Life can get pretty chaotic. Work, parenting, social obligations, and just the everyday things of every day can add up. Before we know it, it’s dark outside, the kids are in bed, we exhale for what feels like the first time and we wonder where the day has gone.
But, dear friends, it doesn’t always have to be this way. We can take moments, or incorporate small practices into our lives, that will refresh us. Revive us. Remind us that life is to be lived and not survived.
Whatever our financial, geographical or familial circumstances, our brains are hard-wired so that new experiences are like a hug for our brains. When we slow down and take a break from turning the wheels that keep the machine of our lives working, we can be renewed and come out the other side feeling restored and ready to take on what life throws at us.
Here are a few new things we can do to shake things up and introduce something fresh into our lives.
Learn a New Skill
As children, everything we learn is novel. However, as we grow up and accumulate life experience, there are less opportunities to learn something new. Since leaving college, I feel like if I’m not constantly seeking knowledge, my brain is becoming atrophied, going through the same automatic motions of the day-to-day.
But, it’s beneficial to exercise the mind by picking up a new skill. Studies show that learning something new has long reaching health benefits for memory and brain function. The Huffington Post examined the advantages of adopting a new hobby:
In terms of happiness, a close companion of learning is the degree of engagement people have with tasks that provide them knowledge and fulfillment. People who are intensely absorbed in a task can lose track of time and place. Hours pass like minutes. They may be tired by the task but emerge energized and happy. This condition is known as “flow,” a name coined 30 years ago by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Csikszentmihalyi cites changes in brain chemistry and respiratory function as positive side effects of getting lost in a new task.
Always wanted to learn to play piano? Speak another language? Surf? Make the perfect soufflé? Well, now you have no excuse not to. Not only will you acquire an amazing new ability, you’ll do wonderful things for your mind that will benefit you for years to come.
Have a New Experience
Research contends that spending money on experiences rather than things makes people much happier. In a study published last year in Psychological Science, Amit Kumar and Matthew Killingsworth, along with Thomas Gilovich found that, “Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having)”.
This is due, in large part, to the anticipation associated with an upcoming experience versus the arrival of an item purchased. Think of the excitement of an approaching vacation or event compared to something you bought online arriving in the mail.
The lasting effects of an experience are typically sweeter as well. The memories, photos and encounters you have from a new adventure are likely better and more far-reaching than the short-lived joy that wears off quickly after a purchase.
Instead of spending money to buy another new gadget or piece of clothing, consider going somewhere or doing something new. Go to a concert to see a band you’ve always loved. Take a road trip or vacation somewhere different.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to do this either. Explore a different part of your city. Try a new restaurant. Read a new book. Want to take a trip without breaking the bank? There are so many online deals these days, you can go somewhere new without emptying your wallet.
Meet New People
Have you ever left a party or social function having talked to someone new and felt good and invigorated? There’s a reason for that. We are a communal species. Human beings thrive on connecting with other people. When we speak to and get to know about a new person, we feel engaged and like we relate to someone else.
There are also cognitive benefits. As Melody Causewell states:
Meeting new people stimulates your brain. As little as ten minutes of interacting with others increases cognitive performance, according to research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Actively using the parts of your brain required to talk to other people and process social cues wakes up these parts of your brain and allows for better cognitive scores.
Fear not if you’re painfully shy or socially anxious. This doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party or exhaust yourself by ignoring your introvert inclinations. When you’re at a social gathering, choose one new person to talk to with the aim of learning something about them. Ask a lot of questions. Before you know it, you might be genuinely interested, and they’ll find you nice to talk to as well.
Remember: Interested equals interesting.
Not a party kind of person? Practice interacting in your day-to-day while Editrunning errands or picking up the kids at school. Strike up a conversation while waiting in line at the store. Or, if you’re feeling little more outgoing, find an online meet-up group that gets together regularly for an activity and join. You’ll meet new people, have a new experience, and maybe acquire a new skill all in one shot!
It can be pretty easy to get stuck in an auto-rut where we lackadaisically drift through our day without engaging. But, it’s good to shake things up once in a while and breathe new life into our standard routine.
What new thing will you do to improve your life?
Sonya Writing is a freelance blogger covering a wide range of topics including health, wellness, relationships and personal finance. She’s written for sites like Huffington Post, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily.