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Learn Something New—Your Mental Health Will Thank You

Posted August 03, 2023 by Bassey Ijoma, MSN, RN, BSN, Manager, Quality & Clinical Improvement

Person playing guitar

Are you looking to acquire a new skill to advance your career or learn to play an instrument to bond with your child? Maybe you’re just curious about a topic?

Whatever your interest may be, we encourage you to try it. Research tells us to keep our minds active, especially as we age. Upskilling, the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills, is a great way to exercise your brain because the benefits reach far beyond the actual skill learned.

Learning something new can also improve your mental stability. Take for example, learning a new language improves your cognitive function and can provide a sense of community by connecting with others who speak the same language. Or, learning a new technical skill, such as computer programming or graphic design, can provide you with new career opportunities and a sense of accomplishment.

Find out four ways upskilling can improve your mental health. Then, venture out of your comfort zone and sign up for a modern dance class, take piano lessons or grab a friend and try your hand at a new sport, such as pickleball. Your brain—and happiness quotient—will thank you!

Improves brain health

Lifelong learning keeps your memory sharp and can help stave off cognitive decline as we age. Just as your muscles get stronger when you exercise and lift weights, so do our brains when we use them to learn new skills.

Upskilling increases brain activity. When a person learns something new, the brain forms new connections or neural pathways. Your memory and brain health improve with each new connection formed.

Boosts your mood through social interaction

Trying something new, like taking a dance lesson or woodworking class, is a great way to increase your social interaction and broaden your support network by making new friends. It can expose you to people with common interests and give you a greater sense of community and connectedness.

All of these things can lead to lower risks of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. In fact, research shows your body releases endorphins during positive social contact, similar to the physical response after a hard workout, which gives a boost of happiness, while reducing stress.

Takes your mind off worries and reduces stress

When you’re learning a new language or the rules to a new sport, for example, it forces you to focus on the task at hand—and is a great distraction from life’s stressors. In addition, it can give you a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation, which can be a stress reliever. That’s a good thing because chronic stress can lead to depression and anxiety.

Builds self-esteem and life satisfaction

When you acquire a new skill, like learning to program software or carpentry, you are more likely to feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Knowing you can do something new boosts your self-esteem and confidence.

What’s more, research shows there’s a strong connection between purpose in life and mental stability. Upskilling renews a purpose in your life—and something worth living for—all of which benefit your mental health.

So, if there’s something you’ve been meaning to try, we encourage you to take the time to do it. You never know what new skill you may learn—and what friends and joy you may discover along the way.