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Using your brain to improve wellbeing

Learning new skills is always a useful endeavour, however what we like best about it here is the positive effect it can have on your wellbeing. Also that it doesn’t have to be super complicated! Learning doesn’t only mean enrolling in courses or getting formal qualifications. There are myriad ways to bring learning into your life.

The struggle

Many of us associate learning with childhood or our student days. As adults, it often seems as though we have less time and less of a need to learn new things. There are always higher priorities.

Sure, we might dream about going back to study… one day, after we’re done with X, Y and Z. Many of us often have thoughts such as: Sure, part of me has always wanted to learn a new language or musical instrument, but, well, isn’t it too late for me now? It’s not like I have the time for such intensive pursuits anyway. Right now I should really be putting more energy into work/raising my kids/making sure I’m up to date on social media. (Alright, perhaps not that last one.)

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese proverb
Learning for wellbeing
Keep on learning for mental wellbeing

Why keep learning?

Learning has been shown in the research to help improve and maintain our well-being. It can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose, and foster connection with others. People engaged in learning report feeling better about themselves and a greater ability to cope with stress, as well has feeling more self confidence, hope and purpose.

Some scientists think that setting goals and working towards them plays an important role in the way learning influences well-being. Setting targets and hitting them can create positive feelings of accomplishment and achievement, and can also be motivating to do more.

Give learning a go

If you want to make learning a bigger part of your life, it helps to think about learning in the broadest sense. Classes and formal courses are great ways to learn new things, but as we’ve seen, can seem overwhelming in an already overwhelming life. So we may just need to keep in mind that there are lots of other ways to keep learning. You might:

  • Learn to cook a favourite dish that you’ve never eaten at home.
  • Visit a gallery or museum and learn about a person or period in history that interests you.
  • Take on a new responsibility at work, such as learning to use an IT system or understanding the monthly reports.
  • Subscribe to a research or literary journal that aligns with your interests.
  • Fix that broken bike or garden gate. Once you’ve done that, how about setting yourself a bigger DIY project? YouTube is great for this.
  • Sign up for a course you’ve been meaning to do at a local community centre. You might learn a new art or crafting skill, or try something practical such as gardening or plumbing.
  • Rediscover an old hobby that challenges you, whether it’s making model aeroplanes, writing stories, drawing or knitting (there are online communities for knitters who are men!)
  • Visit a local men’s shed or check out a community group and see what they have to offer.
  • Look up the model and make of your vehicle and learn how to service it yourself.

Self-learning resources

The internet is making it easier for us all to keep on learning in new and interesting ways, and in the process enhance our well-being. It is worth checking out these free resources and sites for self learning.

TED: Ideas worth spreading

TED is a small non profit that started out (in 1984) as a conference for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. TED believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

How Stuff Works

How Stuff Works is a resource for anyone who wants to know how anything works. Want to look up how something works the way it does? Try here. Satisfy your curiosity about computers, engines, physics, aviation, the human body, philosophical problems… pretty much anything.

The Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a not-for-profit providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s materials and resources are available to anyone for free. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.

The Creativity Portal

The Creativity Portal helps you to explore various activities related to arts, crafts, music, and writing. It is a directory of sites that have free instructional information (tips, tutorials, articles, projects, how-to’s, etc) to help you learn about topics such as photography, writing, fine arts, graphic design, music making, origami, balloon twisting, and a whole lot of other things.

Coursera

Coursera is an American online learning platform working with Universities to provide tertiary level courses and degrees to massive numbers of people anywhere in the world. Many of the courses are available for free, however if you desire a certificate there are costs involved.

We welcome suggestions of new and interesting ways to introduce more learning into your life.

5 steps to mental wellbeing

This page is part of a series called the five steps for mental wellbeing. There are other steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Check out the other pages in this series:

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