In today’s fast-paced world where we’re constantly overwhelmed and bombarded with information, it can be hard to make time for ourselves.
In a new study published in Nature Neuroscience, scientists found that getting out of the house and experiencing new things leads to more positive emotions because novelty does so many good things for our brains.
And those new novel things don’t have to be big. Just a trip to the store or a walk through a new part of your neighborhood works.
The brain is like an open book when it comes down to the way its cells respond after being exposed to something novel or unfamiliar. Novelty triggers our brains to grow new synaptic connections which helps us in many ways. Your ability to learn is one of them!
Additionally, these new connections can also help us feel better and stave off degenerative diseases as well.
If the psychological benefits of growing new grey matter with exercise and novel experiences interest you, you have to read Spark by John Ratey MD. It’s fantastic! I can’t recommend it strongly enough!
Back to the study published by Nature Neuroscience. It found subjects who got out at least once a day were also more likely to get out the next day as well.
The set up
The scientists kept track of the locations of 122 people in both Miami and New York City over several months. The team analyzed their moods and then their movements with GPS. The subjects reported how they felt via daily text messages.
It was discovered that the test subjects that felt the happiest were those that had a wider variety of daily experiences.
A few quotes from the study: “New and varied experiences are broadly beneficial for the brain and for humans in general,” said Aaron Heller, a co-author of the study and psychologist at the University of Miami. Aaron told Inverse about the study. “Even if you may not tend towards exploring, there are benefits to doing so, regardless of your past experiences.”
The subjects didn’t even need to go very far. Even small outings or short trips near home created enough novelty and adventure… even within a couple miles of home.
Scientists found that the people who even just did something in their own neighborhoods rather than sitting at home or at work all day reported better moods.
The findings also suggest a bidirectional and cyclical relationship between mood and new experiences.
Researchers found that not only do new and novel experiences out of the house every day help people feel better but that people with positive emotions are more likely to seek out unfamiliar environments as well. And those individuals who have negative feelings may not be as willing.
You might say to yourself, or to me, “That seems obvious.”
But those that are feeling negative can “course correct” and feel better by choosing to get out and create that novelty in their day.
The concept of “choice” is important here because feeling good or bad can impact our quest for novelty.
And then that novel experience creates an environment that makes it easier to make that choice again.
Co-author Catherine Hartley told Inverse. “We find that if I feel better today, I’m likely to move around and have more novel experiences and have more experiential diversity the following day, and vice versa. If I have more novel and diverse experiences today, I’m likely to feel better not only today but the next day [as well].”
What do these findings inspire you to do?
This inspire you to learn more? Or get outside and do something novel today?
Here are some ideas for things you could do right now:
– Pick a road or direction you have never driven and just start driving… or head in that direction on a walk or your bike.
– Find a restaurant you’ve never been to and plan to go tonight.
– Try out a walking path or bike path you’ve been meaning to try.
– Or call that one friend you keep meaning to catch up with and tell them you’ll meet them at a park you haven’t ever been to. Need help finding a park? Just hop on Google Maps and scroll around. Explore the green areas.
– Go for a photography walk and challenge yourself to take 50 or 100 photos.
– Go to a new neighborhood and go for a walk.
All you need to do is make a list of experiences that sound fun around your own hometown and take them for the ride today!
If you need more ideas, we have a great article on finding things to do near you here.
Want to take this idea to the next level?
Obviously getting out to do things is helpful, a walk around the block, stopping to “smell the roses” while doing so helps even more. But if you want to shake things up a little more try a microadventure.
They are a little more of a commitment and in some ways… but speaking from personal experience, they are a real treat and will really help with mood and make great fodder for your social media profile as well!
If you liked that one… one more.
But if microadverntures don’t sound like your thing, that’s fine. Just do whatever is doable today. Just try something around your neighborhood today. The key is to use this feel-good strategy right now.
Whatever you decide, make it small and “doable.” It’s more important that you actually get out. Don’t get stuck trying to plan something big… or making your list… Just stop and get in your car or on your bike or just start walking somewhere new. Done. You’re growing new brain cells and improving your mood already!
Hope you found this motivational. As I sit and write this, I feel the need to get out and get going. Are you ready to get outside?