What are the best ways of working towards good mental health - and maintaining it? The New Economics Foundation (NEF) have put together a list containing five key pieces of advice, called the Five Ways to Wellbeing, designed to promote good mental health and wellbeing.
The five pieces of advice are:
- Be active
- Take notice
- Keep learning
Working to support student wellbeing is a core value of The Student Housing Company, so we’ve put together a series of blog posts with tips based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. In this post, we look at the fourth of the NEF’s messages: keep learning.
Enhance your current studies
Fortunately, students are in the perfect place for this bit of mental health advice - university is all about learning! Well, learning and having fun, tbf. Being surrounded by academia and study resources gives you the perfect opportunity to nourish your brain and expand your knowledge, but you should take the time to make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut of the same old learning routines. There are tweaks you can make to the way you study that will not only boost the value of the work you’re doing, but also have a positive knock-on impact on your mental health. These can include forming a social study group, which has the added benefit of helping you connect with people, (one of the other Five Ways to Wellbeing), or taking a specific approach to goal-setting. Defining your own personal goals and milestones, especially in adult learning, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.
Learn something new
You may already be some way into your degree, which means you might have spent a significant amount of time focusing on one particular topic or specialism. This is great for building up expertise, and the more diligently you study your subject, the better you are likely to do at exam time, but your brain also needs variety, and fresh information, to feel nourished and switched-on. So, it’s important to find opportunities to expose your brain to something new. Next time you go to the library, make the time to visit a different section to the one you normally head to. Take a look at the books and periodicals and try to glean a handful of new facts about a topic area you’ve never studied before. Your brain will thank you for changing things up and feeding it some fresh information. You can take this further if you want, by properly getting stuck into learning a new subject - or even language.
Hobbies and skills
If that all feels like too much work - or too much like work - consider learning a new skill or hobby. Have you ever learned to juggle before? Now is the chance you’ve always been waiting for. Or you could learn to paint, or how to play the guitar, or find out what the rules of chess actually are, if that’s your kind of thing. Whatever suits you, the most important thing is giving your brain something fresh and different to focus on. You could also pick up a new hobby that combines learning and relaxation, such as doing crossword puzzles, from which you will learn loads of new words and obscure facts. All of these ideas have the added benefit of helping you be more mindful - or ‘in the moment’ - and distracting you from any worries that might be on your mind. Mindfulness has been shown to have massive mental health benefits, which is why it features in another of the Five Ways to Wellbeing, encouraging people to ‘take notice’ of what they’re doing.
More tips to keep learning
At university, you’re surrounded by chances to learn. But here are some other things you can do outside of your usual studies.
- Get stuck into reading and form a book group or discussion group
- Attend an event or talk from a society or group you know little about
- Try some number or word puzzles to distract yourself and challenge your brain
- Look through a dictionary or thesaurus on your phone and learn new words
- If you don’t usually do so, buy a newspaper from the shop and read through it
With the January blues in full swing, we want to show some extra love. We’re running our own #5WaysToWellbeing competition this month, offering the chance to win the ultimate night in for you and your flat. Click here to find out more!
The Student Housing Company, at the heart of student wellbeing.