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On Variety as the Spice of Life

In 2022, nearly one-fourth of Americans with resolutions intended to increase their happiness.[1] Most of us can readily name a couple of things that increase our happiness, but the hedonic treadmill[2] keeps us from enjoying the same caramel macchiato to the same extent over time. What can we do when our go-to happiness answers are not resonating as much as usual?

The answer is variety. Humans are adaptive, and we adapt to positive experiences experienced frequently. When different joyful events and activities are interspersed within a longer timeframe, it re-engages us in the day. Our mindfulness increases with the unexpected.

Finding the right amount of spice

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour,” wrote English poet William Cowper back in 1785.[3] Time has proved him right, as studies have shown that we are happier when our day consists of different activities. Having a few different tasks over the day, week, or month makes us feel more productive.[4]

That said, too much spice is overpowering. When the variety of tasks is experienced as multitasking, and the tasks cover an hour or less, our stress is increased.[5] Feelings of productivity are important for personal satisfaction, and the feeling that you are churning out tasks without completion is disheartening and dissatisfying.

Do not save the spice

I love Disney World, and I regularly watch YouTube videos on how wildly expensive it has gotten. If I limited my adventures to the Floridian peninsula, the variety in my life would be rare. So, I head to the zoo and the Tennessee State Museum.[6] I consider fun vacation snacks and Google where to find them or how to make them at home.

Having a wide range of experiences you enjoy means that if one bit of fun is unavailable, you have other activities or events in mind to brighten your day. Perhaps you picked up a hobby during quarantine that has fallen by the wayside, or maybe you really enjoyed something in childhood that you have forgotten as you got busier. The internet has endless lists of ideas.[7] Bonus points if you find an experience that puts you into an inspired flow mental state.[8]

Trying something new can tell you more about yourself, your family and friends, and your community. Consider what you can do to stretch your lived experience this year.

Stephanie Barca is a therapist at Benjamin Holmes Counseling and was surprised at how easy it is to make a homemade Dole Whip.

[1] Frankovic, K.& Sanders, L. (2021). Americans who plan to make New Year’s resolutions are more optimistic about better things in 2022. YouGov. [2] I detailed more on hedonic adaptation here: On Happiness and the Hedonic Treadmill ( [3] William Cowper, Wikipedia, William Cowper - Wikipedia [4] Knowledge at Wharton Staff (2015). Does Variety Fuel Happiness at Work and in Life? It Depends. Knowledge at Wharton. [5] Knowledge at Wharton Staff (2015). Does Variety Fuel Happiness at Work and in Life? It Depends. Knowledge at Wharton. [6] Which is free – bonus! Tennessee State Museum - Nashville Attractions ( [7] Like Hobby Help’s list of over 100: 100+ List of Hobbies – Make Quarantine Fun, Cool & Interesting! – Hobby Help More on that can be found here: 5 Things You Can Do to Achieve Flow (

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