Exhilaration, Happiness, Vacations, Thrill Seekers
Exhilaration, Happiness, Vacations, Thrill Seekers. Four very different
sounding concepts! However, they may be very closely related!
A number of years back, I had noticed that almost all experiences while
"on vacation" seemed to be more enjoyable than similar
experiences while at home. The most puzzling to me was that even
something as mundane as filling the gas tank of the car seemed to
do this, and that seemed impossible! How could such an action, which
normally has no "enjoyment" whatever, seem to become
On one specific trip, as I got out of the car at a gas station, I
realized that the air smelled nicer and that there seemed to be
more birds chirping! That seemed to be an unlikely reality, so I
thought about it further, and through following months. I eventually
came to realize that I unconsciously would take deeper breaths of
air in those gas stations while on vacation, than I did at home.
The air was not actually any more "interesting" but I
was taking in around 20% more air in those deeper breaths. The
smell sensors inside my nose were therefore having 20% more air
go by them, and therefore, there was 20% more stimulus of them!
As a scientist, I eventually figured out a way to check this out.
At home, when I would get out of the car in a gas station, I would
intentionally inhale more deeply. Amazingly, the sensation was
very much like the enhanced vacation experience!
Conclusion 1: Take Mini-Vacations!
Ever since discovering this several years ago, I regularly
intentionally breath more deeply for ten or twenty minutes,
and experience much of the benefit of an actual (brief!) vacation. OK,
the beaches aren't there, and the other stuff, but there is an
exhilaration that is surprising, much like that experienced
generally only on actual vacations. I'm saying that you can take a
ten or twenty minute mini-vacation, essentially any time you wish,
probably even at work!
The amazing effects of this simple action have inspired me to
think about further implications. It seems like there might be
Have you ever realized that all the exhilarating experiences of your
life, whether enjoyable or fear-ridden, whether positive or negative,
whether involving Graduation or a new job or Marriage or sex or dozens
of other things, all seem to be associated with increased heartbeat
and increased respiration? Whatever the stimuli that caused the more
rapid activity of the body, it results in the body receiving substantially
more stimuli than normal. At a rock concert or attending a football game,
the sounds are loud and everywhere, and it is exhilarating. In scary
movies, the visual information supplies your nervous system with far
more unusual visual stimuli than it is used to. During almost any
experience where a lot of things are happening quickly, like in a
car accident, or being present during a robbery, or being in a fistfight,
there is a lot of mostly visual stimuli that is unusual and unexpected.
In my earlier examples of smells from deeper breathing, or tactile
stimuli from a massage, the result is similar.
The brain winds up having to deal with substantially more stimulus
information than it normally has to, and there is a sensation of
exhilaration as a result of this increase in activity.
For the vast majority of us, our day-to-day lives are pretty repetitive.
Eating, dressing, commuting, working, watching TV, reading; these all
have aspects of variations but there are great amounts of repetitive
behavior where the brain doesn't really have to do much.
Conclusion 2: Change is Good!
Almost anything that we might do that would change these repetitive
behaviors is bound to give the brain some more interesting things
to deal with, and the effect will be that life will seem more
enjoyable. Regularly change your path for your commute to work, even if it
winds up being two minutes longer sometimes. Rearrange your office
or cubicle or work station. Try eating different foods, even though
sometimes they will be terrible! There are many things like this that
we all can do, and they will contribute toward a more enjoyable life!
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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago