This is Your Brain on Novelty

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When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

This little pup had his first Stand-Up Paddling experience.  After a few minutes of looking around and desperately trying to figure out what kind of floor we were standing on, he looked up as if to say, “Okay, I don’t know what this is, but I trust you so let’s do this.”  (That’s the moment captured above in the photo.)

And from there it just got better and more enjoyable as he settled into the experience, eventually getting super comfortable on the board and taking in the sights and sounds. 

When you are very young, most experiences are new.  With time you accumulate experiences which means you have less novelty in your day-to-day life.  Some of that is to be expected.

However, your brain is wired to preferentially notice novelty – it is easy to notice that which is new, unfamiliar, or does not fit the existing pattern.

See something move out of the corner of your eye and you reflexively turn to get a better look. Same with a loud or sudden noise.  And it is the same with a new movement or skill.

The only difference with a new movement or skill is that you get a sustained experience which makes far more new neuronal connections to go along with all the learning.  And when you find something new that you also really like – boom! 

There goes your reward circuitry getting all active.

I remember my first time trying SUP about 7 years ago.  I’d wanted to try it for some time and after the first experience, I was hooked.  Even more stimulating and new was when I tried SUP on a river in Colorado back in 2017 – that was crazy. In a good way. 

With all the stay-at-home business we’ve been dealing with you’ve likely seen and done a lot of the same stuff far more than you usually would. 

Go try something that is new and physical.  Doesn’t matter if it is physically demanding or easy; high-skill, low-skill, or no-skill. 

The only way we discover things we love are if we try something new.  You can also discover some things you don’t enjoy.  You never know until you try. 

Don’t make it complicated – you can even just try a new hiking trail.  Your brain will react to the novelty of the new scenery and you will still get the that “new brain feeling” with the many new neurons devoting to remember the novel experience. 

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