I was inspired to write this article after reading and commenting on another blogger’s post which outlined the typical basic things to do for your self-care. Actually, my real reason for this article was my comment to that blogger’s post, rather than the content per se. In that comment, I mentioned how you needed variety to keep things fresh, otherwise your self-care stuff will become ineffective. So, welcome to my article on how to avoid stale self-care and boredom by making time for some variety and randomness.
What Is Boredom?
Kruk and Zawodniak (2018) defines boredom as being a mild, unpleasant, and sometimes painful state that causes a person to disengage from what’s going on around them through a combination of dissatisfaction, disappointment, inattention, annoyance, and a lack of motivation. Although a simpler definition comes from Fisherl (1993), stating that boredom is a transient state borne of a complete lack of interest in a given activity, or lack thereof.
Why Variety Is Good
Much like a balanced diet where eating a variety of foods helps maintain a balance of good bacteria in our digestive system (Cleveland Clinic), which keeps us healthy, variety can help with maintaining good mental wellbeing as well.
The problem with routine is that well, it’s routine. Routine may be fine with getting ready for bed or getting up in the morning, but it’s not great if you want to enjoy your life. We can’t help put fall into routines as our brains are lazy and it requires less effort to fly on autopilot through your usual routines. This is how you can drive home without remembering how you got home.
There are several ways to add some variety into your life. In fact, I’ve written a couple of articles using such methods. I wrote about how you could use dice to keep your fitness routine from going stale. I also wrote about how you could craft a self-care jar to mix up your self-care routine. However, this time it’s about dedicating the entire day to doing something new and/or different to your typical routine.
But what works for exercise and minor acts of self-care isn’t the kind of variety I’m thinking of this time. Etkin and Mogilner (2016) conducted eight studies into ‘variety of activities’ and ‘time’ to determined how they interact to create happiness. The findings from these eight studies showed that time could play an important role in how variety gives us happiness. Doing something different for an hour could decrease happiness, whereas doing something different for a day would increase happiness. The reason that filling short periods of time doesn’t always create happiness is because it’s harder to keep coming up with activities to do to occupy your time.
I think Etkin and Mogilner (2016) eight study design makes a good point about variety. To truly immerse yourself in something new, you need to give yourself more than 10 minutes here or an hour there. Coming up with seven activities that lasts an hour will be less effective than coming up with one activity that can last seven hours.
Plus, a study by Pettigrew et al. (2019) which used 189 middle aged participants (average age was 56.6 years-old) to see how engagement in lifestyle activities affected cognitive decline, found that engagement with lifestyle activities could slow cognitive decline and thus work as a buffer for Alzheimer’s disease. And the best way to keep cognitive decline away is to keep your activities diverse.
Spicing Things Up With Randomness Variety
So here we are. This is where I’m going to pitch you my interpretation of variety. I want you to dedicate a day, or a weekend if you can, to doing something new and random each month. You can do this by planning what new and random thing you’ll do for the end of the month, or you can just decide on the day. Your choice. For example, make the last weekend or last Saturday of every month your day to do something you don’t normally do during the rest of the month.
What matters is you break from your routine and do something you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe you’ll go away for a weekend getaway one month, try ballroom dancing the next month, and go check out a new museum exhibit the month after that. The world is your oyster, as they say.
If you want to stick to the spirit of it all, get your local paper out or Google what’s going on in your area the day before, and pick something (or several something’s) from what’s on or what’s new, and do that.
But if you wanted to do more long-term variety of activities, then you could pick courses from your adult education collage. Once you’ve completed the course, you can then pick a new one to do and do that, and so on and so on.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of trying to add variety into your life in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Etkin, J. & Mogilner, C. (2016). Does Variety Among Activities Increase Happiness?. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(2), 210–229. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucw021 and https://anderson-review.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Etkin-Mogilner-JCR-2016-Variety-and-Happiness.pdf.
Fisherl, C. D. (1993). Boredom at work: A neglected concept. Human relations, 46(3), 395-417. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/001872679304600305 and https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.679.9851&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Kruk, M., & Zawodniak, J. (2018). Boredom in practical English language classes: Insights from interview data. Interdisciplinary views on the English language, literature and culture, 177-191. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mariusz-Kruk/publication/325661590_Boredom_in_practical_English_language_classes_Insights_from_interview_data/links/5b4c5abcaca272c6094753f4/Boredom-in-practical-English-language-classes-Insights-from-interview-data.pdf.
Pettigrew, C., Shao, Y., Zhu, Y., Grega, M., Brichko, R., Wang, M. C., Carlson, M. C., Albert, M. & Soldan, A. (2019). Self-reported lifestyle activities in relation to longitudinal cognitive trajectories. Alzheimer disease and associated disorders, 33(1), 21. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6389389, http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC6389389&blobtype=pdf, and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anja-Soldan/publication/328617876_Self-reported_Lifestyle_Activities_in_Relation_to_Longitudinal_Cognitive_Trajectories/links/5c3cf5de299bf12be3c894de/Self-reported-Lifestyle-Activities-in-Relation-to-Longitudinal-Cognitive-Trajectories.pdf.
50 thoughts on “Variety Is The Spice Of Life For A Reason”
Great points made. While I’m a creature of habit and like my usual routine, I also do like to shake things up every now and again and think its pretty important. The variety in my life tends to come from my travels and various courses.
Traveling is definitely a good way to inject some variety
You are so right about variety! I used to plan a small trip away once a month, it could be from just few hours away every Sunday to 3-4 days to another country and it would really change the feeling I had for my everyday life. After COVID that became a bit difficult but hopefully soon I will return to it.
I think that when routine in our lives takes control of it we feel trapped and we need variety as an escape from it.
Your post is great as always! Full of information and suggestions. I just subscribed to your newsletter also.
Thank you for this post!
It is easy to become trapped by your routine, that’s for sure
You are right. I love doing something random, even if it is just trying a different food or having a walk around a new area of my locality.
It helps keep life interesting
I think that is what is lacking from my life right now. Much to do with pandemic restrictions. I was the type to go on a pirate boat because it seemed fun. I know its for kids, but who cares. I do miss adventuring and I live in place that has many attractions. Should make an effort to find out whats open and have little bit of fun.
Nothing wrong with doing things you think are for kids, growing up is a scam. Embrace the child within
I love routine at work, but not 100% – I like to know what I am meant to be doing and kind of section it through my day, but have space for the odd task that might come up that is different. In self care, I agree with you, different and varied is better. I will try and take on your challenge of doing something different and new at least once a month or week (where possible!). Thank you for sharing this, it was very insightful.
I hope you find the challenge transformative
Excellent post and I try as much as possible to bring variety into my life, but sadly I don’t do enough. But, I have started a course to help keep my brain cells active, and it is going well. Thanks for sharing.
It’s always good to start a new course to keep things fresh
Very informative, I don’t think I’ve been bored. Always stay busy and keep things interesting. Thank you for sharing this!
Thanks for commenting
I’ve been stuck in a routine for far too long, which as a result has caused me to become nervous when something happens spontaneously. I’ve never done self-care, I don’t get the time nor I wouldn’t know what to do. However, I am doing something next month which will definitely test me.
That doesn’t sound good that even a minor change to your routine can cause you such issues. Have you talked to someone about that?
Nobody to talk about it with if I’m honest
It might be worth talking to a therapist or your GP about
Your so right. I love doing random things, it keeps me interested! I was stuck in the same routine everyday and I just needed to inject some fun into my life. Love this post, thank you so much for sharing Xo
Elle – ellegracedeveson.com
Thanks for sharing
This is really interesting! I love my routine but it’s also nice to do fun things spontaneously when you can. It’s also great to do things you wouldn’t normally expect of yourself. For example, I went to a concert the other day, and I spontaneously visited a friend in a different city a few months ago. I might once have avoided these events because of anxiety, but I felt good for pushing myself to get out and about. Great post 🙂
Well done for not letting your anxiety get the better of you anymore. I’ve been there before myself
I love your self care jar idea! We didn’t know we were in a rut until we got out of it by visiting friends at their cabin! No, we can’t wait around for invitations to break up our routine, but the point being that your post is spot on. Variety is the way to go. Thanks!
It’s easy to get lost in a routine, not realising it’s sucking the life out of you
Variety brings the excitement, difficulty, and surprise in life. It doesn’t only subdue boredom but also bring balance to the good and bad. Great perspective! Thanks for sharing.
I think that some of us have got stuck doing the same things because of the pandemic.
I’m away for a couple of nights soon, so that’ll be a change for me. Variety is definitely the spice of life and we all need it.
Indeed we do
Routine is definitely just that… boring. If you do new or different things once a month, like you said, you’ll actually learn to appreciate your routine a bit more. I go to new places all the time for my own mental health, and also to write new content for Instagram, and my blog. But now that we’re in lockdown, I really miss our routine of taking my daughter to nursery, food shopping days, etc, and visiting a new spot at the weekend. I find adding variety into life for me is the key to keeping good mental health too. At least that’s what keeps the demons at bay. Great post 🙂
Good point, having that variety can also help rejuvenate your routine as a by product
Great! such an important topic and I 100% agree!!
Enjoyed this post and absolutely agree that variety is the spice of life. In everything – we need variety and diversity, its what awakens our senses and abilities no doubt. Its what make us evolve as human beings – we become better when we learn to do something outside of our comfort zone or routine.
On the contrary, there are notions where being bored is a good thing. Where it is also self care to not fill your time with a new activity and to just sit still. We often feel like if we are not filling our time with activities or things to do, that we are wasting our time and ultimately our lives. Stopping and doing nothing can also be just as valuable as doing something different.
Thank you for writing the post – we always love reading your articles. Have a fab month x
True enough when it comes to boredom. We need to allow children to learn to cope with boredom rather than seeking to constantly keeping our children entertained, because it’s not good for the children and it’s not healthy for the parents
Variety is indeed the spice of life and I can relate to your exercise analogy. When I do the same workouts for too long, I start to fall into the habit of rolling with it instead of feeling engaged and challenged. Mixing things up and trying new routines reignites my excitement about my evening exercise routine, and the same idea also applies to the way I approach food, writing, and hobbies.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I could do with adding more variety to the food I eat, but it always seems to taste bland so nothing sticks. Plus I’m a lazy cook
What a great read. Ha it’s and routine is one thing but bark really is the spice of life as they say. Thanks for sharing,
Thanks for commenting
Activities help creating excitement especially when it is something new and unexpected. Rock climbing anyone?
I think I’ll pass on the rock climbing, I don’t have the strength for that, or the head for it
My husband and I are complete opposites. He loves routine for everything, I am much more spontaneous. So we have learned to compromise with the routines that really matter to him (meal times for example) giving me the space in between to do my thing according to how the fancy takes me.
At least you were able to find a way to compromise
Great post as always and I love all the research you put into your articles. I agree thay having variety in one’s life is definitely important, because it makes things a bit more worthwhile and it helps to keep us young. Unfortunately as humans we are creatures of habit by nature, and falling into and staying into a routine helps us to feel “safe and secure” in a sense. Very often we do not like the unknown and keeping to a routine helps us to feel in control.
But, it makes things boring, stale, and just blah at times. I for one have to make more of a conscious effort to add more variety in my life, so I can spice it up a bit more.
Thanka for the great read!
Thanks for commenting. Yeah, we really are creatures of habit, which is effective in saving us time and effort, but not for your quality of life, not if you’re only engaging in routines anyway
Another great post, in fact your entire website is very informative and I always look forward to new articles. I appreciate that you always put so much research and detail into each post, making it super interesting to read. Hope you’re having a great Sunday 🙂
Olivia | http://www.oliviaandbeauty.com
This is true!