Learning a new language can lead to a happier, healthier you

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 (14-20 May) is fast approaching. The Mental Health Foundation hosts the initiative and this year they’re hoping to tackle stress and contribute towards improving the nation’s mental health.

Research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes.  Young people emerged as being most likely to suffer, with 70 per cent of 18-34 year-olds saying they had experienced such problems.

To mark the awareness-raising event, we’re exploring whether or not learning a second language can help to improve our overall wellbeing. It’s already been established that being bilingual is extremely beneficial; with reports suggesting it even delays the onset of dementia. We want to uncover how the journey of learning a second language can also positively contribute.

Without further ado here’s our top three reasons why learning a new language can help combat issues like stress, depression and anxiety.

It’s new

Our brains are fundamentally designed to acquire and establish new skills.  The basic truth is that the more you learn the more your brain can continue learning. Just like your muscles… the more you run the further you can run, the more you lift weights the heavier the weights you can lift.  The brain works identically, so by learning a second language you’re feeding your brain exactly what it needs.

According to a new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, learning a language before the age of 10 is the best time to acquire skills similar to that of a native speaker. However, that’s not to say learning a language in adulthood is impossible; people older than 18 can still learn to speak a new language fluently, but it is unlikely to ever be at quite the same level of a true native.  No matter what your age, surely it’s worth a try?

Other than the odd French or Spanish class in high school, many of us would find learning a second language a completely new experience.  While that’s daunting it can also be very exciting, lifting spirits and giving our minds something tangible to focus on.

It helps you to grow your network

An amazing way to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing is by connecting with others, establishing relationships and sharing experiences.

Choosing to learn a language in a group setting can be a great way to do this, pushing doors wide open for new people to enter your life. You’ll instantly make acquaintances and who knows, in time, new friends.

Once you’ve picked up a few phrases you’ll be able to put what you’ve learnt into practice, growing your network even further…literally further! Travelling to the country of your chosen language and developing friendships with people you would never meet without your new language, you’ll be surprised how warm and welcoming people can be when you greet them in their native tongue.

As the phrase goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”… the doors you open may just lead to doors being opened for you!

It helps you break the norm

For many an established routine is essential to living a stress free life. However, there are many of us looking for a little more work-life balance and a break from reality, a challenge and something brand new to focus on. Submersing yourself in a new hobby can be a successful way to wave goodbye to everyday stresses.

It goes without saying that breaking away from normality and learning a new language can be challenging. You’ll have to develop knowledge of grammar, diction and vocabulary all of which can be complicated. What’s more challenging and even more rewarding is overcoming personal fears.

Richard Daniel Curtis, leading behaviour expert and founder of The Mentoring School re-iterates the importance of spending time away from our everyday workplaces:

“The modern workplace can play havoc with our hormone system.  As we get more stressed the level of cortisol rises, over time maintaining the body at an elevated level of cortisol is bad and has a physiological impact.  At the same time as we strive to keep going and get our work done, the hormone dopamine is released.  Generally dopamine is a pleasure-seeking drug that is counteracted by the release of opioids when you achieve something. However, in a stressful environment these times can be few and far between, leading to a build up in dopamine levels, resulting in someone constantly checking emails, messages and seeking the next thing.

It is important that you spend time away from these environments in order to allow the hormone levels to return to normal. Doing activities you enjoy, hobbies or developing new interests help that to occur naturally.”

As we get older and the fear of stepping out of our comfort zone seems to creep in a little more than it should, learning a new language gives you the opportunity to do so. Giving you the chance to challenge yourself and to flex those mental muscles, helping you to find work/life balance and fulfilment.

Too few of us are taking advantage of these benefits and we really want to be a part of changing that. If our points above have inspired you and you’re hoping to find out more about learning a new language, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email info@lsi.edu.