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How to Find Novelty in a Time of Pandemic-Induced Marital Monotony

If you're like us, you’re probably grappling with one of the peculiar experiences of pandemic life: the loss of novelty.

In pre-Covid times, life seemed full of novelty, of new and fresh experiences. You might have had dinner parties or barbecues to attend. You might have had movies, festivals, sporting events, or concerts on your calendar. You might have looked forward to exciting new trips and vacations. 

You might have even found novelty at work in the form of team dinners, business trips, conferences, and work parties and events.

Now, however, many of these sources of novelty and variety have disappeared.

And that has left us and many other couples asking: how can we create new, fresh, novel experiences in this era of social distancing?

 

Tools

 

1. Making the mundane novel.

Most of the errands and to-do's in life are driven by automatic habits. We check our email, go to the store, or cook dinner in a dream-like, almost unconscious, state of running on auto pilot. So see what happens when you interrupt these ordinary routines.

Instead of ordering that book you need from Amazon, make a trip to your local bookstore with the whole family. Instead of driving across town to an appointment, ride your bike or dust off those old Rollerblades. Instead of cooking the same meals, try a new recipe every other day. Infuse the ordinary and mundane with something fresh, novel, and out of the ordinary.

 

2. Learn something new.

Back in the 'good old days,' people had these things called “hobbies." We know. Who has time for those? But with much of life on hold, we now have time to learn a new skill, sport, musical instrument, or language. If that sounds too daunting, you might just revisit some of those "hobbies" you put on hold for years: playing the guitar, making jewelry, or playing frisbee golf. 

 

3. Find novelty in the present moment. 

The 19th century American mystic Henry David Thoreau observed that, "Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star...But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present moment." Thoreau's point is that we have a bad habit of looking for novelty outside the present moment, in extraordinary future events, plans for lavish dinners, or the anticipation of wild adventures. But when we shift our attention fully into the present moment -- when we notice all that's happening right here, right now -- something amazing happens. We experience the freshness and novelty in each moment. We hear the birds outside our window. We notice the subtle change in the colors of the leaves. We see that each moment is unique, novel, and extraordinary. 

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