This is a time of year when it’s easy to feel as though we’re in a rut. We can feel stale and uninteresting. Our energy level may be ebbing, and we need a lift to reset our attitude and outlook. Life often has a way, especially during the winter months, of becoming routine and repetitive. While routines and repetition can bring a level of comfort and predictability, they can leave us feeling flat and unmotivated.
Fortunately, the shift in outlook we need may be easier to achieve than we think. A study published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests a practical solution to counter boredom and unhappiness and a way to open the door to new energy and greater fulfillment. In the same way the strategy of diversifying our financial resources across different types of investments can protect a healthy financial condition, diversifying our social engagements and relationships can lead to healthier, more vibrant encounters and a more optimistic outlook on life.
While stable, long-term relationships are important to our health and well-being, interactions with others beyond our immediate circle can add variety and stimulation and connect us with others who have a wide range of experiences, outlooks, and perspectives. As a result, our thinking is challenged, we’re exposed to new ideas, and we gain new appreciation for our experiences, insights, and ideas. The answer is as simple as reaching out to former colleagues and childhood friends, contacting a distant relative, and engaging in conversation with people outside the education world. The benefits will be surprising and more than worth the effort.
Of course, a similar diversification strategy can be impactful in other areas of life, too. For example, we might diversify our learning and entertainment activities. We can change up what we read or listen to. We may shift from exclusively reading print materials to exploring podcasts. We might shift from fiction to biographies, try science fiction or history. We might explore some new magazines, try some new television networks, or a new movie genre. Live concerts and theatre also are good options.
Similarly, we might consider varying the activities in which we engage. If we normally walk for exercise, bicycling can be an option. Or maybe we just choose a new route to explore. We might explore hiking, biking, swimming, or cross-country skiing. Now might be a good time to rediscover jigsaw or crossword puzzles. The variety can increase our stimulation while challenging new muscles and areas of our brain.
Another area worth exploring is the foods we eat. We can change up our “go to” menus. We might try new some new foods or return to some that we’ve not experienced in a while. We can explore foods from different cultures. Or we might expand our cooking and baking repertoire with new recipes. Of course, we also can try a new restaurant or two to expand our eating experience.
Still another area to explore for potential diversification is our daily and weekly routines. Now might be a good time to change the time of day we set aside for exercise. We might try completing our lesson planning and related activities before leaving for the day, or at least spending less time at home in the evening doing school related work. Or we might commit to adding to or subtracting other activities from our routines.
The options and opportunities for introducing greater diversification to our lives are nearly limitless. However, they only offer benefits if we’re willing to step out of our routines, rituals, and ruts to give them a try.