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The Healing Powers of Learning Something New

Learning New Things

We all have the potential to make tiny changes in our lives. From building fitness, to learning a language or how to dance, through to practicing meditation or yoga. The possibilities are endless.

It’s strange but we tend to under-estimate the benefits of mastering a new skill or activity. For example, about 15 years ago, a fascinating study looked at the progress of 156 adults who were experiencing significant depression. For four months, one group were given anti-depressant medication whereas another group were given 30-minute aerobic exercise classes three times per week. At the end of the treatment both groups showed a good recovery. However, six months after this ‘treatment’ ended it was clear that those people who had done the exercise were far less likely to have slipped back into depression. The researchers, at Duke University in North Carolina, commented that one of the reasons that the exercisers did better was that taking the exercise classes had given them a sense of ‘personal mastery and positive self-regard’. In other words, they felt better about themselves because they had achieved something, and this changed the way they thought about themselves. The exercise was giving them something that the tablets could not give – a sense of empowerment.

This isn’t too surprising. We know that learning new skills can give us confidence. We get a sense of achievement, and if other people see this we get recognition and praise. So, whether you are depressed or not it is often worth taking on a new challenge. Taking on something small and building up gradually, can really give you a lift. Whether it’s learning to paint or sing, or taking up line-dancing, or whatever it is that takes your fancy, it really is worth exploring.

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