I often refer to myself as an “experience optimizer.” I try to make the most out of every experience, including really mundane ones, like where we should go for lunch with my team or my family or what type of card my kiddo should make for our dads on Father’s Day. I like to try new things, to experience something I’ve not experienced before. And yes, if you’re thinking that this can be both fun and incredibly annoying for people who are with me, you’re absolutely right. (Just this weekend my husband and I spent a half hour talking about where we should grab sandwiches to for lunch while I tried to optimize for taste, trying something new, and being able to eat outside but not where we usually eat.)
I do this instinctively but I also realize that trying new things, seeing new things, tasting new things, meeting new people and learning new skills makes my life more awesome.
Recently I was having a “Monday” on a Sunday. And the weather was awful to boot so it was a double whammy. There was a new exhibit at the ICA in Boston, so we decided to go. It was an installation of art by someone I’d never heard of before: Barry McGee. I absolutely LOVED it but more than that, it was new and fresh and nothing like what I’ve seen before. By the time we left the exhibit my case of the Mondays on a Sunday was gone.
Turns out, there’s research supporting the idea that trying new things makes you happier:
Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University looked at 30,000 event memories and over 500 diaries, ranging from durations of 3 months to 4 years, and says that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences.
Give it a shot. Try a new food you’ve not had before. Go bowling or trampoline jumping or see a movie that’s usually not something you’d be into. Find a new author to read or a new recipe to try. Take a different route to work or on your run. A life less boring is also, as it turns out, a life a little (or a lot!) happier.