How new experiences shape our happiness

How new experiences shape our happiness

If I had to pick a favourite film, it would probably be ‘Into the wild‘. The music, the writing and of course the incredible (and true) story of Christopher McCandless. One of my favourite quotes from this film is:

“The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.”

When I first watched the film and heard it, I felt like I’d been slapped in the face by some unknown spiritual force.

Change is something I’ve always struggled with. Doing something new and out of my comfort zone, whether it’s driving a new route somewhere or going on a trip, always fills me with anxiety. My stomach churns, I feel dizzy and have to fight the urge to say “no thanks” and hide in my room.

Once I’ve won the battle with anxiety though, once I’ve driven that new route or gone on that trip… I feel incredible. Elated. On top of the fucking world.

This is why the quote struck me so hard. I realised that, yeah actually, the core of mans spirit does come from new experiences. New experiences light up our brain. New experiences light up our life.

Recently I went on a spontaneous trip to Barcelona, joining my friend Zoe and her friends for a couple of days in the city. I went through the usual anxious hoo-ha before hand, not wanting to fly, worrying about things that would never happen and thinking to myself maybe I would be happier if I just cancelled and stayed home.

As soon as I got on the flight though, I felt that weight lift. And from the second I landed to the moment I arrived home, I didn’t stop smiling.

I had forgotten how much fun this group of people were and I really relaxed. We explored, ate incredible meal after incredible meal, danced until 6AM and laughed until we cried.

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When I got home I felt rejuvenated – I was high, intoxicated by the new experience.

I realised that to be happy we sometimes have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. We have to endure a little pain and unhappiness to get to that luminous, sparkly happy moment.

How to bring the magic of new experiences to your everyday

As much as I wish I could travel all the time and hold onto that feeling, it just isn’t practical. We have to do the routine things, the  day jobs, the mundane. And there can be so much joy in this too (you all know how much I love my routines), but there are ways to capture the magic of new experiences on the regular.

Take a different route

Most of our days consist of the same journeys, to work, home from work, maybe to the supermarket if we’re lucky. You can shake this up (a little) by taking different routes. Try driving a different way home from work. Take detours. Go to a different shop for your dinner tonight. Go on, live a little.

Go somewhere new

This doesn’t have to be travelling around the world (although if you can, go for it! And take me too please). Exploring your neighbouring towns can be just as fun. OK, maybe not just as fun, but you never know, you may stumble across something incredible. Mine and Dan’s first weekend away together was in Brighton, we both knew the city, but together we saw it with new eyes.

Try a new genre

This could be books, TV, films, music, whatever. Broaden your horizons and explore a different genre. I never considered myself a metal/prog rock fan before, but after watching Devin Townsend live I feel like I’ve cracked open a door to a whole new world.

Speak to a stranger

It’s hard to talk to new people, I know. You may think ‘why bother? I have my friends, what more do I need?’ and trust me, I hear ya. But consider it an act of curiosity. Don’t go into it worrying about how they’ll perceive you, go into it with the intention of finding out more about them. Everyone has a story, everyone has something to offer. I love jumping into conversations on Twitter, getting to know new colleagues at work and learning about other people.

Take the leap

Is there something you’ve kept stored away safely at the back of your mind? A project, a change in career, a dream trip? Bring it to the forefront. Give it some space, give it some air, take that baby out for a stroll. Write some notes, do some planning – how can you make it happen? The big changes in life are the scariest ones to approach… but my god, they are always the most rewarding.

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That’s where the sweet spot lies you see; where the magic of new experiences and fulfilling your true potential collide in a burst of happy sparkly light. I think that’s why new experiences are so important to our happiness, why they give us that rush. They’re training us. Teaching us to be brave. Showing us what we can do when we push past fear.

Lots to think about huh? So, while I could probably go on for longer, we’re nearing 900 words so I think perhaps I’ll leave you with one final question:

What, so far, has been your most rewarding new experience?

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