According to a recent study from the journal Nature Neuroscience, exploring the unknown on a daily basis has a powerful influence on mood—even if it happens to be your own backyard.
The research suggests that exploring your own surroundings on a regular basis offers just as much—or more—happiness as travelling to a new country, which should come as good news for travel enthusiasts unable to embark on all those summer travel plans due to COVID-19.
While many of us would quickly admit to being avid travellers, most people are less motivated to explore their city’s attractions or natural wonders, but that’s exactly what you should be doing—especially at a time when international travel is few and far between.
“New and varied experiences are broadly beneficial for the brain and for humans in general,” Aaron Heller, co-author of the study and psychologist at the University of Miami, told Inverse in a statement. “Even if you may not tend towards exploring, there are probably benefits to doing so, regardless of your past experiences.”
In order to come to this conclusion, researchers had tracked the location and emotion fluctuations of over 122 people across New York City and Miami for three to four months while analysing movement patterns and reported moods. The results suggested a clear correlation between experiencing the new and noteworthy on a daily basis and an overall boost in positive emotions.
Interestingly, while it may be tough to motivate yourself to explore a city you feel you know inside and out, the study suggests that making an effort to trek across town to restaurant openings or museum exhibitions comes as a snowball effect that leads to more happiness and motivation to explore.
“We find that if I feel better today, I'm likely to move around and have more novel experiences and have more experiential diversity the following day, and vice versa,” co-author Catherine Hartley co-author Catherine Hartley, told Inverse. “If I have more novel and diverse experiences today, I'm likely to feel better not only today but the next day.”
While finding the stamina to explore and seek out novel experiences rather than staying comfortably at home is arguably easier to do while travelling abroad, Heller and Hartley’s findings craft a compelling reason to finally visit the local attractions or neighborhood restaurants you’ve been meaning to check out.