Keeping life fresh is hugely important to our mental well-being. That means creating situations where we are challenged and inspired, continually striving to learn and develop new skills.
As children we are learning all the time, absorbing information from our environment and developing vital sociality. In adult life it can sometimes be hard to find the inspiration or impetus to actively engage in new activities. Mental roadblocks get in our way, thoughts like “I’m too old to learn to play the piano”, or “I’ll never be any good at cooking”.
If we can push past these negative attitudes however, studies have shown that learning and discovery – in pretty much any capacity – can be hugely beneficial to our self-esteem, sense of competence, and overall outlook on the world. Setting goals for ourselves creates a framework for mental reward. Working towards an activity that is in line with our values allows us to feel those values as a real, tangible presence in the world. Learning a new language, taking up a sport, learning to cook, or playing a musical instrument all offer a fresh and exciting world of challenges for us to embark upon. As we progress and develop our skills, the sense of increased competence we feel can be a great boost to our self-worth, while giving us a sense of purpose that is unique to us as an individual.
Learning anything new is also a fantastic exercise in humility, a lesson in quieting our ego. Anyone who embarks on a journey into a new field will inevitably be met early on with failure, frustration, and disappointment. Yet it is only when we can learn to sit with those feelings and see them as a vital part of the process that we can begin to make real progress. This is a fantastic tool for developing emotional resilience that stands us in good stead for all aspects of life.
It might take a while to find something that we truly love and want to engage in, yet learning about ourselves through doing is one of the most profound educational experiences available to us. We might try out a hundred different challenges before finding the one that speaks to us; the key is to listen to ourselves and know where our real passion lies. Having the energy and wherewithal to get up and at least try is a hugely important part of the journey. More often than not, once we take that tiny first step we might even start to feel better already.