Do you need a fancy sports car or a very expensive diamond to be happy? Probably yes, but there is something much simpler than that to get in a good mood: having new and diverse experiences.
This is what has emerged from research conducted by Catherine Hartley, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and one of the paper’s co-authors. The study is rather interesting as it also related to the current situation of our society that has been “chained” by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The consequent lockdown has contributed to an overall depression as people have less diverse experiences. For this reason, many people are seeking refuge on social media or “online” art to get more positivity.
The study started before the outbreak, and it shows that even small changes to the routine can yield positive effects. Therefore, you might get a bit happier if, for example, you take a different route when you go to work or some other places. Of course, this cannot happen when you are in lockdown.
Using the GPS and the MRI
The research used GPS tracking with the participants in the areas of New York and Miami for up to 4 months. The result was that the people that spent an equitable time in many different places were more “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” “relaxed,” and/or “attentive.”
The MRI also showed that people that used to visit more locations showed a greater correlation between brain activity in the hippocampus and the striatum. These are brain areas that are associated with both the processing of novelty and reward (beneficial nad positive experiences).
“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. 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,” said lead co-author Dr. Aaron Heller.
Here for more information: nature.com
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