Over the past several weeks, you’ve probably noticed something that hasn’t changed very much. What’s that? Your environment.
You might be working from home now instead of commuting to an office. Until recently, most stores and restaurants were closed, which means we’ve been stuck in our house for longer than we’re used to. According to one study, that might not be the healthiest way to live your life.
If you’re looking to boost your mood and improve your well being, researchers from NYU and the University of Miami found the best way to do just that.
Do this one thing to improve your well being
Researchers found that new experiences and changing your scenery are associated with improving your mood, boosting your happiness and enhancing your emotional state.
It might even help your brain to function.
“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,” explained assistant NYU professor Catherine Hartley, one of the authors of the research.
“These results suggest a reciprocal link between the novel and diverse experiences we have during our daily exploration of our physical environments and our subjective sense of well-being.”
Starting well before the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers set out to determine if a diversity of daily experiences are directly related to a person’s emotional state. Participants of the study in New York and Miami carried GPS tracking units for three to four months. Participants texted comments about their emotional state to the study’s researchers during this period.
The study found that people felt more “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” and “relaxed” when their physical locations varied. About half of the participants underwent MRI scans and found a correlation between positive emotions and brain activity in regions of the brain responsible for feeling “rewards” and the processing of positive experiences.
“Collectively, these findings show the beneficial consequences of environmental enrichment across species, demonstrating a connection between real-world exposure to fresh and varied experiences and increases in positive emotions,” adds co-author and assistant professor Aaron Heller from the University of Miami’s Department of Psychology.
These findings suggest that we can improve our mood and emotional state by changing our daily routines, going to new places, and maybe even chatting with different people.
To maintain social distancing during the pandemic, try an outdoor hike on a trail. Invite someone new into your weekly Zoom calls with your friends or family. If you have the budget for it, you might consider one of these swanky “social distancing retreats”.
In other words, get out more! Just remember to stay safe and socially distant when doing so.