Novel surroundings and fresh experiences can make you happier

New experiences and places to discover may be in short supply these days, as people haven’t been able to travel and move around too much due to coronavirus restrictions. Yet, in a study that reveals a connection between our daily experiences and our sense of well-being, researchers suggest that even small changes in a person’s physical or mental routine could produce positive effects.

The recent study from the University of New York and the Miami University was conducted prior to the onset of the pandemic and revealed that people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines, such as enjoying new experiences and discovering new places. Of course, these days, such fresh experiences are scarce due to limited human movements around the globe.

Luckily, the authors of the study note that even small changes that introduce greater variability into the physical or mental routine — such as exercising at home, going on a walk around the block, and taking a different route to the grocery store or pharmacy — may potentially yield similar beneficial effects.

In the paper, the researchers investigated the following question: Is diversity in humans’ daily experiences associated with more positive emotional states?

To do so, they conducted GPS tracking of participants in New York and Miami for three to four months, asking subjects by text message to report about their positive and negative emotional state during this period.

The results showed that on days when people had more variability in their physical location—visiting more locations in a day and spending proportionately equitable time across these locations—they reported feeling more positive: “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” “relaxed,” and/or “attentive.”

With the help of MRI scans, the scientists then set out to determine if this link between exploration and positive emotion had a connection to brain activity. The results indicated that people for who this effect was the strongest, exhibited a greater correlation between brain activity in the hippocampus and the striatum — the brain regions associated with the processing of novel and subjectively positive experiences.

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Novel surroundings and fresh experiences can make you happier

New experiences and places to discover may be in short supply these days, as people haven’t been able to travel and move around too much due to coronavirus restrictions. Yet, in a study that reveals a connection between our daily experiences and our sense of well-being, researchers suggest that even small changes in a person’s physical or mental routine could produce positive effects.

The recent study from the University of New York and the Miami University was conducted prior to the onset of the pandemic and revealed that people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines, such as enjoying new experiences and discovering new places. Of course, these days, such fresh experiences are scarce due to limited human movements around the globe.

Luckily, the authors of the study note that even small changes that introduce greater variability into the physical or mental routine — such as exercising at home, going on a walk around the block, and taking a different route to the grocery store or pharmacy — may potentially yield similar beneficial effects.

In the paper, the researchers investigated the following question: Is diversity in humans’ daily experiences associated with more positive emotional states?

To do so, they conducted GPS tracking of participants in New York and Miami for three to four months, asking subjects by text message to report about their positive and negative emotional state during this period.

The results showed that on days when people had more variability in their physical location—visiting more locations in a day and spending proportionately equitable time across these locations—they reported feeling more positive: “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” “relaxed,” and/or “attentive.”

With the help of MRI scans, the scientists then set out to determine if this link between exploration and positive emotion had a connection to brain activity. The results indicated that people for who this effect was the strongest, exhibited a greater correlation between brain activity in the hippocampus and the striatum — the brain regions associated with the processing of novel and subjectively positive experiences.

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