Julie Morris: It’s Never Too Late to Learn a New Skill or Hobby

Author: Julie Morris

Making time to “indulge” in a hobby or learn a new skill is not a waste of time. Hobbies provide structure and opportunities to socialize and meet new people, give you more to talk about in your daily conversations, add depth to what makes you you, and provide an outlet for stress-relief.  Building new skills promotes a sense of accomplishment and pride, develops your knowledge, and even enhances your learning potential.

When you learn and practice a new skill, your brain’s myelin—or white matter—becomes more dense, which enhances knowledge acquisition. Plus, your learning speed increases as more neural pathways form. Some studies even show that people who consistently learn new skills and hobbies are less likely to develop dementia and more likely to slow cognitive aging.

Looking for something new?

The internet offers a wealth of opportunities to build skills, thanks to YouTube tutorials, Udemy, and how-to videos for nearly every industry. Learn how to draw or solve a Rubik’s Cube. Improve your chess strategy or your piano prowess. Take a photography masterclass or polish those sewing skills.

Whether you’re hoping to broaden your horizons, add to your marketability, create more experiences with your partner, or you just enjoy learning new things, try these ideas:

Become a speed reader. By increasing your reading speed while simultaneously improving your retention, think about what you could accomplish in less time.

Become a do-it-yourselfer. It’s time consuming—and counterproductive—to wait for someone to come fix an issue in your home. But what if you learned how to do basic home repairs? If you own your home, it’s not a bad idea to learn some of the basics; DIY Pete and Home Made Modern provide great inspiration for projects around the house.

Become a better cook. You don’t need to cook a four-course meal every night, but the Food Network and online cooking classes are perfect for learning a few new skills or incorporating a shortcut or two into your meal prep.

Become a coder. Want to branch out into the technology world, develop the next great smartphone app, or learn to build websites from scratch? Learn to code. There are a wealth of free online resources to grow your skills, like Code Academy. Best of all, anyone, from about age five and up, can learn to code.

Exploring and cultivating hobbies & skills during addiction recovery

Researchers have found that the longer you stay sober in recovery, the more likely you’ll remain sober—so it just makes sense to fill up the time that was originally spent on your addiction with something healthier.

A sober lifestyle doesn’t mean a boring one. There’s also no reason for seniors who are recovering from addiction to sit in rocking chairs, watch the world pass by, and play round after endless round of bingo. Find and explore activities that you enjoy, either on your own or with friends.

For example, get active with dancing. As Treehouse explains, “One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home (provided you have the space) or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way.”

Not quite ready to boogie yet? Go a little slower with yoga, tai chi, or meditation. Plan and plant a garden. Host a weekly or monthly family game night. Classic board games offer plenty of opportunity to socialize and laugh. Check out your local community center—many offer indoor and outdoor activities. Sign up for a cooking class or workshop at the local museum or art center. See whether your local community college offers continuing ed classes in a foreign language, origami, or another passion.

Cultivate a love of lifelong learning

Pursuing hobbies and learning new skills improve our well-being. Creating something, mastering a challenge, and building on prior knowledge all add to feeling pride, excitement, and a sense of accomplishment. New experiences foster mental growth, so think of your brain as a muscle, which needs (and deserves) just as much exercise and stimulation as your body.

To learn more about Julie, visit her website: juliemorris.org

Kacey O'Harra