A friend of mine recently told me how she had been surprised by their tenant, Michael, who lives in a cottage on their premises. He is a young, very active person in his mid-twenties with an outgoing personality. His friends visit him often, he loves to go out and sometimes he comes home at the early hours of the morning. When the decision of the lockdown was announced a few weeks ago, my friend was wondering how Michael would cope with being cooped up inside for so long without any personal contact, apart from herself and her husband. But as time went by, she became more and more impressed with his level of self-understanding by employing a new skill to help him cope with the situation that does not necessarily cater for his outgoing personality.

 

A few weeks ago, Michael met someone at the gym who sparked an interest in gymnastics in him. One day before lockdown, someone brought him some equipment and showed him how to use it. My friends have a small property, so there are not many options to exercise. Michael has built a set of rings over the entrance gate to do pull-ups. Over the last few weeks, he practiced handstands against the garden wall, did push-ups, and very funnily, even attempted some splits.

 

Michael’s mastery of a new skill has benefits that go way beyond physical health and athleticism: 1. The more he practises the new skill, the more the neural pathways in his brain are changing, which helps him to learn even better and faster. 2. Although Michael seems to already be an interesting guy, the new skill will make him even more interesting and that can contribute to connecting with other interesting people. 3. The new skill keeps Michael busy, which helps to fight boredom and keep his mind occupied. 4. By learning a new skill, his mind and perceptions are changing, which makes it easier to adapt to changing situations, such as a lockdown. 5. Mastering the new skill creates a sense of accomplishment and pride, which helps to build confidence and lead to higher levels of happiness and emotional wellbeing.

 

Trying out a new skill helps us learn how to fail. Being a keen follower of MasterChef Australia, I have recently tried to make panna cotta. It was an inedible disaster. But you know what, the failed attempt has invited me to try out some other desserts, which looked and tasted much better. I have built some new pathways in my brain, I’m a little bit more motivated when it comes to cooking and baking – very much to the surprise of my family - and above all, I keep on learning.