Learning new things doesn't just help you. Yes, you get an added boost of mental health, get new experiences and insights but you also help those around you by learning something new. Benefit yourself, your friends and family (and your community) and learn five new things this year. Not sure what to learn next? Think of your interests and future plans, and see if you can tie them in with learning something new in one of these five areas.
Learn a skill
Learning a new skill is one of the best things you can do to keep your brain sharp and engaged. It should be something mentally challenging, but it doesn't have to be academic or educational. According to a study by Dr Denise Park, older people who learned new activities (such as digital photography and quilting) showed marked improvements in memory tests and cognitive function a year later. This site devoted to mental, emotional and social health, suggests that we can help prevent or delay the onset of dementia by learning 'something new and unfamiliar to create new brain pathways'. Get going and find a new skill to learn this year.
Learn a language
According to Alzheimers.net, another study has shown that speaking two languages can also help prevent and delay dementia. Apart from benefiting your mental health, think about how speaking another language will benefit your life. You would be able to communicate with people from a very different background or culture. If your plans for the future include foreign travel, it can make your trip really special to be able to chat in the local language, even if you're far from fluent. Start learning a new language through a class, or online using a free program such as DuoLingo or Memrise.
Feel like you're just not the bilingual type? Consider learning American Sign Language instead. It will open up great new opportunities for volunteering or even paid work.
Learn about a person who is very different from you
Volunteer for an organization that will put you in contact with someone you would never normally meet. It could be a homeless shelter, a refugee center or a non-profit helping abused women or teenage moms.
You could also consider hosting an orphaned child or teen from a different country or culture, through an organization such as New Horizons For Children. Experiences like that can change your whole perspective on life and give you with new insight and increased compassion.
Learn a trade
There's never been a better time to learn a trade or at least a marketable skill. In an uncertain economy, everyone can benefit from an increased skill set to help enhance your resume.
It's easy to find ways to learn anything from art and design to computer coding, to fitness instruction. Many online courses are free through sites such as Cousera or FutureLearn, or you can find a class in your local community and make some new, like-minded friends at the same time. Once you have your new trade or marketable skill, you can consider freelancing in your spare time, setting up a part-time home based business, or applying for better paid jobs where your new skill will be of value.
Learn something technical
It's easy to get left behind with all the new gadgets out there, but many new technologies really are enhancing the lives of people of all ages. Learn to use a new device, social media platform, app or software that will make your life easier or let you work or socialize more easily.
Many local community centers and libraries offer classes and workshops to help people in their community learn new tech skills. If you have older kids (or grandkids) this is a great way to bond; let them teach you about a new social site or how to use the latest device.
Don't let another year pass you by without reaching out to learn something completely new. The sense of achievement will be worth the effort.