Friday, January 22, 2021

Lifelong learning improves healthy mental wellbeing and inspires happiness

By Lorraine Glowczak

Windham Raymond Adult Education offers more
than 300 various learning opportunities annually
including how to speak English, complete a high
school credential, become a U.S. citizen, prepare
to go on to post-secondary education or training, 
or learn to hunt, paint, cook and many more.

“I am still learning.”

This quote has been attributed to several well-known geniuses such as Michelangelo and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Although they may have uttered and written those words during their lifetimes, the first known individual to capture the idea and importance of lifelong learning was the Roman philosopher, statesman and dramatist, Seneca. He wrote this often-quoted statement in a Letter to Lucilius, published around the year 65 AD, when he was almost 70 years old.

Although the perception is changing, it is widely believed that learning stops once the diploma, certification or degree is obtained. But this could not be further from the truth. In order to keep up with the ever-changing world, we constantly need to learn. However, there are many who yearn to continue discovering new things because, as studies have indicated, acquiring additional knowledge inspires creativity, promotes innovation, and increases self-confidence. Life-long learning even contributes to happiness and a healthy state of mental wellbeing.

In his research, U.S. News journalist Philip Moeller has written, “Education has been widely documented by researchers as the single variable tied most directly to improved health and longevity. And when people are intensely engaged in doing and learning new things, their well-being and happiness can blossom.”

Continuing to discover about the world around us also helps us learn more about ourselves, establishing a level of inner growth. It also makes us look at our actions in the world and what motives for those actions.

Tom Nash, Director of Windham/Raymond Adult Education, speaks to this idea from firsthand experience.

“Through my 30-plus years of serving various communities providing learning opportunities to people of all ages as a teacher and Director of Adult Education, I have learned some simple and profound truths,” Nash said. “We engage in learning and personally grow from it as a person, when it is relevant, meaningful and timely. We must also reflect upon those experiences and apply them in our lives for us to truly change.”

But what exactly is life-long learning and what does it look like?

“It can encompass so much,” Nash said. “The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) provides a clear and comprehensive picture of the state of adult learning and education (ALE) around the world. Aspects of education and lifelong learning they determined were of import to seek, to understand, and/or explore in one’s life included: Critical thinking and problem solving, political knowledge and civic engagement, personal development and human dignity, socio-emotional skills, intercultural dialogue and communication, prevention of violent extremism, community empowerment, gender equality, inclusion and equity, human rights, peace, justice and non-violence, globalization, climate change, disaster risk reduction, environmental protection, biodiversity and conservation, sustainable development.

Catherine Giuffre- Renaud, Adult Basic Education Coordinator, who is also from Windham Raymond Adult Education, added to Nash’s explanation.

Lifelong learning entails a desire to continue the pursuit of knowledge in whatever way that feeds the mind, body and soul. It can happen at any time and in any format, whether individually, in a group setting, in person, or virtually.”

But perhaps most importantly, lifelong learning can include just about anything. Nash encourages one to pursue what gives them joy and fills their cup.

“Read a book, play an instrument, practice and perfect your golf-swing, listen to a podcast, or join a live, on-line discussion group about any topic under the sun, engaging in lifelong, informal or formal learning can only help to enhance one’s life. As Shakespeare quipped, “The world is your oyster!” Explore it and you never know what you will discover. If the pearl is not there, alas don’t give up, but rather dig deeper for one knows not what awaits, but the thrill of the adventure and journey is worth it! Keep on seeking newfound truths and joys!”

There are many organizations right here in the Sebago Lakes Region that can provide opportunities to learn and grow – most of which are either free of charge or come with a nominal fee. The Windham Public and the Raymond Village Libraries are two prime examples. Although programming is currently limited due to the pandemic – one can still check out a book to learn a new skill or read something that challenges your point of view.

Also, Windham Raymond Adult Education (WRAE) offers more than 300 various learning opportunities annually. Whether you are seeking to learn how to read or speak English, complete a high school credential, become a U.S. citizen, prepare to go on to post-secondary education or training, learn to be a safe hunter, learn how to paint, prepare an ethnic meal, or take care of your mental and physical health through meditation or exercise classes, WRAE has more than enough opportunities to provide many lifelong learning experiences.

Whichever way one chooses to dive into the adventure of the mind or to uncover new experiences, sit back and watch your life, and your happiness, grow. <

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