Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happiness: Do Something New.


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?



25 comments:

  1. This is my kinda post! I'm all about happiness - funny how many people wish they had it but do nothing to achieve it. I kept out of routines by traveling whenever possible in 2012. It worked well so I'm gong to keep it going in 2013.

    The little things make a difference. At work, we used to do an every other week group lunch where the person in charge had to pick a place that none of us had ever been to. I have now eaten at every dive within five miles of the office!

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    1. We're going to try to take a trip together this year too. No kids. That will be out of the ordinary!

      I knew you would be into this.

      ;-)

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  2. I read about this a while ago. About it being good for your brains to experience change. One of the things that was mentioned was showering in the dark. I do that sometimes - not too often, because I don't want it to become a routine. But every time I do, I enjoy it more. And I feel a bit different than I do when I shower with the lights on.

    On my blog I've listed some "Happiness Increasers" (I know, "increaser" is not an actual word) for 2013. I intend to do all of them. Try a new recipe once a week, keep a One Line a Day journal, go out into nature at least once a month. I think those changes will do me good, even if they will become routine. I can vary them, for example by going to the beach one month and going to the forest the other. Or try a new breakfast recipe instead of a dinner recipe. I'm really enthusiastic about these things, I feel so motivated! And I'm having a lot of fun bringing it into practice!

    Anyway, great post and good luck on the changes!

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    1. Showering in the dark sounds both ridiculous and strangely compelling. I want to try it now.

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  3. I'm usually a pretty predictable, moderately happy person. But some survivalist part of me knows to do just what you're speaking of when things get bad. After I suffered a tough loss last year, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy in front of a crowd of 250 + people. I don't know why, but taking that a chance on that one life long fear AND dream seemed to instantaneously knock a good chunk of the depression right out of me. Making people laugh when I wanted to do nothing but cry really started making me see the world in a better light. Here's to your continued happiness and lots of new experiences.

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    1. Wow. I can't even imagine the nerve it took to do that. Nerves of steel! I totally admire you.

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  4. Next week I start tap dance classes, something I haven't done since I was seven. Which was nearly 63 years ago. Coincidentally, I've also been wondering what hubby and I could do for a new experience each month. Bus tour of the city (which might generate followup ideas), miniature golf, lunch cruise on a riverboat, Lynx (women's basketball) game, etc. And if he'll see Les Mis with me, I'll go to a monster truck rally with him (something he's never done but has on his bucket list just for a lark).

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    1. Ha. I think my sister and her husband do oddball stuff like that. I believe they went to some schoolbus races and they said it was highly entertaining.

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  5. Oh you know me, when things get boring, we move house.
    First it was from the North to the South then the Northwest and then to Argentina.
    I totally agree, you need to keep variety in your life and not get to be too set in routines .
    Date nights are great .. I picked up my husband up at work one time and took him out to a restaurant, he had no idea where we were going , he liked it .
    You can plan mini getaways, just a night somewhere, we did that when the children were small, staying in the Plaza Hotel in NYC .. even though we lived in NYC lol ...
    Happy New Year ..
    For this New Year, we are doing something out of the routine we are in now, we are moving back to the US :)

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    1. Welcome back! I hope you enjoy your new (old) venture.

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  6. I like the idea! Think I'll try to implement this. Like you, there are a million things I've never seen or done in my own area ...

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    1. It made me think of how we research cities that we're visiting and find all the interesting little things to do...and yet we don't do that for the very places we spend all our time.

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  7. HAVE SEX IN THE CAR BEFORE DINNER. PUT FREDS YOU KNOW WHAT IN YOUR MOUTH WHEN HE LESST EXPECTS ITAND OFTEN..YOU VCAN THANK ME SUNDAY AFTER YOUR DATE. I HAVE LIVEDIN SOMANY CITIS THAT I WOULD EXPLORE THEM BY FINDING A NEW PLACE TO GO AND ALWAYS GOING A DIFFERENT ROUTE. DO AN A TO Z OF NEW PLACES. RIGHT NOW I AM COMPLETELY OUT OF ROUTINE AND IT LEAVES ME TOTALLY UNMOTIVATED.BUT MY BRAIN IS FUCKED UP. i loved this post mandy and graces is so precious.happy 2013

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  8. I try to mix up my hobbies. I obsess over a hobby for a couple of months, trying new things, and then move on to the next. This last year, I did winter reading, spring/summer photography, fall crocheting, and now I'm sewing and reading and watching new tv show series.

    It's really fun how the Internet changed my hobbies too. Every time I get back into them, there are all sorts of fun things to try with a little online research. I don't remember how I learned to do anything before the Internet.

    I should probably work on getting out of the house more though.

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  9. I really like the idea of trying a new date night place every time. Now, to sneak away without the kids knowing...

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  10. I keep seeing this on netflix, and for some reason haven't watched it. I definitely want to now. I do see the theory behind it. I have a lot of afternoons off, and try to take myself somewhere new once a week. Either a new coffee house... a walk in a new park... a museum. Anything I wouldn't normally do on my own. And it's lovely. I want to take this on with my boyfriend as well.

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  11. Ah, the "staycation". It really is a great idea. There are German people who fly halfway across the world to hike around my veritable backyard, so why am I not out there?

    I'd like to hear how this goes for you, if you're inclined to share.

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  12. I'm all for new ingredients in the martini! :) And I'm going to look for this documentary now. (you have date night every WEEK?? I've now jacked your pedestal up a notch, hang on tight...)

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  13. I definitely need a change in my life I think - or several. I'm going to London next weekend, which is unusual. I NEVER go on holidays in January and I never go to London except for work, so I'm hoping that little shake-up will set me off on a more dramatic change of routine!

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  14. I love the year of new experiences idea. That's brilliant! I feel like I'm pretty stuck in a routine and could use some change, but then I look back on how many changes I encountered last year and it makes me feel a little better about my state. I may not be as stagnant as I thought. That said, there's nothing I love more than trying a new restaurant. And I was surprised to discover how much fun a kids' laser tag birthday party could be earlier this year... Great post!

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    1. My son wants a laser tag party this year for his birthday, so that's good to hear.

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  15. You need to start having sex in places you can get caught.

    See, this is why no one listens to me.

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  16. I have always shaved using my right hand to hold the blade and left hand to lather. I tried using my left hand to hold the razor and my right hand to lather the face. It was clumsy and slow but I am getting better. Next ,I think I will try Base jumping.

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