9 Incredible Reasons to Always Try New Things
The author of You Are My Sunshine, a self-proclaimed Krispy Kreme enthusiast who cycled 350 miles on a promise to his wife, shares compelling reasons to be more adventurous and say yes to life
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” said my wife. “Don’t you want to try new things?”
My wife was staring at me intently. We were standing in our kitchen, cooking. She was wielding a chef’s knife, trying to convince me to do something insane.
Namely, she wanted to ride a bike across 350 miles of American trail. The Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath are trails that weave through four states, from Pennsylvania to Virginia. My wife was proposing that we, two average Krispy Kreme enthusiasts, try something new, namely ride a lonesome trail, camp for days on end and pay good money to live like vagabonds.
“I don’t have a sense of adventure,” I reminded her.
“But remember,” she said, “you promised me we’d do something big.”
She was right. Almost 20 years earlier, I made my wife a promise that I would undertake these trails with her. At the time, my wife was about to be cut open by a doctor who seriously believed she had aggressive cancer. A husband will say whatever he must in dire moments.
Thankfully, my wife’s tumor was benign. All these years later, I forgot about those promises. But now my wife was ready to cash in on such vows in an attempt to get me to try new things.
Moreover, she had that twinkly look in her eye that said she was serious about this bike ride. When my wife gets an idea in her head, she can be—and I mean this with the utmost respect—a dangerous lunatic. Yet any smart man knows, a way to be happier is to always agree with your wife.
And thus it was, my wife and I rode two cycles across four states. Along the way, I learned there are, in fact, several valid reasons to break out of your comfort zone and try new things. Here, I share my newfound wisdom with you:
1. You’ll feel more alive
Courtesy Sean Dietrich
Think about it. The only people who don’t try new things are in cemeteries. Or Congress.
2. You’ll get out of your old routine
Routine is good, yes. But it can also be crippling. For example, as a professional writer I have a writing routine. I do basically the same thing every morning. My routine goes like this:
My dogs wake me up before dawn by barking into my ears at close range. Whereupon I take my dogs outside to pee. Whereupon my dogs, after 30 minutes of sniffing every blade of grass in my neighborhood, finally urinate upon the same patch of grass they have peed upon every morning for the last several years. Whereupon I sit at my keyboard, type approximately three words and my dogs starts barking again. So I let them back inside. Then back outside. Then inside. And this is why I drink.
3. You’ll feel like a kid again
At one time in your life, everything you did was new. There was the first time you opened your eyes. The first time you saw your mom. Your first steps. How about your first date? Your first driver’s license. Your first romantic interest. Your first reverse mortgage. Your first IRS audit. The first time you learned how much it costs to get something framed at Michaels.
Remember how significant these moments were? Well, when you try new things, you sort of experience Childhood Wonder and those small moments of joy all over again. Am I saying that trying new stuff will add years to your life, make you wealthy and make you insanely popular? Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. And you can trust me, I write for Reader’s Digest.
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4. Your mood will improve
University of Washington School of Medicine researchers found that new experiences give the brain a major hit of dopamine. Not to get too technical here, but there is a region in the midbrain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area. This is the “novelty center” of the brain, which responds to new stimuli, such as learning to play piano or make queso dip. This neurological area is connected to the hippocampus and the amygdala, both of which play large roles in your mood. Simply put: Do something new; feel something new.
5. You’ll have fresh stuff to talk about
Yesterday, I saw an old friend for lunch. We have been friends for 30-odd years. Do you know what we do every time we hang out? We tell the same tired, old stories. He tells his stories. I tell mine. Our tales never change. We know each other’s stories so well that sometimes we swap roles just for fun. Don’t do this with your life.
6. Your creativity will get stirred up
When my wife and I undertook cycling the GAP and C&O trails, we ran the very serious risk that our trip would be tax deductible if I wrote about it. Which I did. I wrote a whole book about it, a book that caused one well-known literary critic to remark, “How is this guy even published?” But the point is, I would have never written the book if I had never gone on the trip. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.
7. You’ll know yourself better
I have no idea what I’m talking about.
8. You’ll overcome small fears
Try this. Think of something you want to do but just can’t bring yourself to try. Now ask yourself what’s holding you back? Really think about it. The answer is: Fear. Fear prevents you from doing new stuff.
When I was a kid, for instance, I was petrified of bungee jumping. Even hearing secondhand stories about bungee jumping made the hair on the backs of my legs stand up. But once I turned 40, this all changed when my wife urged me to conquer my fears by allowing college-age kids with facial hair and Grateful Dead T-shirts to strap me to a length of flimsy nylon rope and push me off a bridge located in a Third World country. And do you know what? At the end of the day, I had to ask one of those college-age kids for a loaner pair of trousers.
9. Because life is short
This is the part where I conclude with a heart-to-heart moment, reminding you that life is brief. You already know this. Everyone does. But it’s absolutely true. This year, I have lost six close friends. In fact, while writing this very article, I was interrupted by a phone call informing me that my friend’s husband died.
What I’m getting at is that someday you and I will be gone. So if you ask me, it’s up to us to live our lives, because nobody else will do this for us. So try new things. Do new stuff that will impress even yourself. Get a little crazy. And above all, never regret anything that makes you smile.
Sean Dietrich is the author of You Are My Sunshine, which recounts his 350-mile bike ride with his wife, Jamie.