Prior to the pandemic, during the pandemic and even now, we live in a world that is harsh to our mental health – chasing our careers, trying to stay afloat in an unstable economy, attempting to have a family and a peaceful private life, and so on. Now, our mental health has suffered the impact of the pandemic and all the measures applied to control it.
We can’t change the bigger picture. But what we can do is focus on ourselves and improve our mental health (by improving ourselves) so that we can face all the challenges ahead. Here’s how learning new things can boost your mental health.
Keeping Your Mind Active
After we graduate high school or college, unless our work demands it, we rarely learn new things. This makes our brain lazy. Learning something new, on the other hand, can slow down aging and improve cognitive functioning.
According to an article published on the Harvard Health Blog, acquiring new knowledge may slow age-related cognitive decline. It can expand brain functions, such as problem-solving and reasoning. Learning a new skill stimulates the neurons in the brain and leads to the formation of more neural pathways. This helps you preserve your brain as you age and gain new perspectives on the world by preparing you for numerous challenges. Other benefits include improved short-term and long-term memory and better attention to detail.
Boosting Your Happiness
Working on a new set of skills can be a useful distraction from stress. It can also increase your mental wellbeing and happiness. You might be wondering – how?
Well, knowledge can boost your confidence, and learning something new gives new meaning to your life. The sense of achievement you get when mastering a new skill can be very satisfying and rewarding. But it can also be fun. When things are too easy for us, life can be boring. When something challenging is ahead, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel happy and accomplished.
Adopting a New Mindset
It’s easy to stay tucked in the comfy bubble of your current mindset, even if your mindset doesn’t actually serve you well. However, once you take that step and do something differently, it is the first move towards a different mindset. All it takes is one little change to cause an avalanche. Maybe your big step will be taking a photography course or learning how to prepare a few healthy and delicious meals. Once you see the effects, this can cause your defenses against changes to fall. You can become bolder and more prepared to take risks.
Improving Your Social Relationships
We make friends throughout our lives – first in school, and later at work. Sometimes we become friends with our neighbors. But let’s face it – we become more socially isolated at a certain age, and it becomes increasingly difficult to connect with new people. Acquiring new knowledge improves your life quality as well as your social relationships because it makes you a more interesting person to spend time with. Not only that, it keeps your social skills sharp because it pushes you to communicate with other people regularly and even participate in discussions.
Interested in Learning Something New? Here Are a Few Ideas
Anything you decide to learn will be good for you. However, some skills are particularly beneficial for your mental health. Here are a few.
A New Language
Learning a foreign language can increase your attention span. This finding is based on several studies on bilinguals that proved it is easier for them to focus and avoid distractions than for those who speak only one language. Studying a foreign language is also a great memory booster and leads to better cognitive functioning.
Plus, it can improve your health in many other ways. Mastering a new language will definitely make you feel more confident. It’s a fantastic way to start new connections and get to know other people. For example, by mastering Spanish, you might fall in love with a new culture and make traveling to one of the many Spanish-speaking countries a much richer experience.
It has been proven that physical activity reduces anxiety and depression, improves sleep, increases mental alertness and energy, and provides stress relief. Sure, you don’t have to learn some new sports or a specific activity to be physically active. You can simply jog, for example.
However, you can also combine the benefits of learning new skills with the benefits of exercising and double the positive effect on your mental health. For example, you can take yoga lessons, as this skill is useful for stress reduction and mental wellbeing. Dancing can also be an interesting way to get moving because it helps build self-confidence, and you can meet new and interesting people.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts are an important part of various mental health programs and workshops, and for a good reason. Mental health can be improved through creativity because being creative means expressing ourselves when words fail us.
Art can stimulate the release of dopamine (the brain chemical that influences your mood and feelings). That’s why various craft activities are recommended for soldiers who suffer from PTSD and for people exposed to extreme stress. So, think about exploring pottery, painting, decoupage, or something similar to get your fingers busy and your mind clear.
Sure, you may know your way around the kitchen, but cooking is much more than simply knowing how to prepare a simple lunch. It’s about finding the perfect texture, combining the right flavors, and appealingly presenting your meal. In fact, culinary therapy has become quite popular among many psychologists. The process of preparing your meal can nourish your wellbeing and infuse your day with creativity. It also allows you to take better care of your diet – and we already know that a balanced diet plays an important role in mental health.
Yes, starting something new can be daunting. But where would we be if we backed away from every challenge? Challenging your brain and body to master a new skill and knowledge will surely be good for your emotional and psychological health. So, why not give some of these activities a try – or find something different that works for you.