“Reading is my escape. It takes me somewhere else and calms me down.”
From the moment we are born, we begin learning new information and skills, and we never stop.
Many of us find learning is a key source of meaning and purpose. Partly this is the pleasure of learning for its own sake, but there are other reasons too. Learning can give us power in our lives. It helps us make connections with likeminded people, and the world around us.
We are all born to learn, and the simple act of learning can boost our mental health.
A closer look
Learning keeps your brain active
Your brain is like your body—it gets stronger when you exercise it. There is a lot of research that suggests learning new skills keeps your brain young and fit, especially when you find the learning somewhat challenging, and persevere to succeed. One study found that a twin who played a musical instrument was 64% less likely to suffer dementia in older age than the twin who did not. (Source)
Learning and education can have a positive effect on wellbeing
In one study, 256 people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression took part in community education. The courses covered a wide variety of topics, from yoga to creative writing. The study found that after completing the courses, most participants reported feeling less isolated during their courses. They also experienced better wellbeing and less severe symptoms, and this improvement lasted for 12 months. (Source)
A learning community brings other health benefits
In Australia, researchers have looked into the social and health benefits of Men's Sheds. Besides wanting to make new friends and be part of a community, learning or passing on skills is one of the key drivers for men joining a local shed. The relationships built from this social learning bring other health benefits as men share personal stories and get trusted information and advice from their friends. (Source)
Learning can help with recovery
If you are recovering from a mental health condition, taking part in an education program can be a great way to rebuild your self-determination, personal responsibility and self-management, as well as experience some positive risk-taking. Establishing a mutually respectful and trusting relationship with an education provider will enable this to occur. (Source)
Students with mental illness face barriers, and need support
People with mental health issues may feel particularly disadvantaged when it comes to vocational training or higher education. This may not just be due to symptoms, but also related factors such as low expectations, stigma, and discrimination. By working with occupational therapists and mental health specialists, people with mental health issues can learn skills and strategies that can help them fulfil their educational and vocational goals. (Source)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).