Want to feel more self-confident, active and enthused? A new study suggests that taking an evening course can make you feel more satisfied with your life. And it doesn’t seem to matter what course you choose.
Researchers at Oxford University studied people who took one of seven different adult education evening classes. The weekly classes spanned a period of seven months and were divided into three areas: singing, crafts and creative writing.
The attendees filled in a questionnaire at the beginning of the course, half-way through and at the end. These questionnaires showed a definite improvement in wellbeing for the majority of students.
“The students reported benefits including increased self-confidence, a greater feeling of control over their lives and more willingness to take on new challenges. Some said the classes made them more motivated to be more active, despite the classes not specifically involving physical activity,” Dr Eiluned Pearce, Oxford University
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Learning Or Belonging?
While students in the craft classes benefited, those in the creative writing and singing classes reported the most improvement in satisfaction. This is likely to be due to quicker and better bonding within those groups. So, how to test this assumption?
The students were asked to name the other people in their class, whether they felt connected to each person and if they had talked to that person during class. While all of the classes bonded to a degree, the creative writing and singing classes bonded faster than those in the craft classes.
“The results showed that those in the singing and creative writing groups built up relationships with other individuals more quickly than the crafters, and singers felt more connected to the class as a whole more quickly than both the other groups,” Dr. Pearce
The researchers believe that singing acts as an ice-breaker which quickly builds relationships. Perhaps evening classes can make us happier by simply pushing us into making friends. And the quicker you have to show your skill level, the quicker you bond with others. I’d imagine that the singers and creative writers would have to share their abilities and weaknesses earlier than the craft students.
Not everyone felt better however. Some felt worse due to negatively comparing themselves with others on the course.
Of course, an extra benefit from taking an evening course is learning or honing a skill. The reason you took the course in the first place! Getting better at anything will boost your self-confidence and doing it in a communal setting will strengthen your social network. So maybe these findings are not unexpected. Still, you probably should ensure that you have some aptitude in the course. If you are tone deaf or have two left thumbs then the singing or craft class may not be for you…
Have you started an adult education class? Or are you inspired to try one?
University of Oxford – Health benefits of evening classes revealed
Taylor & Francis – Participants’ perspectives on the social bonding and well-being effects of creative arts adult education classes
Wiley – Is Group Singing Special? Health, Well-Being and Social Bonds in Community-Based Adult Education Classes
Sage Journals – Tuning in to others: Exploring relational and collective bonding in singing and non-singing groups over time
Learning A New Skill This Way Makes You Happier & Healthier