Wellness Wednesday: The Benefit of Trying New Things 

Nutrition, fitness and good relationships can keep us healthy. But... trying new things ? Yes, being adventurous has physical as well as psychological benefits to our health. (1) 

Adventure is a relative thing. For one person it might mean trying a new cookbook (me) while another may need to paraglide to 5000 feet above sea level (my son). But in all cases it means doing something different than your usual, and, for best results, it means getting out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones vary considerably in size.  

Does adventure have to be dangerous ? Of course not. But it should expose you to a new environment and require you to do things you have not done before. So why does it have to be all that? 

Before I explain, lets take a look at the American vacation. It is an endangered species. We are one of the few developing countries without a national policy of paid leave. Those companies who do provide paid leave do not always encourage its use, even though research shows it greatly improves employee productivity and satisfaction. When the companies do provide leave AND encourage its use, employees are reluctant to take it. Why ? Forty percent are afraid of coming back to " a mountain of work" , a third feel no one can do their work but them, a third feel they cannot afford it, and about a fifth feel guilty.  Forty-three percent of adults do not remember the last time they tried to have an adventure. Reasons for avoiding adventure range from lack of money to embarrassment. (2) Fear of one thing or another plays a role in skipping vacations. Ironically, it should be the opposite, since skipping vacations is associated with a measurable and significantly increased risk of heart disease in men and women, according to the Framingham study. (3)

And yet, we bemoan our lack of time off and we make bucket lists all of the things we don't and won't do. We execute what Tim Ferris calls the " deferred life plan". (4) Moreover, we note how every year seems to pass more quickly. 

Enter adventure. If we do get around to it, here is what happens. First, our narrow view of the world opens back up. We experience different ways of living, and see ourselves and others in a new light. Novelty and some degree of challenge have to be a part of it. This way, our confidence and competence is enhanced. A 2015 Study on newly graduated nurses found that a nontraditional outdoors adventure leadership program increased feeings of competence and confidence. When they returned to work, their transformation was felt to have impacted their entire work culture. (5) 

Adventure may even be an antidote for the accelerated passage of time. Dave Engelmann, a neuroscientist, notes that the more familiar the world becomes, the less we remember, and thus the faster times seems to pass. (3). I deduce that novelty and adventure may help us savor the time we have. 

Check out these fun resources: 

30 New Things to Try by Lifehack.com

The Beginner's Guide to Trying New Things

Staying on Top of Your Game

References: 

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-gerber/are-we-having-fun-yet_b_7948588.html
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/19/americans-vacation-days_n_5682576.html
  3. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/04/25/the-possibilian
  4. http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/01/10/what-can-you-learn-from-the-4-hour-workweek/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25608096