it.