Trying new things can be scary.
Whether it’s in a classroom, with a small group of friends, or even by ourselves, many of us cringe at the thought of trying something new and (eeek!) possibly failing. But the thing is, learning a new skills can be great for our mental health. Researchers tell us that one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from certain types of dementia is flexing our mental muscles. This includes using our brain in new ways and continually challenging ourselves to learn new things.
But I believe the mental health benefits of learning new skills go beyond the neuropsychological benefits, and include aspects of psychological/emotional health as well.
- Stress. A new hobby can be a great stress reliever. Why? Because it helps us break out of our normal patterns of behavior. And even better it gives our brains something to think about other than the same old same old worries (lack of money, annoying boss, unruly children). My latest stress-busting hobby? Sewing! Seriously, it has given me a new outlook on life. And managing my sewing-machine phobia was super easy with sites like this.
- Fun. I wrote a post earlier in the week about cheap and easy de-stressors. One of the tips was to have fun. Sounds simple enough, but in fact, many of us adults (and moms in particular) forget what fun is somewhere between managing chores, meals, and running kids around to soccer practice. Learning a new skill can be a way to incorporate fun back into your life. Skiing, cooking, race-walking – what’s going to get your heart pounding with joy again?
- Social. Connecting with others is a fantastic way to reduce stress and improve your mental health. Venting about a rough day, connecting over a shared experience, and being a support for others are all important. What better way to beef up your social life than to pick up a new hobby and share it with other people? Sites like Meet-up can be a great way to meet other people with your interests – from sewing to archery.
What new skill are you going to tackle?