Why coding is a perfect self-care activity

26th August 2020  |  By: Rosie


For #SelfcareSummer, Rosie a research assistant from our partner organisation the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC), writes about coding as a form of self-care.

I started learning to code two years ago in preparation for a university course, which suggested knowledge of R – a software environment for statistical programming. While working through the online beginner courses for R I realised immediately that coding is something that I would enjoy. Coding provides me with answers which help me to feel in control of what I’m doing. I find coding very calming, and yet also exciting, as there is a great sense of achievement when you correctly write a bit of code that you were not sure about before.

R is a free and open-source language so you can download and use it on any computer from https://www.r-project.org/. It has a vast community and is being used in almost every industry, for example, The New York Times is using R to create infographics and the Social Media giants Twitter and Facebook are using R to monitor user experience.

After two years, I feel confident in using R, but I am also always learning, particularly more efficient ways of coding, for example using fewer lines of code. I enjoy learning generally, so it is great that coding is a skill that I can continually develop and become better at. For example, I really like that you type a line of code and it does something for you. This could be as simple as adding some numbers together or once you have loaded a dataset, a few lines of code can create a graph for you. There is some example code and output below:

Knowing how to code also helped me with my professional career. I use R on a regular basis as Research Assistant (Data) at the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC). My role at CORC involves working on various mental health, wellbeing and other interventions and projects. I support CORC member services with data submission, checking their data for errors and formatting the data so we can analyse it and report to our members on the findings. Another advantage of coding is that I have been able to do all my work from home during lockdown. Because R can be used from anywhere, all I need is access to a computer and any relevant files. For example, when I was learning to code, I practiced in many places such as home, on the train, in the library and in cafes.

Writing code can sometimes be frustrating too, but consequently a great activity to increase your problem-solving and logic skills. For example, a comma in the wrong place or a misspelt word can stop your code from working and can be very hard to spot. If you have many lines of code, running each line one at a time can help you find the mistake. Or sometimes, if I can’t spot the error in a single line, I just delete it and type it out again, hoping not to make the same mistake twice. Coding helps you to better focus and become more patient when an error occurred that you need to find and fix.

I definitely would recommend coding to anyone. Which programming language to learn can depend on what you want to do. R is quite commonly used in statistics related to health and biology which is what I am interested in. DataCamp (https://www.datacamp.com) offer some free online R courses. All you need to do is create an account and you can access their free courses from your computer browser. I found their beginner R courses easy to follow and very useful to get an idea of what R can be used for. It is such a useful skill to have. I have just touched the surface of what R can do and I am looking forward to learning more about it. DataCamp also have courses for Python, SQL and other programmes, so you can see what you might enjoy.

Not only is coding an essential skill for my role at CORC but also something I really enjoy doing. It is a skill that often appears in person specifications for job vacancies and unlike a lot of other skills, anyone with access to a computer can start to learn it at home. Most courses are for free and you can do it around your other commitments. I definitely think that coding is a great selfcare activity, especially if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, or simply develop some structure to your week. It can also make you feel quite empowered, knowing that with your newly gained skill you can start building apps, games, websites, drones, robots and so much more.

Coding is just one self-care activity on the Anna Freud Centre’s self-care page that has over 90 self-care strategies to help young people when feeling low or anxious.

The Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) is the UK’s leading membership organisation that collects and uses evidence to improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. They hold data relating to mental health and wellbeing outcomes of more than 400,000 children and young people in the UK, representing the largest data set of this kind worldwide. Members of the CORC team provide a range of support for the collection, analysis and reporting of data and the use of data to improve services as well as training and knowledge-sharing opportunities.

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