I watched a documentary about happiness over my winter break. One of the things that really stood out was the fact that human brains get bored with the same routine each and every day of our lives. It's not good for us to do the same things, the same ways, day after day. Which is exactly how my life is.
The brain needs new things. The brain craves change even if we sometimes resist it. I was surprised to find out that even small changes can help stimulate the brain. Drive to work a different way. Eat at a new restaurant. Do something you've never done before. Make something new for dinner. Stop by someone's desk you normally don't chat with. You get the picture.
It's so easy to get stuck in the same routines. Sure it seems comfortable and easy, but it turns out, it's not good for your mental health. I recently tried a new workout with my friend Jill and I absolutely loved it. It involves a lot more cardio, and a lot of lifting, and a group setting. I loved it. I left the exercise class soaking wet with sweat. I've been going to the class for a few weeks now, and I notice that even when I work out on my own now, I'm running faster and lifting more than I ever had before. I've actually exceeded what I thought were my limits. I'm reinvigorated and energized. I changed my routine. And my pants are looser. Crazy.
My husband and I go out every Saturday night. It's date night. It's a chance to reconnect and to have a sustained conversation with each other without getting interrupted 20 times by little people with short attention spans. Date night is great but what I hadn't realized is that date night has become a routine.
We go to the same restaurants. Do the same things. Stay in the same town. It's nice to chat with each other but we do the same thing, week after week. I think we need to start going to different restaurants. Start trying new things. I'd read somewhere that a friend's husband had gotten her a year of new experiences for her birthday. Once a month, he takes her somewhere they've never been before, or takes her to do something they've never done before. What a great idea and it fed right into what I'd learned in the Happy documentary.
I'm thinking my husband and I could apply this to date night. There's lots to do in this city of ours. Things neither of us have ever done. We could go see a Roller Derby. Try out a new blues bar. See a new show. Go throw some bocce balls or go feather bowling. See the symphony or an opera. Sure some of those things we've done before, but not as a matter of course. Time to shakes things up. Volunteer together. Plant trees together. Sit on a board together. Go to temple together. Okay, we've done all of those last few things, but it's been a while. The baby has sort of taken over our lives these past few years.
In the past when we've mixed things up, it's benefited us both. Now that I think about it, it would probably benefit our kids too. Their lives are pretty routine. I need to get them out of their comfort zones too.
What would you do, if you did something new? Why haven't you done it before? According to studies, varying your routine will increase your happiness. It seems like it's worth a try. What do you think?