Don’t wait until a New Year’s resolution to commit to learning a new skill. Research has shown that learning or taking up an activity can help to improve mental well-being and self-esteem. September marks the start of a month-long Festival of Learning, which aims to celebrate the benefits of lifelong learning and inspire more people to have a go at learning for themselves. You don’t need to study in a formal setting, there’s plenty of ways to learn remotely and flexibly and there’s lots of free resources available too. Take a look below for some inspiration about where to start and what to do.
Love a language
Whether you are a complete beginner or can hold a short conversation, learning a language can be achievable for all if you set realistic goals. Rather than focussing on being fluent, set smaller tasks such as reading a newspaper article or understanding a TV show. There are a few online apps that offer bite-sized lessons that you can fit into your busy day. Duolingo is a free app for learning more than 35 languages. You can practice speaking, reading, listening and writing to build your vocabulary and grammar skills.
Hair and beauty
Always wanted to master a French braid or fishtail plait? YouTube and Instagram have top beauty gurus willing to share their secrets. Hair and beauty influencers can demystify much of what is in your makeup draw and teach you techniques to be more confident for everyday and party looks. Recently, there was a big trend which revealed how using a dressing gown cord could get you perfect curls without using any heat. You could even save yourself a few pounds by learning how to do some treatments at home such as eyebrow threading or a perfect pedicure.
Improve your technology skills
Learn to play
Many people include learning to play an instrument on their bucket list but put it off for fear of being too old to grasp the basics. Playing instruments actually stimulates brain activity through simultaneously using sight, hearing, touch and spatial awareness, making it an excellent pastime for all ages. If you don’t want to go down the teacher lesson route, you can learn in your own time with sites such as Ultimate Guitar, where the content is uploaded by other users. Sheet music can be downloaded for free from sites such as 8notes.com or freescores.com.
Boost your career prospects
Learning a new skill can purely be for enjoyment but if you pick the right activity, you can improve your career options too. In fact, remaining employable requires ongoing learning and honing of skills so it is worth checking out online places for adults to gain industry-recognised certificates. Open University’s Open Learn has almost 1,000 free online courses and FutureLearn has hundreds of online courses from top universities and specialist organisations. If your job involves using Google Analytics or search engine optimisation (SEO), check out Google Analytics Academy where you can earn beginner and advance certificates to understand more about the function behind a website or blog.
If you have always thought that you have a book in you somewhere, there are plenty of courses out there to get your creative juices flowing. The Couch to 80k Writing Boot Camp by Tim Clare is a free writing podcast that delivers a complete 8 week fiction writing course over 48 episodes. All it asks of you is ten minutes writing a day and aims to give you the confidence and increased motivation to start your creative writing journey or give you a boost if you have been writing for years.
Benefits of learning a new skill
If you think you are too old for learning, think again. Learning later on in life can actually help to protect the brain against ageing because it promotes neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to develop new neural pathways or connections. Everyday life is constantly evolving so conquering new skills help us to adapt to situations, which in turn keeps us feeling relevant. Being open to learning a new skill will help us to improve our growth mindset and ultimately help us to feel healthier and happier.
Top tips to learn a new skill
- Be clear on your reasons for learning.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Give yourself realistic goals.
- Work to a deadline.
- Aim for good enough.
- Don’t expect brilliance immediately.
- Consider your learning style and work to best suit it.
- Use a mentor or friends to share your progress.
- Have fun.