The lead-up to a holiday can be stressful, but it can also be filled with lots of excitement. You’re brimming with energy and the whole world seems to take on a different, almost golden-ish hue. Even things that would normally annoy you can pale into nothingness, high on the fumes of the pending adventure. Compare this excitement to the ordinary of everyday life, where days can be long, pocket-marked by little stresses and irksome routines. Even if you love your life, it can be hard not to feel weighed down from time to time.
So, what if you could bridge these two feelings without having to go anywhere near an airport? Take a dollop of that happy, pre-holiday buzz and spread it liberally over the daily grind? Throwing yourself into the path of new experiences might just help you do exactly that.
Science shows that openness to experience makes us happier, more creative, and even tricks the brain into thinking that time lasts longer. It’s a powerful way to shake off the day, and get a hit of that holiday high. New experiences come naturally when you’re travelling, but they can happen in everyday life, too. You just need to get the kindling going, to light your (figurative) fire. As you lie in wait for your next big adventure, here are some great ways to bring a little dose of difference to your daily life – and keep boredom at bay.
Start using the commute as a reason to do something different
Taking the same route home from work happens on autopilot, barely paying attention to how you get there, or what happens along the way. It can often feel like a chore; it’s not an experience, it’s a means of getting from A to B. We need to get to work on time, but the journey home is different – ripe with opportunity for adventure.
Forget the idea that you just have to get home and start using the commute as a reason to do something different. Scrap the bus and try walking home. There are so many walking apps now that will help you get lost in the best way possible, or plan your route around parks and riverside paths. You could also give cycling or rollerblading a whirl.
Equally, try getting off a stop or two early and explore the local neighbourhood. From backstreet delis to hidden cinemas, the possibilities of what you can stumble across are beautiful. If you absolutely have to be on the train every evening, why not vary what you do with the journey time? One week listen to real crime podcasts and the next tackle a set of colouring books (adult colouring is proven to relieve stress). Change it up with a view to stimulating yourself and warding off the drudge of routine.
When you sing with a group, it’s both soothing and energising
You get a kick out of singing in the shower – so, how about taking it to the next level? Research shows that joining a choir is a great way of forging social bonds, providing an excellent ice-breaker between large groups of people. It also promotes ongoing feelings of wellbeing and belonging.
When you sing with a group, an intimate and internal experience shared with a roomful of people, the effect is both soothing and energising. It’s been linked to the release of endorphins, the pleasure hormone, and oxytocin, a chemical that promotes bonding and trust.
The singing itself is fun, but it’s the communal and cooperative aspect that makes it so deeply satisfying. “In our increasingly robotic lives, where we’re more likely to communicate by email and text message than face to face, singing provides a more natural form of communication,” says Tessa Marchington, founder of Music In Offices. “Singing is a therapeutic tool that promotes happiness, calmness and a profound sense of achievement.”
Play is a life-giving and vital force that invigorates the soul
Singing is not for everyone, but one thing we do all share is the inclination to play. As children, fun and purposeless play came easily. We loved to fool around and be silly, just for the sake of it. Yet as adults, we somehow lose the knack. Our release might come from weekend football or other forms of competitive sport, but pure, directionless play? Not so much.
Author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD has written a book about play, and compares it to oxygen. That is, it’s a life-giving and vital force that invigorates the soul but we don’t really notice it until it’s not there. We can play by doing anything from talking to our dog to taking a ‘play history’ (remembering what you liked to play when you were a child, and working to recreate an element of that in adult life).
Some organisations can help fuel play, too. Antidote London is a growing community of people who recognise the value of playfulness, with workshops that cover everything from giant games of tag to improvisation and drumming sessions. “We run uplifting music, dance and games sessions every week that act as an antidote to the weariness caused by our wonderful city,” they say. “We aim to steer people towards a more joyful life.”
Strangers who talked to each other on their commute were happier
Growing up, we’re drilled never to speak to strangers — and it’s a mantra that sticks in adulthood, too. You might be buried nose-deep into someone’s armpit on the morning tube, but you won’t often talk to them. Avoid eye contact at all costs, right? Well… perhaps not.
A study from the University of Chicago found that strangers who talked to each other on their commute were happier as a result — even when the interaction had no long-term significance. “Connecting with strangers on a train may not bring the same long-term benefits as connecting with friends,” writes Professor Nicholas Epley, leading the study. “But commuters on a train into downtown Chicago reported a significantly more positive commute when they connected with a stranger than when they sat in solitude.”
For a real shot of daily adventure, try striking up a conversation on your next journey. Sure, it might be terrifying. But there’s a definite thrill that comes from reaching out to others. Don’t know where to start? Journalist and self-proclaimed introvert Jessica Pan — who overcame her own social anxiety with an experiment to speak to strangers — has a few tips. “Don’t be afraid to ask what you want to,” she says. “Self-disclose. Smile more. Compliments always work, although some people will presume you’re hitting on them. People almost always want to talk about themselves. They want to talk to you, too.”
The mindset that your lunchtime is an opening for adventure
Your lunch break stands squarely in the middle of the day; it can either hammer home the daily drudge, or it can give you wings. Yes, you can sprint to Pret and spend the break al fresco, checking emails or mindlessly trawling social media apps. But why not fix yourself up with an espresso adventure and grab lunch as you go?
“You should be as strategic about your lunch hour as you are about your day in general,” says US-based workplace coach Lynn Taylor. “You have the ability to make your lunch hour an invigorating boost to your afternoon by doing what you enjoy… it’s your time to refresh.” Try and take a full hour if you can, and use it as a window for soul cake. Set yourself a challenge to learn the basics of a new language, while walking to a different park each day or plot a food safari of places that are half an hour or less away from your office, to try over the space of a month.
If you work in a major city, you may find that nearby universities run lunch hour lectures, or look to local music societies for lunchtime concerts. Alternatively, you can rally you colleagues for group yoga classes, or arrange a lino-print workshop. Or, you could pop to a nearby exhibition. Realistically, you probably won’t be able to spend every lunch break doing something epic but if you go in with the mindset that your lunchtime is an opening for adventure, you’re far more likely to use it in that vein. At the very least, always get out of the office.
On a group escape, you’ll tap into the joy of meeting new people
Handily, you can find all the elements of these daily adventures with a getaway, too. By travelling on a group escape, you’ll tap into the joy of meeting new people, with incredible challenges along the way. You’ll drink up meaningful and authentic experiences around the world, from climbing a Balinese volcano at sunrise to taking a night-time boat ride through the jungles of Peru.
There’ll be endless avenues for wandering off the beaten track. Creative play and improvisation are part of the fun of it, as is a supportive group format. So, while you’re reviving your life with a small-scale dose of something different, why not throw in a larger helping, too?
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