According to a new study into the UK’s online learning habits, taking an online course doesn’t just have the potential to help our careers – more than three quarters (77%) of the people who learn online recognise the benefits to their personal wellbeing and mental health.
Thanks to the wonderful world that is the internet, there are so many extra skills and talents we can learn and develop from the comfort of our own home.
Whether it’s learning a new language to boost your networking abilities, grasping the basics of coding to give you a greater understanding of the web or studying a new art technique just for the fun of it, taking part in online courses is a great way to broaden our minds and develop our curiosity.
Of course, one of the primary reasons why so many of us use online courses is to develop skills which will help us in our careers. According to a new study released by think-tank Demos and supported by Google, two thirds of the UK workforce use online learning to help their work, but only one in five do so under the recommendation of their employers.
When you learn about the economic benefits of this behaviour, however, it’s not hard to see why so many of us are being proactive when it comes to developing our skills: according to the report, which surveyed the online learning habits of 20,000 UK citizens, online learning boosts the average UK annual pay by £3,640, equivalent to a pay-rise of £2 an hour. One in three people have also used online learning to help them get a new job, the data suggests.
All of this is, of course, fantastic news. In our digital world, it’s easier than ever to take the direction of our careers’ into our own hands – and pursue the topics and skills which intrigue us the most.
But, as suggested by the data in this new report, there’s another – perhaps rather surprising – benefit to online learning: it’s improving our mental health. According to the study, more than three quarters of people who learn online (77%) recognise the benefits to their personal wellbeing. And this number was consistent across every demographic – no matter what subject someone learns about, whether they’re doing it to further their career or simply for a hobby, or whether the online course provided them with any material benefits, the act of learning in itself was enough to boost mental health.
This isn’t the first time learning – specifically curiosity – has been linked to a boost in wellbeing. As Lucy Hackshaw, leadership futurist and executive coach at Flux previously explained to Stylist, approaching the world with a curious mindset has the potential to help us manage our stress levels and avoid burnout.
“Curiosity has many benefits. It helps us see problems as opportunities and it enables ‘flow’, which encourages creative and strategic thinking to problem solve and adapt,” she said. “Humans are born curious, keen to explore, and to seek new and novel ways of doing things. But curiosity needs to be cultivated, especially in today’s society where cognitive overload and burnout are rife.
“Cultivating curiosity can help us off the path to burnout both in work life and our day to day lives. It can help us to restore a sense of calm, increase creativity and develop an entrepreneurial mindset.”
So next time you’re struggling with low mood, or feel like you’re lacking in motivation, why not give online learning a go? There are plenty of free and paid courses out there to satisfy your curiosity: taking a course with The Open University or watching a YouTube tutorial are both valid versions of online learning, they just demand different levels of commitment.
And if you’re not sure where to start, you could always give Yale’s world-famous happiness class a go, or take a look at our guide to the online courses which could help your career the most.