Change it up

Unfortunately, even the most enjoyable of activities can become routine after a while. Whether it’s your Zumba class, your go-to favourite healthy dish or the walk that always gives you peace of mind, if you do it enough, it’s likely to become humdrum. That has implications, not just for your hobbies, but also for your healthy habits – and could explain why so many of us get bored with exercise regimes and nutritious diets.

SHIFT YOUR HABITS, BOOST YOU MIND

New research from Ohio State University in Columbus and the University of Chicago at Illinois shows doing the same activities in a different way can help you enjoy them as if you’re experiencing them for the first time. Scientists carried out a series of experiments to come to this conclusion. In the first, they told 68 people they were looking at ways to encourage people to eat more slowly.

THE EXPERIMENT

Scientist gave half the volunteers chopsticks with which to eat popcorn, while the other half were asked to eat it with their hands. At the end of the experiment, all the study participants were asked to assess how much they’d enjoyed the popcorn. They were also asked to rate how tasty it was and how much fun they’d had eating it. The result? Those who used chopsticks took more pleasure from eating the popcorn. They reported the unusual way of eating meant they had to be more focused on what they were doing, so the experience was more immersive – which in turn made them appreciate the flavour of the popcorn more. In a repeat of the experiment, the results were different, with both groups reporting equal enjoyment. According to the researchers, this shows using the chopsticks boosted pleasure because it was a first-time, novel experience – not because of the chopsticks themselves.

The scientists then carried out other experiments, including one in which participants were asked to drink water in unusual ways – for example, lapping it out of a bowl like a cat, or sipping it from a martini glass. When people carried out a mundane activity in a new way, they enjoyed it more.

GET STARTED

So how could you benefit from these findings in your own life? First, say the researchers, use the technique to recharge your enjoyment in th1ings and boost your happiness levels. But remember, to maximise your enjoyment, you’ll need to keep changing things up – which means making small, easy tweaks each time will be more realistic. Some examples include: l Watch your favourite box set sitting on the floor rather than the sofa, or try doing some light activity while you watch telly – such as hula hooping or doing squats.

  • Reading your book in a café instead of at home. Sit at a different table each time.
  • Preparing food in a different area of the kitchen, or listen to a new radio station while you’re cooking.
  • Eating a nutritious meal. Eat from a bowl instead of a plate; use chopsticks;
  • Eat kneeling on the floor instead of sitting; eat with your fork in your non-dominant hand.

l Yoga practice. Place your mat in a different position; experiment with varied times of day; put on new music. l Running. Listen to a new playlist; take a different route; start out from a new point. l Meditation.

Try it at a different time of day; diffuse a new essential oil blend; choose something unusual to focus on, such as a candle or a new word or mantra. l Walking. Go out with binoculars and watch the birds; walk the opposite way around the park; wear different footwear.