Learning can be exciting and open the door to lots of new experiences. Maybe you're curious and want to explore your local history, visit a museum or discover a new craft. Or you might try new recipes that you find online, listen to interesting podcasts or join a course to learn a new language.
You might think learning sounds like school or college, but it doesn't have to be serious or hard to do. You can learn in a way that suits you and choose what appeals to you.
What you will learn in this section:
Why is learning good for my mental health?
We all remember being children and learning new skills and having new experiences. We might have been encouraged to be curious and explore the world around us. As adults, we sometimes forget that learning can be fun and doesn't have to be work-related.
Having a mind open to knowledge and experiences can have great benefits for everyone, no matter what age we are.
It can help us to:
- Give ourselves a challenge.
- Find new skills or interests.
- Increase our skills or knowledge in an area we're already interested in.
- Set a goal and meet that goal – such as learning a language, fixing the garden gate, earning a certificate or cooking a meal.
- Develop our self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Focus our mind, maybe even practise mindfulness or relaxation as we concentrate.
- Be less stressed or worried as we're engaged in new activities.
- Meet people with similar interests and make new friends.
- Enjoy what we're doing and maybe boost our mood too.
- Express ourselves in new ways, especially if we're learning something creative. Singing, acting, writing, painting, dancing or arts and crafts can all help us in this way.
- Explore new places, especially if we're going to a class or finding resources to use.
Learning about mental health and wellbeing can also be helpful. There is a varied selection of books on the Reading Well website, which cover mental health conditions, therapies and approaches, self-help and personal stories. You might be able to find some of the books on their list for free through Leeds Libraries.
Can I learn at home?
You don't have to go anywhere to start learning something new. You can learn online, from a book, read the newspaper or watch a television programme.
Leeds Library Service has online facilities available free to library members, such as reference websites, ebooks, magazines and audiobooks.
You can learn more about mental health and self-help by accessing the varied selection of books on the Reading Well website. These cover mental health difficulties, therapies and approaches, self-help and personal stories. You might be able to find some of the books on their list for free through Leeds Libraries.
The BBC produces programmes with the Open University, available on Freeview television, with a wide range of popular presenters.
The Open University also has free courses online called OpenLearn, with lots of subjects that might be inspiring, challenging or help your career.
You can find lots of free online tutorials, talks and inspiration. You can search for something you're interested in learning about and see what's available.
Even people who don't have a computer or smartphone can get online in Leeds. Your nearest library has computers you can use for free and they can even help you develop your skills. You could try a drop-in session to develop your digital skills or you can find out about other free digital learning in Leeds. 100% Digital Leeds is a movement aiming to make sure everyone in Leeds has the digital skills they need. This means that your local library or community group can even borrow tablet computers to run IT sessions with local people. It's all free, so find why not find out what's going on in your area?
Where can I learn in Leeds?
There's so much going on in Leeds, from friendly, informal classes to bigger challenges helping you make career changes. Everyone can find something to interest them, meet their needs and be affordable. There are also projects offering courses to people who've experienced mental health problems.
Classes and workshops can be friendly and informal and are welcoming to people of all backgrounds, abilities and interests. There are also courses to help you gain qualifications, develop your career or even change jobs.
Leeds Recovery College - the college is encouraging people with experience of mental health challenges and recovery to work with professionals from mental health care, education and community organisations to co-design and co-deliver courses, started in September 2019. See their webpage for a prospectus and enrolment form.
Mentally Healthy Leeds - a public mental health service which promotes good mental health for everyone. The service runs a variety of groups, activities and workshops which can help you get creative and learn new skills. Check out their social media for updates.
Headspace - a free, seven week course run by Oblong that will help you to deal with the tough times in life that happen to us all. Learn techniques for relaxation, coping with stress and positive thinking. Find your strengths, meet new people and get new perspectives. Contact Oblong for upcoming dates in venues across Leeds. Booking is essential.
Swarthmore Centre - runs a range of courses in a friendly, informal environment, from computer skills to art or craft classes, languages to yoga. Course prices vary, with discounts for people on low incomes (proof of benefit needed).
Leeds City College - courses for adult learners wanting to develop their careers or take steps into something new, including Access courses, GCSEs, diplomas and degrees.
East Street Arts - runs short creative courses for adults at different venues in Leeds. They have a variety of classes, and they can be low cost or even free for people on low incomes. See their website for more details.
Lifelong Learning Centre, University of Leeds - supports mature learners to return to education. They offer flexible courses to fit around work or other commitments and usually have free taster sessions available in the summer.
Cultural Community College - run by Slung Low in Holbeck, Leeds, is a place to go and learn, free at the point of use. The activity programme has a wide array of classes and courses for adults aged 18+. There's a variety each term, including cookery, plastering, a choir, writing, self-defence and lots more. Booking is essential.
Jamie's Ministry of Food Leeds - runs eight-week course focusing on basic kitchen and food skills in a fun and engaging way. All classes use Jamie Oliver recipes and resources, specifically developed with nutrition and balance in mind. The classes in Leeds are based in Kirkgate Market and can be low cost for people on benefits. Call them on 0113 242 5685 for more information.
Leeds Cookery School - offers a range of chef-led cookery classes, demonstrations and courses in a training kitchen at The Old Fire Station in Gipton. There are courses for beginners and those with more knowledge.
Creative classes - You can find out more about creative classes on our How can I get creative in Leeds? page.
Leeds Adult Learning website - run by Leeds City Council to help people find courses of all types across Leeds.