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  • Writer's pictureSunset Moth Wellness

Energizing: Learning a new skill for the sake of it

Learning a new skill for fun makes for a great restorative activity. It gives you the opportunity to engage in a hobby that is not strongly tied to achieving outcomes, but rather encourages you to experience child-like wonderment. It’s great for brain health; it increases neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to grow and adapt), improves memory, and, depending on the skill, sharpens hand/eye coordination and reflexes. It gives you a safe space to practice failing and starting again. You can practice laughing at yourself, and experiencing joy. Engaging in experiences that bring you joy always help you to rejuvenate and build resiliency.

What I particular like about this restorative activity, is that it satiates our human need to progress, achieve, and feel pleasure. I know, I just wrote above that this activity is not meant to be tied to achieving. The trick is to choose an activity that is low stakes, interesting, and not all consuming. By all means, set goals, gamify the experience, just don't worry too much about how it all actually turns out. If you find yourself getting stressed and obsessed with achieving, this may not be the best restorative activity for you.

Example: At the beginning of the quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I found myself furloughed, a bit bored, and pretty stressed. I have always been musically inclined and played the violin since I was a kid. Although I enjoy playing the violin, it’s not so easy for me to play only for fun. I struggle to let go of my desire to play it “well” or "correctly". Knowing this about myself and wanting to learn something new that wouldn't be completely foreign to me, I purchased and began learning how to play the ukulele.

My approach from day one has been to play solely for fun and only when I feel like it. I don’t study music theory. I don’t practice scales. I don’t even practice that much in general. What I do is pick a song that sparks my interest, look online to see if there are ukulele chords and tutorials for it, spend about 30-60 minutes practicing, and then audio or video record my progress up to that point. I like to call my recordings “good enough” versions, and let me tell you, some of them are hilarious. Sometimes I make “good enough” recordings to give as gifts and it’s a pretty joyful exchange.

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