Monday, 8 January 2018

Owen's 5 x 5 Ways of Wellbeing: Part 2

Owen & the team learning about Bilberry Bumblebee habitat with
(far right) Barbara Brown, Radnorshire Wildlife Trust

by Owen Griffkin
Mental Health Participation Support Worker

In Part 1 of my blog series I introduced readers to the Five Ways to Wellbeing and wrote in more detail about the first Way - Connect.

This time I am looking at the second Way - Keep Learning.  A great way to start the New Year!

I recently embarked on an Open University course and have found it really improved my self-confidence and wellbeing. Plus there is always the chance that what I learn might actually come in useful one day in my career, and take my life to unexpected places. (I already went to Wrexham for a one-off lecture, so I suppose you could say that was unexpected). Here’s 5 ways you can challenge yourself whilst adding to your knowledge.

1. The Open University

The Open University is known for providing degree level education which you can complete from the comfort of your own home. They now also provide FREE short courses. These short courses are modules from older courses which are no longer available and offer a great stepping stone into further study. The range of subjects on offer is mind-boggling. As I said above I’ve loved my study - jumping from Stalin to Madonna to Cezanne as subjects has really broadened my horizons.

Click here for a full catalogue of the free courses.

2. Learn a language

There are a host of tools, apps and games to help you learn another language. Experiment with them all and see which one suits your learning style. One I enjoyed playing with my 7 year old daughter was ‘Learn Japanese to Survive’ which taught us both how to write and recognise Hiragana characters. 

For a more serious and FREE language course try these links:

  • Say Something in Welsh 
  • Duolingo
  • Busuu - This is a unique way to learn, as you connect with people around the world who want to learn your language, and you can learn their language. 

 3. Traditional ‘classroom’ courses

The internet is a great tool for those wanting to further their education, but sometimes a traditional bricks-and-mortar establishment might be more beneficial for learning. It can be easier to grasp a concept with a real live tutor helping you, plus the social and collaborative benefits of working with other people in a classroom can help with your wellbeing. When I did my Open University Course I went to a lecture in Wrexham, and I learnt more on that day then in my own online sessions, plus I met some very nice fellow students.

One of the options in Powys is NTPC Group of Colleges, who have colleges all over the county that are open to all.

There is also the U3A - University of the 3rd Age - If you are in your ‘3rd age’, eg: retirement or semi-retirement, than maybe the U3A will be suitable for you. It’s a social and fun way to learn and they have a surprising amount of groups in Powys, including Llandrindod, Welshpool, Newtown and Brecon.

4. Learn an instrument

Bob Duke, the director of the Centre For Music Learning in Texas, argues that learning an instrument is one of the best ways to give your brain a workout. He founded the centre to bring psychologists and neuroscientists together with expert musicians to break down the barriers between disciplines and really explore the physiological benefits of learning an instrument. If you want to read more check out this article - Music and the Brain.

I embarked on an online piano course recently called Skoove and it was great fun. Similar to the Japanese learning tool I mentioned, it presented itself like a game, with achievements and goals to reach, and it’s obvious that this sort of ‘challenge’ type learning suits me. Sit me in front of a piano with a book and I don’t want to know. However, call it Mario Piano and have a virtual Italian plumber teach you how to play, and I’m in.

Again there are many different ways to learn an instrument, including one-to-one tutoring, books, and now a wealth of online tools. Check the free Broad Sheep magazine online and distributed around Powys for some music tutor adverts.

Here are a few links to get you started with online training.

5.  Learn a craft

I’m going to say that this one is not for me. I can see the benefits of it. I can see how self-discipline and creativity and perseverance can combine to produce wonderful pieces of work. It must give you a wonderful sense of well-being and satisfaction to spend time crafting a raw material into something new - moulding a piece of lumpy clay into a beautiful ornament, weaving fabrics together to create a quilt, or a knitted item of clothing that you or a loved one can wear over winter.

Whenever I try to do anything crafty however, it ends up looking awful. Like something a five year old would be embarrassed by. I am quite creative generally, but arts and crafts were never my outlet.

People who do craft, however, do get a huge boost to their well-being from their work, and some crafts can be very easy to master, especially with a good teacher. Maybe this year I will set myself a challenge to learn a craft to a reasonable standard. If anyone has any ideas as to what this could be then reply to this post.

For those who are naturally better at arts and crafts than me there are lots of places you can learn crafts here in Powys, and many of these groups/courses are brilliant for socialising as well.

I’ll be back with another set of ideas in my next blog post but if you have any ideas or activities of your own that I haven’t covered please reply to this post with some details.

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