Mine is. We are entering month 11 of the pandemic and monotony has long since set in.
Usually, the new year is a time of renewal, setting intentions, and a chance to start with a clean slate. Yet, for most of us, not much has changed since we rounded the corner into 2021 (notwithstanding more civil unrest). While the new vaccine carries hope that isolating restrictions will loosen up in the coming months, for now… we’re still sitting here.
Even Netflix has become boring. Same couch, same TV, same tiny Covid bubble. How strange to be at home, following the same old routine day in and day out, while civil unrest rocks the nation. What a confusing juxtaposition.
What is one to do? How can we stay engaged and interested, while our civic duty requires that we shelter in place as much as possible? Here are some ideas to keep your brain on its toes.
What’s Old is New: How to Keep it Fresh in 2021
These ideas may not be as exciting as the African Safari you’ve been dreaming of, but they may offer just enough interest to make getting out of bed and walking 25 steps to your home office a little easier.
First, know that our brain needs novelty (among other things) to function at its best. Why? Well, when our brain learns or experiences something novel, a new pathway or connection is formed. This is, at its most basic level, the concept of neuroplasticity. Like a piece of warm plastic, our brain is moldable, and learning something new is an investment in your future.
Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett comments that “The more that you learn, the more you expose yourself to new things and the more new things you’ve learned, the more flexible and resilient you are in your own life.” (Source: CNN)
We could all use an extra dose of flexibility and resiliency right now! So, here are some ideas to find novelty, even now, when we are mostly housebound.
- Start a fake commute. Though most of us don’t miss the hassle of commuting to work five days a week, it turns out that we do appreciate some aspects of the journey. I miss the occasional trip through the drive-thru at my favorite coffee shop and the chance to listen to an audiobook while sitting in traffic. Can you relate? This Wall Street Journal article offers several suggestions for creating new bookends to the day and finding a little joy along the way.
- Change your scenery. I realize that it’s January, which means that it’s cold in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment, yet there’s no better time to conduct a walking meeting than when the sun is shining or the snow is fresh. Hold a 1:1 meeting each day with a team member while strolling around the block. Or on the weekend, scout a hiking trail with a giant boulder on it. Test out the cell service, and come back on Monday with a blanket and stare up at the trees while you brainstorm new ideas with your boss. The change of scenery and the movement is sure to give you an endorphin kick to inspire creative thinking and even efficiency.
- Let someone else lead. Do you lead every staff meeting? Are you the one who always shares your ideas first? What would it be like to let go of that for a while? Challenge your team members to plan the agenda and lead your staff meetings. You might be surprised to discover that one of them does it better than you, or maybe focuses time on things you would never have thought were important to your team members. Mix it up! By stepping back, you allow someone else to shine. It also gives you the opportunity to view your team and process from a new perspective.
- Take a class. Early in the pandemic, I was envious of all the people who were learning a new language or taking up guitar. I didn’t “find” any extra time, in fact, time felt more crunched than ever, given that our household was now also dealing with remote school. Maybe you or your family have found your groove a bit more now that we’ve all settled into the “new normal” and could find 30 minutes a week to try something new—I know I did! I ended up enrolling in a class that is two hours per week for an entire year. It sounded like a huge commitment at first, yet with only three months left, I already know I will miss the structure and community that this class has brought to my life. I’m already looking at which class I want to take next, given the benefits I’ve received. My brain has appreciated learning new concepts each week that I can apply in my work and it’s been a fun way to expand my circle of colleagues.
- Try new recipes. Does hearing the phrase, “what’s for dinner?” send you into a tailspin? I get it! We hear it 365 days a year! I found this article somewhat comical and yet so relatable. It says, “around 13 percent [of people] have eaten the same thing on the same days of the week for 10 years or more.” Taco Tuesday, anyone? Make it a goal to try one new recipe each week. Ask a family member or friend to come up with the idea (and have them make it!) Your family and your brain will thank you for this small change.
What else? I’d love to hear your ideas for how to bring novelty into your life and work. Please share them for the benefit of all of us!
Photo source: PositivePsychology