Happiness Hinges on Variety

We find happiness in different situations. Some prefer playing with puppies, while others feel happier partying with friends. Now a new study has found one way for all of us to feel happier, no matter how we find it.


Happiness Study Reveals An important Clue

Researchers recently discovered a strong link between our level of happiness and how much variety we enjoy in our lives. The study found that by changing our daily routine to include new experiences, participants felt happier overall. 


How Did the Happiness Study Work?

To conduct the study, researchers used GPS tracking on the participants for 3 to 4 months. The participants communicated with researchers via text messaging about their emotions. 

Participants who varied their locations more frequently described positive feelings, such as “happy,” “relaxed,” and “excited.” Moreover, and this is the exciting part: when researchers later conducted MRI scans, the participants who connected happiness to variety had stronger links between brain activity in the striatum and hippocampus. 

The striatum plays a role in discovering what parts of our environment give us a sense of reward. The hippocampus responds to variety in location and memory. 

The study results showed that participants who felt happier by varying their routines learned to see variety as rewarding. That reward, in turn, motivated them to explore more ways to enjoy new experiences—so this system of feeling rewarded builds on itself exponentially.


How to Add Variety to Your Life

Researchers say that variety doesn’t have to, and probably shouldn't consist of major changes. Small, yet meaningful ways to spice up our lives regardless of our circumstances are bound to make us happier in the long run through frequency. Some ideas might include:

  • Explore your world. Try taking a daily walk, choosing a different route each day.
  • Change your routine. Do you feel that your daily routine has turned into Groundhog Day? Change the time at which you do different activities, or eat breakfast foods at dinner. Do something different for a while.
  • Socialize. From email and texting to picking up the phone or video calling, we can socialize with friends and family to vary our experiences by living vicariously through their experiences. Also, in hanging out with friends, we're more likely to do new things together than we might have been alone.
  • Volunteer. Check your local volunteer organization for opportunities, such as grocery shopping for someone who can’t get out, fostering kittens, or sending greeting cards to individuals without visitors at a nursing home. Helping others exposes us to new ideas and experiences at the same time.
  • Learn new skills. We live in a world where we are one click away from learning a new skill. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to crochet, play the guitar, or learn a foreign language, making time each day to learn and practice a new skill can provide another way to add variety to your life.

Many of us are familiar with the saying, “variety is the spice of life.” But variety may also provide us with more than spice, it can make us happy. By seeking small yet meaningful ways to vary our daily routine, from walking a different route, to volunteering, to learning a new skill, we 're actually practicing self-care, and being rewarded for it. 

Copyright 2020, Wellness.com

8/17/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
Wellness Exists to Empower Health Conscious Consumers. Wellness.com helps people live healthier, happier and more successful lives by connecting them with the best health, wellness and lifestyle information and resources on the web.
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