How Learning a New Language Can Help You Fight Depression
Multiple studies have shown that the benefits of language learning are vast. You’ve probably read how learning a new tongue can benefit your brain, create a wider berth of opportunities, and allow you to better enjoy different cultures from around the globe. However, little is usually said about the emotional benefits of language learning, despite research showing that acquiring this type of knowledge can have some of the greatest effects on the emotional well-being of the learner.
Referred to as the ‘common cold’ of mental illness, depression affects nearly 10% of Americans every year. Those who suffer from depression can experience a variety of symptoms ranging from loss of appetite to intense feelings of hopelessness, all of which can severely sway their day to day lives. And whether it impacts you a few times throughout your lifetime or you find yourself fighting it for decades on end, knowing that there are options out there to help you in your daily battle can help ease the weight that depression imposes on its victims.
Language learning, believe it or not, is an excellent method for combatting the overwhelming emotions which accompany depression. One of the gloomy aspects of depression is that it shrinks your world. Suddenly, due to your illness, your scope and view of everything around you is drastically curbed and changed, and this can intensify feelings of despair. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts language knowledge offers, then, is that it allows all those who pursue it a wider view of the world. Doors and windows open, and you are offered a glimpse outside of your own small circle and into cultures and possibilities you never knew existed before. Learning Spanish, French, or Mandarin doesn’t let your world collapse upon you, instead it holds it up and forces it to grow.
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As your world grows, the need to communicate more widely grows with it, but this can be one of the most intimidating aspects for individuals with depressive disorders to face. Many times, depression can create a communication stigma for those suffering from it, causing them to dread carrying on even simple conversations. The lack of control the sufferer has over the direction the conversation can take or what the other person will say can also significantly contribute to communication anxiety, often causing the individual to shut down or isolate themselves from others. Language lessons counteract this by offering the semblance of control the learner craves. You know that your weekly language class lasts exactly one hour; therefore you know when it will begin and end. Your interaction is forced but controlled, helping you to step out of your shell without feeling overwhelmed.Image via PhotoPin
Furthermore, language lessons can reaffirm the human connection which many individuals suffering from mental illnesses often look upon as impossible or extremely difficult to attain. First-hand accounts reveal that relationships formed during language learning are considered uncomplicated. For example, people understand that when doing language exchange or carrying on a conversation with fellow students, both parties stand to gain from the connection, yet it never moves past the superficial. Individuals aren’t required to talk at length or deeply about themselves, and most questions are straight-forward and only scratch the surface of each person’s psyche, creating a safe space for those who lack the energy to invest deeply into human relationships due to depression or anxiety.
With so many emotional benefits to language learning, it’s surprising that only a small number of the some 350 million global citizens who grapple with depressive disorders know and understand its importance. Many often overlook it, thinking that seeking out language classes is a complicated or tiring process. Luckily, this is not true. Finding excellent language classes is a breeze these days and online tools like free placement tests can be a great place to start if you’re not ready for human interaction quite yet. Remember, the benefits of learning a foreign tongue are all encompassing, and you can benefit from them physically, mentally, and emotionally for the rest of your life!