Ever feel like you thrive on spontaneity? Apparently, some crave it more than others thanks to highly engaged behavioral activation systems, or areas in the brain where we're predisposed to pursue and achieve goals; scientific evidence confirms this above-average desire to shake things up, explains Kelly Campbell, Ph.D.
People who really enjoy doing off-the-cuff things experience greater happiness and stress relief when they're able to go after anything at a moment's notice. Not only does spontaneity interrupt the monotony of a predictable lifestyle, but it also contributes to what positive psychologists (who study happiness, hope, and human potential) refer to as "peak experiences," or "euphoric moments characterized by wonder, joy, and a feeling of being connected to the larger world," Campbell explains. So break free from that dull routine with some spontaneous activities yourself. Even if you're a fairly whimsical individual, everyone can use a little more last-minute planning in their lives, don't you think? "Everyone needs a balance of predictability and novelty," adds Campbell. And we couldn't agree more.
Ahead, find 21 fun, spontaneous things to do right now.
Take a Day Off
Do whatever it is you love doing, only if it isn't work. Head to the beach, the spa, a museum, or wherever it is you're happiest. Taking some time off of work to rest, energize, and reboot your system will ultimately make you more creative, focused, and less stressed when you return to work, especially if you have a mentally and/or physically taxing job.
Phone a friend or family member who you've been meaning to catch up with. Checking in with loved ones and sharing a bit of levity is an obvious mood-booster, but investing in relationships and practicing reciprocity also makes you more apt to freely give and receive, a life skill that's key in any successful relationship.
Get out There
If you're single and ready to mingle, then delve into the wonderful world of dating apps. Put yourself out there: Make your first (or hundredth) profile, because that wonderful someone may be just around the corner. And although it's arguably just as nerve-racking, push yourself even further, and ask someone out on a date without worry of rejection or awkward silences, either. The point is to seize the day.
Treat Yourself to Dinner
Why just cook your usual meal for one or settle for some couch-side takeout? Eating out alone opens you up to a host of new experiences, such as meeting interesting people you wouldn't have otherwise spoken to with a plus-one in tow. Dining solo can be a spontaneous, liberating (albeit slightly intimidating) decision that opens up new opportunities, too. And when you consider the common drawbacks of dining with multiple people (like small talk, bill-splitting, and annoying table guests), enjoying a meal in peace looks appetizing in comparison.
Plan a Staycation
Not to be confused with taking a day off of work, a staycation is more extended time off enjoyed at home, or in its general vicinity. Spend a weekend in situ or explore your city as would a tourist. Turn your own home into a relaxing retreat, or up the ante by impulsively booking a nearby hotel or Airbnb stay.
See Live Music
Expand your horizons and go listen to some tunes. Scientific research actually indicates that we better enjoy music during live performances, and even more so when with a group of friends. So rally the troops and grab some last-minute concert tickets; check resale websites or even local Facebook pages.
Spontaneous travel isn't for the faint of heart—but if you're someone with the flexibility and guts to pack up and leave on a moment's notice, the world is definitely your oyster. Fly by the seat of your pants and book a cheap, last-minute flight to the destination of your dreams.
Skyscanner is a great way to find the most affordable flights at the eleventh hour. You can search by destination, or narrow it down by price first.
Yes, retail therapy is a real thing and there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. So whether you're looking to celebrate your latest win or to simply feel better, shopping—in moderation—is a pleasant, therapeutic way to mentally prep for upcoming engagements or events (by visualizing how you'll use said item)—even if preparedness isn't normally your thing.
Change Your Look
Reinventing the way you look can help you see yourself in a more positive light. Changes to one's outward appearance can be as small as committing to a new side part or as over-the-top as getting a new body piercing or tattoo. Our clothing, makeup, and even our hair color say a ton about us (yes, people judge), so shift the paradigm with several, sudden smaller or larger-scale style adjustments. They'll allow you better control over how you perceive yourself and how others see you.
Learn Something New
Picking up new skills actually slows cognitive aging. Perhaps you're curious about jewelry making, pottery, or photography. Enroll in online classes or head out for a hands-on session. So if you've been meaning to do it, why not do it now? Trying something new never gets old.
Satisfy Your Inner Daredevil
Risky-yet-adventurous activities like bungee jumping and skydiving don't typically rank high on the average person's lists of fun things to do. But, to brave folks like you, they're just a couple of the ways to squeeze every last morsel out of this merry-go-round we call life. To avoid psyching yourself out, don't think too much about signing up, either. (Because where's the spontaneity in that?) Tip: Check out sites like Groupon and Living Social to snag eleventh-hour deals.
If you're yearning for a quick, physically challenging fix, then hit the gym. Any gym. Spending 30 minutes to an hour working out is a quick, inexpensive way to naturally boost your endorphins—plenty of gyms and studios offer free classes for first-timers. ClassPass offers a free 14-day trial plus some trendier workouts you may not otherwise try.
Feathering your nest can quell anxiety, inspire relaxation, and improve your overall mood. If you don't currently love your place, choose a new wall color, rearrange the furniture, or spend a few hours styling your coffee table. The time is now.
Hit a Happy Hour
Are you bored with your daily sleep-work-eat-repeat routine? Don't head straight home after clocking out. Treat yourself to an end-of-day cocktail (or two) and up the ante by inviting a coworker you don't know all that well. An impromptu quaff (whether enjoyed alone or with company) can singlehandedly shake you out of a post-work funk.
Expand Your Palate
Even when it feels like you've done it all, there's always new food to try. Put your regular takeout spot on the back burner and hit a new restaurant that serves cuisine you haven't had. Anthony Bourdain said it best in his 2011 bestseller, Medium Raw: "Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions, and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund."
Go for a Drive
Alone-time enjoyed while driving can be the ticket to decompressing and letting your mind roam free. Whether you're planning to road trip to a specific destination or just driving aimlessly without a map in hand, driving (given you enjoy it and you don't go around ripping shots like a madman) is also a powerful stress-reducer.
Make Something New
So what if you're no Giada de Laurentiis? Find an online recipe for a dish you've never made before, head to store for the ingredients, and get cooking: You might be on the verge of your next culinary opus. And if cooking really isn't your thing, test your mixology skills with a new cocktail recipe.
Try an Open Mic
Think your singing abilities, comedy chops or storytelling abilities are sub-par? Attending an open mic is a harmless way to find out. Yes, putting oneself in front of an audience can be an excruciating experience—the introverts among us can attest. But open-mics are typically designated safe spaces wherein harsh judgments are verboten.
We know: unplugging from your smart devices can be a scary thing, especially if you're addicted to checking your Insta account a hundred times a day. As long as you aren't missing integral work or familial updates, start small by switching off phone and email notifications (they only stress you out) and limiting technology use for a small, set period of time. Work up to time-sucking app deletions, unsubscribing to feeds and newsletters, switching to an analog wristwatch, and completely turning off cellular data.
Be Ready for Anything
Ready to go wherever the wind takes you? Remaining organized and on top of everything you have to do at home will help with your ability to be spontaneous. And if you've ever been invited on that last-minute trip but forced to decline due to a project you've been putting off until the day before your deadline, you know that you've learned your lesson.
Cognitive Neuroscience Society. From Lullabies to Live Concerts: How Music and Rhythm Shape Our Social Brains. March 27, 2018.
Solan M. Back to School: Learning a New Skill Can Slow Cognitive Aging. Harvard Medical School. April 27, 2016.
Bourdain A. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. New York, NY; HarperCollins: 2010.