The psychological reasons why novelty—from visiting new places to socializing—makes us happier and healthier people.
Our brains are constantly degenerating, Eagleman continued. (After spending the last year and change mostly in front of my computer, I swear I can feel this happening in real time.) “Think about an old city, where the roads haven’t been repaired in a long time,” he explained. “When you’re confronting novelty all the time, you’re building new pathways and bridges and roadways in there.”
He also brought up social experiences as a key to mental health. “Social engagement is one of those things we see related to a person’s ability to overcome negativity,” Walsh said. “What we’ve been seeing is that through the pandemic, our participants are engaging in less of that and that has led to a depressing of their ability to cope with negativity.”
As the pandemic showed, there will be plenty of circumstances in our lives, oftentimes out of our control, that will limit the amount of new experiences we can have. We will also always hit a point called “hedonic adaptation,” when a new object or person or experience just isn’t very exciting to us anymore. Fortunately, Santos has some advice here. She suggests two techniques you’ve likely heard before: mindfulness and gratitude.