Learning new skills can be useful, but research shows it can also improve our mental wellbeing.

Many of us associate learning with childhood or our student days. As adults, it can seem as though we have less time or need to learn new things. But evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing.  Mental wellbeing means feeling good – about yourself and the world around you – and being able to get on with life in the way you want. Learning can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose, and help us connect with others.

Learning helps your wellbeing because…

Research shows that learning throughout life is associated with greater satisfaction and optimism, and improved ability to get the most from life. People who carry on learning after childhood report higher wellbeing and a greater ability to cope with stress. They also report more feelings of self-esteem, hope and purpose.

Setting targets and hitting them can create positive feelings of achievement.

Learning often involves interacting with other people. This can also increase our wellbeing by helping us build and strengthen social relationships.

How you can keep learning

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 there are lots of other ways too.

You might:

  • Learn to cook a favourite dish that you’ve never eaten at home. There’s lots of websites where you can get some inspiration and ideas from.
  • 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.
  • Fix that broken bike or garden gate. Once you’ve done that, how about setting yourself a bigger DIY project? There are lots of free video tutorials online.
  • Sign up for a course you’ve been meaning to do at a local night school. You might learn a new language, or try something practical, such as plumbing.
  • Rediscover an old hobby that challenges you, whether it’s making model aeroplanes, writing stories, sewing or knitting.

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Learn from others – When you are worried about a loved one you often think you are alone, you aren’t! Speak to others who are affected by someone else’s use and you could learn from others experiences