Contributor: Kaia Roman
Photographer: Westland Photography
Summer is here, and for many of us, that means it’s time for a vacation. Travel is a great way to change your perspective. Whether you travel to a neighboring town or to a country on the other side of the globe, simply being in a new environment allows you to literally see the world differently.
Thanks to the phenomena in our brains known as neuroplasticity, new experiences shift our perspectives, and retrain our brains. Habits are formed through repetitive actions, and likewise are changed through performing new actions.
So if you’re stuck in a rut—at work, in your relationships, or simply in your own head—taking a trip is a great way to shake things up. But what if you haven’t been saving all year for a tropical summer vacation? There are still several things you can do to encourage a shift in perspective, without stepping foot in a plane, train, or automobile.
1. Discover a new place close to home.
Is there a museum in town that you’ve never visited? Or perhaps a hike you’ve been meaning to check out, but haven’t done it yet? Even if you’ve lived in the same place for your entire life, chances are there’s somewhere nearby you’ve never been. Visiting a new place is an easy way to shift your perspective, and it doesn’t need to be somewhere far away to offer a fresh experience.
2. Expand your taste buds and try a new food.
It’s easy to fall into the pattern of eating the same foods, following the same routine, and thinking the same thoughts every day. To shift your perspective and encourage your brain to embrace new ways of thinking, try branching out of your comfort zone with new culinary exploration. Ditch the silverware and dig into some spicy Ethiopian cuisine with your hands. Walk through the produce aisle and pick out a strange-looking fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried. Whenever you try something new, your brain experiences beneficial effects.
3. Pause your playlist and listen to some new music.
Music can activate all areas of the brain simultaneously, and is a powerful tool for creating new neural connections. Our brains connect music with long-term memory, which you’ve likely noticed when you listen to songs that remind you of past experiences. Likewise, music can help create new memories, and thus, new perspectives. Ask your friends for recommendations of new sounds to tune into. Better yet, to stretch your brain in even more new ways, learn how to play a musical instrument.
4. Redecorate or rearrange your space.
Your home can be your castle, but also your prison. When you’re in the same space, doing the same things, and having the same thoughts over and over again, your brain forms strong neural pathways that keep you where you are. To shake things up, change your space. This can be as simple as rearranging the furniture or as involved as a complete overhaul. Consider swift changes like a painting a wall a new color, or picking up a new bedspread or piece of art.
5. Do a digital cleanse for a few days.
Social media is a part of daily life for many of us, but taking a break every once in a while is good for our mental health. It’s easy to become tethered to our smartphones, reacting impulsively rather than thoughtfully, and to become more absorbed in our digital world than in our natural surroundings. To do a digital cleanse, set aside three or more days when you put all electronics aside and immerse yourself in your “real life.” You’ll likely find a whole slew of fresh new perspectives emerge.
Whether you’re going on vacation or sticking around for a staycation, summer is the perfect time to embrace new perspectives. By challenging yourself to see and experience your world differently, even in small ways, you will be changing your brain for the better.