Tweak Your Habits, Energize Your Life

Do you go to the same holiday destination every year? Have pizza for dinner almost every Friday night? Always hit the stationary bike or treadmill at the gym? While it can be comforting to stick to the familiar, being more adventurous can improve your relationships, health and mental well-being, says Dr Frank Farley, a psychologist who travels to far-flung destinations studying thrill-seeking travellers. “It’s easy to get comfortable with your usual way of behaviour,” says Farley. “But research shows that people who embrace change -- not run from it -- are the happiest.”

Shaking things up will also prepare you for the unexpected, adds Farley. “If you’re entrenched in your daily routine and something unfortunate happens -- for example, you’re laid off -- you might feel crippled by it,” he says. “But if you’re not stuck in your ways, you’ll be better able to adapt and find a new company -- or even a new career.”

Here’s how to break out of your routine, without feeling the least bit anxious:


Same Old: You eat at your favourite restaurant with your partner almost weekly


Change It Up: Try going to a comedy club instead, and then grab a bite at a new place afterwards.

Why: You’ll be more satisfied with your relationship. A recent British survey of 4000 women on revealed that 28 per cent of participants felt “more ordinary” than they did five years ago. Boredom with the same routine, including routines with partners, was cited as one of the main reasons for this. “Routine, familiarity and predictability work against the spontaneity that often fuels attraction and excitement,” says Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. New experiences stimulate the development of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can heighten excitement.


Same Old: You watch TV after dinner.


Change It Up: Take a short walk instead.

Why: You’ll lose weight. According to Diabetes Australia, you don’t have to make drastic changes in your diet and exercise routine to melt away the kilos. In fact, baby steps are best. It’s been shown that people who make one small tweak in the food they eat or their fitness routine usually lose more weight than those who follow kilojoule-restricted and physical activity guidelines -- perhaps because it’s easier to stick with small changes in the long run.


Same Old: You go out for a drink with your friends.


Change It Up: Take a class together.

Why: You’ll improve your brain. Whether it’s cooking, knitting or speaking another language, learning new skills may help protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, being a lifelong learner helps your brain create new, extra connections between neurons. An estimated 200,000 Australians have dementia, of which 50 to 70 per cent account for Alzheimer’s disease.


Same Old: You go to the beach on holiday every year.


Change It Up: Skip the beach for a city or mountain adventure.

Why: You’ll find it more pleasurable. British researchers found that when you make adventurous choices, your brain releases feel-good neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) that improve your mood. “Doing something different is also important for family bonding and memories,” says Farley. When you try something more daring -- like camping under the stars or taking a rafting trip -- it can turn a holiday into an unforgettable experience that you all talk about for years to come.

By Karen Cicero for Oral Care and Health Daily

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