21 May THE LINK BETWEEN LIFE-LONG LEARNING AND WELLBEING
No wonder experts consider learning to be essential to a rounded life. In fact, it is so important that “Keep Learning” is one of the New Economic Foundation’s (NEF) Five Ways to Wellbeing along with “Connect, “Be Active”, “Take Notice” and “Give”. There’s something about mastering a new skill that feels so good. Any kind of learning can boost your wellbeing, not just a practical one, and there’s a growing pile of research to prove it.
Studies have found that learning throughout our lives can improve self-esteem and increase life-satisfaction, optimism and belief in our own abilities. It can even help people with depression and anxiety. Some doctors’ practices actually prescribe education as part of the treatment package.
A Vital Need
Human beings have three basic needs:
All three are closely related to higher self-esteem: knowing that you’re having a positive impact on the world.
Learning, especially language learning, addresses capability. It can boost your self-esteem and show you that you can master things. But it also builds that sense of independence and a lot of language learning happens in groups and with other people, which means if done well, people can also build relationships!
Of course, it is not all about passing exams or getting certificates. Learning for the sake of learning is just as important and actually has higher reported links to wellbeing in adults. This is especially evident when people learning a new language can use it in their everyday lives.
Sign up for that course, set yourself a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning a new language will make you more confident as well as being great fun.
For some of us, this will come quite naturally. A love of learning builds strength of character. Commitment, tenacity, organization and a willingness to take risks are all required for learning. According to the VIA Institute, an American non-profit organization founded on the principles of positive psychology, adding to knowledge comes under the category of Wisdom. It’s about people engaging in what they are passionate about, explains Dr. Ryan Niemiec, the VIA’s education director who is a psychologist and a coach. For some people, this could be through self-study or virtual classes, whereas others may take courses in the classroom.
By identifying a love of learning as strength, you can begin to apply it in your life in a more deliberate way, earning yourself another wellbeing boost into the bargain.
“Research shows that using one of your signature strengths in a new way each day is associated with an increase in happiness and a decrease in depression,” says Niemiec.
So how can we keep that life-long student within us alive? Niemiec suggests that the best place to start is to discover what language interests you, then ask yourself where that will lead you. It might be that you have to rely on other strengths to develop a love of learning, like perseverance to stick with it and to keep overcoming any obstacles. Ask yourself, how can I use my other strengths to boost that love of learning?
Shape your Own Path
Set yourself goals that are in harmony with your own personal values.
This is an important element that is positively linked with wellbeing. In fact, if objectives are set by others, this will translate into pressure and reduce motivation. It also helps to understand how you learn best and to make sure that your targets are both manageable and achievable. A report by the Institute of Education at the University of London indicated that there are potential negative effects on wellbeing if the learning is too difficult that it raises expectations that can’t be met.
There is a sense of having a challenge to meet and being able to meet it. This is important in the work place; a good job is one that stretches you but is achievable.
Don’t forget the important social benefits that come from joining a class of like-minded people too. The right setting is vital for learning to be successful. It’s about providing a warm and supportive environment with enthusiastic and empathetic teachers. Even self-study courses these days encourage interaction such a quizzes and voice recognition tools. Look out for extra opportunities to meet up with language enthusiasts such as coffee with a friend to teach each other your own native language. Some institutes even offer free cultural exchange events whereby students can exchange language tips for free.
Courses also need to be fun. With the fun element of the course and the framework of learning secure but not too rigid, people quickly enjoy the freedom to learn and express themselves in a new foreign language.