Scientists raised two groups of mice and then measured their intelligence. The first group was kept in traditional mouse surroundings. They had a cage, food, water wood chips and nothing else. The other group was given a much more exciting environment. They had balls, running wheels, colored blocks, mazes, tunnels, doors, hanging ropes, pictures, etc.
The mice that were exposed to more variety developed a much higher IQ, than the ones that had a boring environment.
Does this mean that we should all add slides, fire poles, and ball pits to our houses? Maybe. But a less extreme and possibly more effective option is to simply make sure you do new things on a regular basis.
Doing something new doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You don’t have to climb Everest or spend years studying martial arts in the East. Even simple things like meeting someone new can be an effective way to keep yourself exposed to new ideas and new points of view.
Here is a list of some ideas:
- Take a different route home from work.
- Take a different mode of transportation than normal.
- Read a magazine that you would normally never pick up.
- Watch a highly rated movie that isn’t something you’d normally see.
- Spend some time talking about politics with someone who disagrees with you.
- Go into a store you’ve never visited at the mall.
- Try a restaurant that serves food you’ve never tried.
- Visit a foreign country.
- Take on a second job where you will learn something.
- Volunteer somewhere.
- Write some physical letters instead of email.
- Listen and try to understand music that you don’t usually enjoy.
- Buy and wear clothes that are different than your normal style.
- Take a pottery or basket weaving class.
- Go to a drive in movie.
- Go on a tour of a large business.
- Go to a sporting event you’ve never attended.
One thing I’ve found is that when I decide to do something new, my brain tries to talk me out of it. So if I’m getting ready to go to a new museum I’ll have an internal tug-o-war between following my plan or going to a familiar bookstore. If you are going to do new things, you’ll have to get over this. It is usually easier to start small and build up, but the biggest benefits usually come from doing the things that make you the most uncomfortable.
What new things have you tried that moved you out of your comfort zone?