If you’re the type of person who constantly seeks out new experiences and new ways of doing things, chances are you’re a happy bunny. At least that’s the conclusion of experts writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
New and diverse experiences are linked to higher levels of happiness thanks to the way they affect your brain activity, the researchers suggest.
They discovered this by following volunteers in New York and Miami for up to four months. First they analysed the participants’ movements using GPS tracking. Then they asked the volunteers to report back to them by text about how they felt. What they found was when people spent more time in a greater variety of physical locations, they rated their positivity and happiness higher than when they stayed in the same place all day.
“Our results suggest that people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines—when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences,” says Catherine Hartley. Catherine is an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and one of the paper’s co-authors. But she also adds that the opposite may be true too. “Positive feelings may drive people to seek out these rewarding experiences more frequently,” she adds.
The researchers followed up the text reports with MRI scans. These showed that those who felt happier when having new experiences had a more pronounced connection between activity in parts of the brain called the hippocampus and the striatum.
While we can’t all travel around the world looking for new sights and sounds, we can still enjoy more variety in our daily routine. For instance, take a different route next time you walk your dog, have a different cereal for breakfast, read some poetry if you’re a true crime books fan, or listen to a completely different kind of music from the one you’re used to. It could be better for your mental wellbeing in a number of ways. Why? Because according to the study, people don’t only feel happier when they experience more variety, they say they feel excited, strong, relaxed and/or attentive too.