Your New Happiness Secret: Try Something New!

A little novelty is good for you

Photo: Smiling woman in front of tall green grass

Doing something new today won’t just shake things up a bit. It might also help you feel better. You don’t have to do something extravagant or time-consuming, like jumping from a plane. Smaller bouts of novelty can be just as satisfying as big leaps.

“If you want to continue being satisfied in your job or relationship or house, do new things—surprising things, varied activities. Open yourself up to new opportunities and challenges,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The Myths of Happiness.

“It's important to seek new hobbies and interests because we generally adapt to our own set point of happiness,” according to Megan Robbins, PhD, postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona and Psychology of Happiness course instructor.

Lyubuomirsky agrees, saying this is how we avoid “hedonic adaptation,” or the process by which we get used to positive things and begin to take them for granted.

“Whatever you do for fun, the key is to not allow any of these activities to become routine or habitual,” Robbins says. “The benefits of something new come from its novelty in addition to the other positive aspects of it, like social connectedness.” While there’s nothing wrong with turning an activity you enjoy into a regular hobby, it’s important to pursue fresh interests for variety and novelty.

Rethink Routine
Trying new things can stimulate your brain and positively affect your mood. “Some new activities may ‘keep you young’ if they are mentally challenging or require you to learn new information,” Robbins says.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, try these suggestions from Robbins and Lyubomirsky:

  • Do word games, a puzzle, or an activity that challenges you and requires you to learn new information.
  • Express gratitude to anyone, whether in person or in writing.
  • Engage in a non-routine act of kindness, like paying someone a compliment.
  • Make a point to savor life's joys, like celebrating when something good happens.
  • Learn a new skill, like flamenco dancing or French cooking.