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Surprises Make Us Happy: 7 Big Takeaways

Surprises have a tendency to make us happy. Novel experiences are much more memorable, and we tend to flourish when we at least occasionally break out of our normal routines. On top of that, surprises tend to increase our emotional responses.

What does that mean for you? And how can you take advantage of this effect?

How to Thrive in a World of Surprise

These are some of the best ways that you can thrive in a world of surprise:

1.       Surprise your loved ones. Consider surprising your loved ones more frequently. Whether the surprise is grandiose or small and quaint, your loved ones are going to appreciate it. It’s a great way to express both affection and gratitude, and a way to enrich the lives of the people you care about most. As a simple example, you could deliver flowers – not because of a holiday or anniversary, but on a random day of the week. If the gift is totally unexpected, it’s going to be much more memorable and evoke much stronger emotions. Similarly, if you’re not sure what kind of gift to get someone for their birthday, Christmas, or another holiday, go with something that is going to genuinely surprise them in addition to being personally relevant.

2.       Be open to new experiences. Some people are naturally open to new experiences, and they seek them out regularly. Others are much more reclusive, preferring the comfort of routine. If you’re a person who generally isn’t open to new experiences, or if you apply a strict order to your life, consider breaking out by shaking up your routine and trying new things more frequently. You don’t have to take up a new extreme sport or take other kinds of big risks; even simple things like trying new restaurants and talking to new people can make a big difference in your life. Even if some of the surprises you encounter end up being temporarily unpleasant, your life will be more enriched because of your openness.

3.       Understand that surprises are emotionally sensitive. According to a report by WNYC Studios, “When we’re surprised, for better or for worse, our emotions intensify up to 400 percent. If we’re surprised with something positive, we’ll feel more intense feelings of happiness or joy than we normally would [have] absent the surprise. Similarly, if we’re surprised by something negative, our feelings of anger, despair or unhappiness will also intensify because of the surprise.” In other words, the power of surprises can work both ways. If you surprise the people around you in negative ways, they could end up feeling intense negative emotions instead of positive ones. Try to set proactive expectations and remain transparent so you can avoid springing negative surprises on others.

4.       Be wary of strict routines. In some ways, humans need surprise. If we’re trapped in the same repetitive routine ad infinitum, it can drive us mad. Accordingly, you should be wary of adopting strict routines. There’s nothing wrong with having a schedule in place, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with using routines to improve your productivity. But if your routines are so rigid that they’re practically inflexible, or so repetitive that every day feels the same, you’ll need to make a concentrated effort to break out.

5.       Share your experiences with others. Surprises are even more positively beneficial when you share them with others. If you found yourself pleasantly surprised by the actions of another person at the grocery store, or if you recently learned something that totally contradicted your previously held assumptions, share it was someone else. It will help you commit the surprise experience to memory and possibly provide a positive surprise to someone else in your life.

6.       Talk to others about theirs. Similarly, you should be open to talking to other people about the surprising experiences they’ve had in their lives. You’ll get the opportunity to feel some secondhand surprise. At the same time, you’ll give them a chance to relive some of their most shocking and interesting experiences.

7.       Take inventory of the surprises in your life. Finally, take a regular inventory of all the surprises in your life. You can also use these observations in combination with an overall assessment of how you feel in life – and determine whether you need a major change. For example, if your weeks are practically indistinguishable from one another, you’ve repeated this routine for months, and you’ve been feeling a little depressed lately, this could be a symptom of not having enough novel experiences.

Toward a New Pattern

Everyone deserves to experience surprises from time to time. As you work to improve your life and bring joy to the other people you meet, try to master the positive aspects of surprise and remain as open and flexible as possible.

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