The Benefits of Being a Lifelong Learner
By Emma Parkhurst, Extension Assistant Professor
Many of us spent the entirety of our youth and adolescence learning. Whether it was learning how to multiply or how to ride a bike, it seems like we were constantly engaging our brains. Mental health can be impacted by many different things, and research shows that being intentional about learning throughout the lifespan has a positive impact. Therefore, it is important for us as adults to continue pursuing opportunities to learn in order to benefit our overall mental health and well-being.
What is a lifelong learner?
According to the dictionary, a lifelong learner is someone who pursues both formal and informal opportunities to continually develop and improve one’s knowledge and skills for both employment and personal fulfillment. The act of learning can look different to everyone – to some it may be returning to school, taking stand-alone workshops, using an app to learn a new language or simply learning how to make the newest trendy meal, what really matters is that it is something you find useful, interesting, meaningful or enjoyable. When we dedicate time to voluntarily engage in learning opportunities, research shows our mental health can flourish.
Mental health benefits
- Self-esteem and confidence: adult learning has been shown to increase self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy throughout the lifespan, but may be most effective when the concepts or skills are meeting a need for the learner. It also increases confidence in our ability to learn and to share the information with others, and gives us a sense of purpose.
- Cognition and memory: as we age, it is common to experience a mental decline which may affect our memory. Research shows that continuing to learn throughout the lifespan may reduce our risk of dementia as we age and keep the mind sharp.
- Social connection: research shows that most people are likely to find connections with like-minded people that share similar interests. Engaging in lifelong learning can present opportunities to develop new relationships with other learners, or to nurture existing connections by sharing or exchanging knowledge.
- Positivity and accomplishment: some experts suggest that setting and achieving goals and learning new skills can lead to positive feelings of accomplishment. People engaged in learning report feeling better about themselves and a greater ability to cope with stress, as well has feeling a greater sense of hope and purpose.
Becoming a lifelong learner
If you are ready to start your journey as a lifelong learner, there are different ways to get started. One of the easiest and least expensive ways is to access self-learning resources is on the internet. There are videos available on websites like TED.com, podcasts on about any topic you can think of, and of course, there is social media with micro-learning opportunities, such as “quick tip” or “did you know” videos or posts. As you navigate through any self-learning resource, try to be aware of who is providing the educational content to make sure it is legitimate and accurate.
Another great resource when looking for opportunities to learn something new is USU Extension. We provide both informal and formal learning opportunities through in-person and online classes, events, and activities. There are workshops and webinars on financial wellness, gardening, beekeeping, nutrition, food preservation, and more – you name it! Visit your local County Extension Office website or Facebook page to see what classes are currently being offered.
Marjan, L. (2012). Benefits of lifelong learning. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 46 (2012) 4268 – 4272.
Sabates, R. & Hammond, C. (2008). The Impact of Lifelong Learning on Happiness and Well-being. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/32125048/The_Impact_of_Lifelong_Learning_on_Happiness_and_Well_being
Living Well AU: Keep on learning. Retrieved from https://livingwell.org.au/well-being/five-ways-to-mental-wellbeing/keep-on-learning/#:~:text=It%20can%20boost%20self%2Dconfidence,self%20confidence%2C%20hope%20and%20purpose.
University of Cincinnati: New Year, New You: 4 reasons to become a lifelong learner for the New Year. Retrieved from https://www.uc.edu/news/articles/2022/01/4-reasons-to-become-a-lifelong-learner-for-the-new-year.html#:~:text=It's%20good%20for%20your%20brain%20and%20your%20mental%20health.&text=Research%20shows%20mental%20activity%20could,hope%20and%20feelings%20of%20competency