10 hobbies and skills to help you grow as a person

Self-improvement is something that many of us desire. Learning new skills, changing your lifestyle and adopting a new way of thinking can open up lots of doors in life. Here are 10 skills that could improve your quality of life and help you grow as a person this year.

1 – Communicate

How many of us wish that we had paid more attention in our language lessons at school? Becoming fluent in another language is something that tops many people's to do list and it's easy to understand why. Learning a new language can not only open up job opportunities, help you to make new friends and guide you on your travels, but there is also evidence that it can improve your health. Languages can be complicated and retaining all that information is a real cognitive workout, which has led some scientists to suggest it can improve your memory and delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Research showed that out of 684 people tested with dementia, 391 who were bilingual experienced symptoms of dementia 4.5 years later than those who spoke only one language alone.

2 – Become a bookworm

In a world where we can watch movies at our fingertips and immerse ourselves in video games, it's easy to forget the simple pleasure of reading a good book. Obviously, there's plenty to learn from reading books, but it's also a good way to wind down after a long day and unlike staring at the blue light of a computer or mobile phone screen, it is actually good for your sleep patterns.

Like learning to speak a foreign language, the mental stimulation of reading a book can help keep your cognitive skills in check, slowing the progress of illnesses like Alzheimer's and Dementia. It also expands your vocabulary and has been shown to improve analytical skills. So you should try your best to read something every day.

Here are 5 powerful books which are recommended for those of you seeking serious self improvement:

  1. The 4-Hour Workweek - Timothy Ferriss

    This book offers guidance on making your days more efficient so that you have time to do the things that you actually enjoy.

  2. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

    A practical guide for achieving your goals, Pressfield raises the question of what stops so many of us from doing what we really want to do and outlines a roadmap to overcoming creative blocks.

  3. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

    In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell analysed how all big things can happen from tiny initial changes. In Outliers, he explains how, more often than not, success is created by grit and perseverance not pure talent.

  4. The Dip – Seth Godin

    The Dip by marketing guru Seth Godin sold more than 100,000 copies in its first month alone. Using such examples as Microsoft, the space shuttle programme and Butch Cassidy, he explains how you can identify when to quit and when to stick with a project.

  5. The Chimp Paradox – Steve Peters

    Another #1 best seller, the Chimp Paradox offers readers an insight into how the brain works. Explaining that our 'inner chimp' which looks out for our basic survival can if left unmanaged wreak havoc with our behaviour, personality and our life goals.

3 – Reap what you sew

In the UK, good weather tends to be in short supply so it's easy to understand why as a nation we put so much effort into keeping our gardens looking great so that when the sun does shine we can enjoy them to their full potential. What are some of the other reasons for gardening?

  • A pleasant and easy to maintain garden is something that could really help to sell your home, should you decide to put it on the market
  • Gardening can be a real workout and you could burn as many as 300 calories per hour
  • Gardening can be a good way to unwind after a stressful day
  • Gardening rewards patience and helps you to think creatively
  • It is also a good way to become self sufficient by growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs

4 - Move your feet

Learning to dance is one hobby that has seen a huge resurgence in recent years following the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent and it's estimated that as many as 4.8 million people attend dance classes and groups across the country.

Dancing is suitable for people of all ages and abilities and there are lots of different styles for you to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Salsa
  • Street dance
  • Zumba
  • Flamenco
  • Ceroc dancing
  • Ballet
  • Contemporary
  • Bollywood
  • Tap
  • Irish traditional
  • Modern Jazz

Dancing is an easy hobby to get into and doesn't require much money to get started, just comfortable clothes and shoes and a small amount towards the cost of the lesson. If you're looking for a class in your area then start by searching the Dance UK website.

5 – Find your rhythm

Despite what you might think, it's never too late to learn to play a musical instrument and it's among one of the easiest hobbies to pick up. Where in the past learning a new instrument meant finding a tutor in the phone book, you can now become very proficient just by using the internet. YouTube has videos from thousands of tutors who will teach you how to play to a good standard and picking up a guitar or even a drum kit doesn't have to be expensive. Search around on websites like Gumtree, eBay, Pre-loved and in newspaper classifieds and you should be able to pick up one for a good price.

The actual physical job of learning to play an instrument improves your coordination and teaches perseverance, but you can also develop in other ways. The theory of music can be quite complex and can improve your reading and mathematical skills.

6 – Tell a story

If you are looking for a long term project that will be a complex challenge then writing a novel is the place to start. Novels tend to take anywhere from around 6 months to a year to write, presuming that you have a flexible schedule, but if you have a good idea and a passion for writing then don't let that stop you. If you're new to writing and want advice on how best to approach writing a novel, then contact the Open University who offer a free creative writing course.

7 – Lend a hand

Volunteering is one of the best ways that you can grow as a person this year. By working unpaid you can support charities in their work and in return have new experiences, learn new skills, meet new friends and give something back to society. If the volunteering you do is of a physical nature, for example litter picks or beach cleans, then it could have a positive impact on your health too.

Popular volunteering opportunities include befriending, working in a charity shop, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food bank, animal rescue centre or women's refuges. Outside of your local community there are also opportunities to see the world and volunteer abroad.

If you are interested in resources such as Do-it and NCVO can help.

8 – Break the habit

Whether it's snacking, spending too much money, smoking or simply skipping breakfast every morning – it's never too late to reverse your bad habits and it doesn't have to be difficult. Often bad habits are caused by boredom or stress and with a bit of effort you can beat them into submission. Take skipping breakfast for example, for many people this happens because they struggle to get of bed in the morning, which is usually because they haven't had enough sleep. So taking up a good habit, such as light exercise in the evening or reading a book before bed, can help you to switch off a little earlier at night and wake up early enough for a good breakfast the following day.

9 – Learn to cook

For many people cooking is just a means to an end. A lack of time and enthusiasm means that the nearest they get to a top draw home cooked meal is liking a photo of one on Instagram.

However, there are so many benefits to mastering the kitchen that you'd be a fool not to try and up your game. First of all, it's a money saver. How often have you made a microwave meal for dinner and had enough food leftover that you could reuse it the following day? That happens all the time when you cook your meals from scratch. On top of this, we hear time and time again about how the food we eat isn't always exactly what we think it is (horse meat, anyone?). By cooking from scratch with fresh food – you know exactly what is going in your mouth and the mouths of your family.

If you're looking for inspiration then head over to websites like Pinterest and BBC Food where there are plenty of delicious and easy recipes to choose from.

10 – Spend more time with your friends and family

So much of our days are spent working, travelling or doing other tasks and projects that take us away from our loved ones, or maybe just allow us some precious time for ourselves. However, if you can get a handle on your priorities and deadlines then you might be able to manage your time a little better, which should give you more free time. Click here to read our free guide 'How to be a better time manager'.

Related articles: