Novel (learning) Experiences Can Be A Buffer Against Workplace Stress

haidut

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As the forum users know rather well by know, novelty seeking and enjoyment are driven by dopamine and require a significant amount of metabolic energy. Most workplaces, especially large corporations, actively discourage novelty- seeking, behavior or personalities due to the firmly entrenched belief that these features are highly disruptive for an organization and detrimental to the bottom line. As such, many workplaces organize regular meetings and events to identify people who "think outside the box". Once these people are identified, they are either quickly ruled in by various threats and manipulations or promptly fired if the "taming" efforts fail.
This study below shows that these nefarious practices are likely to backfire because novel experiences are a powerful reliever or work-related stress. As such, weeding them out is likely to further increase chronic employee stress, burnout, absenteeism and ultimately health problems (or even suicide). Whether that is something a corporate entity would find desirable is a whole separate question, which most people here working in a large corporation can probably answer themselves.
Finally, the study found that the much-touted workplace "relaxation benefits/resources" offered by so many companies are completely ineffective at reliving workplace stress or the anxiety, depression, and frustration that come with it.

http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/apl0000264
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blo...surprising-new-finding-how-manage-stress-work

"...New research out this month from scientists at the University of Michigan found that learning something new at work served as a stress buffer, whereas relaxation strategies had no effect. In other words, doing something active (engaging yourself with learning) rather than passive (distracting yourself by relaxation) was crucial. The researchers conducted two studies of employees, one involved “experience sampling” which is an approach that studied the employees’ experiences “in the moment” at work. They also found that learning something new at work was not only a great stress buffer but it also was useful in managing negative emotions at work (e.g., anxiety, disappointment, and frustration). Taking time to relax at work did not serve as a buffer for negative emotions. Learning new things is a resource-builder. It builds your internal capacity. Relaxation approaches take a different avenue – they attempt to dampen your stress and your negative emotions. Lowering your work demands is useful at times such as when you have “bitten off more than you can chew.” But, lowering your work pressures or demands should not be viewed as your default approach to turn to. The researchers conclude that it is “doing more” (learning) and not “doing less” (relaxing) that is the key."
 

Tarmander

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With the amount of waste and stress that goes on at massive corporations, it is amazing that they can even operate. If not for monopoly practices enforced by govt entities (usually executive branch in America), I think most would topple far more often then they do. That would be exciting and novel.
 

Badger

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Also, I would add bad management at most large corporations. Without monopoly control, I estimate 75%, at minimum, would topple quickly.

With the amount of waste and stress that goes on at massive corporations, it is amazing that they can even operate. If not for monopoly practices enforced by govt entities (usually executive branch in America), I think most would topple far more often then they do. That would be exciting and novel.
 

Tarmander

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Also, I would add bad management at most large corporations. Without monopoly control, I estimate 75%, at minimum, would topple quickly.
Yes. The govt help lets them secure cheap prices on their inputs and lower their prices to ridiculous levels. If you can get honey at the store for 2.99 a pound, or buy it from a local beekeper for 12.99, it is tough to pay the higher price. If free markets were allowed to work, then the price difference might be 5.99 and 7.99, something more reasonable. It is not all America though. The Chinese have been propping up our dollar to their own detriment for awhile, so everyone is in on the game to an extent.
 

DaveFoster

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I find it's often better to bioenergetically speed up rather than physically slow down, but both together have powerful effects.

Life begets life, after all: the staircase effect.

There's often a lack of continuity between "stress-reducing" techniques and pharmacological interventions, although they act on the same pathways. People intuitively know this, as with the tendency to pair alcohol and music, but it's seldom articulated.
 
Last edited:

Mufasa

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@haidut

I don't believe in this at all.

I may live in very different context than this experiment though.
I'm a software engineer. I constantly need to learn new stuff.
New languages, new APIs, new libraries, new programmer paradigms.
I rarely have a day without any novelty.

For me relaxation, doing nothing, is one of the most important gifts that I can give myself.
For a scientific point of view, this is also the only way to fully trigger the archiving brain.
The archiving brain is constantly reordering your neural pathways, making new creative associations, and storing stuff in long term memory.
But only when do you nothing. When you don't focus on anything in particular.
When you constantly do things, you block this process, and then it will only happen when you sleep.

However, many connection that could have been made in the day by your archiving brain get lost.
Most of your short term memory will never go to your long term memory and will be lost forever.

It is not for nothing that most brilliant ideas are often born in the 3 b's, as many scientist say: bus, bath or bed.
The same can be said for walking.
I don't think it is as effective as full relaxation, but modern humans allow themself to do this much more easily.

The problem is that most people just don't know how to fully relax.
And are relaxing by checking their whatsapp messages, or facebook timeline.
The archiving brain won't be triggered when you load it with new information.
You have to fully relax, go lay in the sun for example, and just listen to the sound of your breath.
 
Last edited:
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Aug 3, 2017
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@haidut

I don't believe in this at all.

I may live in very different context than this experiment though.
I'm a software engineer. I constantly need to learn new stuff.
New languages, new APIs, new libraries, new programmer paradigms.
I rarely have a day without any novelty.

For me relaxation, doing nothing, is one of the most important gifts that I can give myself.
For a scientific point of view, this is also the only way to fully trigger the archiving brain.
The archiving brain is constantly reordering your neural pathways, making new creative associations, and storing stuff in long term memory.
But only when do you nothing. When you don't focus on anything in particular.
When you constantly do things, you block this process, and then it will only happen when you sleep.

However, many connection that could have been made in the day by your archiving brain get lost.
Most of your short term memory will never go to your long term memory and will be lost forever.

It is not for nothing that most brilliant ideas are often born in the 3 b's, as many scientist say: bus, bath or bed.
The same can be said for walking. I think it is not as effective as full relaxation,
but modern humans allow themself to do this much more easily.

The problem is that most people just don't know how to fully relax.
And are relaxing by checking their whatsapp messages, or facebook timeline.
The archiving brain won't be triggered when you load it with new information.
You have to fully relax, go lay in the sun for example, and just listen to the sound of your breath.

Great post!
 

biffbelvin

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@haidut
I don't believe in this at all.

I may live in very different context than this experiment though.
I'm a software engineer. I constantly need to learn new stuff.
New languages, new APIs, new libraries, new programmer paradigms.
I rarely have a day without any novelty.

For me relaxation, doing nothing, is one of the most important gifts that I can give myself.
For a scientific point of view, this is also the only way to fully trigger the archiving brain.
The archiving brain is constantly reordering your neural pathways, making new creative associations, and storing stuff in long term memory.
But only when do you nothing. When you don't focus on anything in particular.
When you constantly do things, you block this process, and then it will only happen when you sleep.

I don't think your contradicting the study at all. Whilst your workload sounds extremely diverse, it's consistently diverse and sounds incredibly demanding energy wise. In the context of your vocation, a novel activity would be something relaxing, such as a walk in the park.
 

haidut

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@haidut

I don't believe in this at all.

I may live in very different context than this experiment though.
I'm a software engineer. I constantly need to learn new stuff.
New languages, new APIs, new libraries, new programmer paradigms.
I rarely have a day without any novelty.

For me relaxation, doing nothing, is one of the most important gifts that I can give myself.
For a scientific point of view, this is also the only way to fully trigger the archiving brain.
The archiving brain is constantly reordering your neural pathways, making new creative associations, and storing stuff in long term memory.
But only when do you nothing. When you don't focus on anything in particular.
When you constantly do things, you block this process, and then it will only happen when you sleep.

However, many connection that could have been made in the day by your archiving brain get lost.
Most of your short term memory will never go to your long term memory and will be lost forever.

It is not for nothing that most brilliant ideas are often born in the 3 b's, as many scientist say: bus, bath or bed.
The same can be said for walking.
I don't think it is as effective as full relaxation, but modern humans allow themself to do this much more easily.

The problem is that most people just don't know how to fully relax.
And are relaxing by checking their whatsapp messages, or facebook timeline.
The archiving brain won't be triggered when you load it with new information.
You have to fully relax, go lay in the sun for example, and just listen to the sound of your breath.

Being immersed all day in the same IT environment and learning more things related to IT probably does not count as learning something new. I am also a software developer and if I feel a wave or burnout or boredom/irritation approaching then doing more IT stuff certainly does NOT help. This is why the biochemistry, Peat and the supplements are such a great hobby for me - it allows for truly new experience in a completely different field.
The study did not elaborate if "learning something new" has to be sufficiently removed from the daily routine, but I suspect that is the case.
 

Mufasa

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Jun 10, 2016
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537
@biffbelvin

That is an interesting way to look at it. I guess relaxing "activities" indeed helps me having more variation in the activities that I do.
However, the study specifically says that the relaxing is an ineffective activity for reducing stress, which my post was directed at.

I do think fully relaxing reduces stress, I just think people have forgotten how to relax.
There is an enormous amount of studies that show that you have to take breaks and relax.
One of the first that reserached this was Edmund Jacobson in 1934, he wrote "You Must Relax".

Being immersed all day in the same IT environment and learning more things related to IT probably does not count as learning something new. I am also a software developer and if I feel a wave or burnout or boredom/irritation approaching then doing more IT stuff certainly does NOT help. This is why the biochemistry, Peat and the supplements are such a great hobby for me - it allows for truly new experience in a completely different field.
The study did not elaborate if "learning something new" has to be sufficiently removed from the daily routine, but I suspect that is the case.

If that is the case, I'm wondering if it is really about novelty seeking, or more about having variation in the activities you have in your life.

There is one aspect I don't like about the term novelty seeking.
If I'm in the train, and look at the people around me, I think they are all novelty seekers.
I would say they are novelty addicts.
They are all watching their whatsapp messages, facebook, instagram timeline etc.
Or other news feeds.
It is all full of "novelty".
They are unable to just relax and watch the scenery.

I guess this has to do that people have low dopamine, and try to cure themself.
The state of low dopamine is super uncomfortable.
If you don't do anything, you begin to feel this uncomfortable feeling.
 

haidut

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There is one aspect I don't like about the term novelty seeking.
If I'm in the train, and look at the people around me, I think they are all novelty seekers.
I would say they are novelty addicts.
They are all watching their whatsapp messages, facebook, instagram timeline etc.
Or other news feeds.
It is all full of "novelty".
They are unable to just relax and watch the scenery.

I guess this has to do that people have low dopamine, and try to cure themself.
The state of low dopamine is super uncomfortable.
If you don't do anything, you begin to feel this uncomfortable feeling.

I think people leading a more natural lifestyle have lower baseline cortisol and find things more stimulating. The issue with many modern people is that higher baseline cortisol leads to dopaminergic system desensitization and as such people need more and more intense experiences just to keep going. Moving to a quite place for a few weeks usually allows for a reset but then going back to the "meat-grinder" can drive a person insane and if it is done often enough can cause bipolar disorder. So, I am afraid that once a person has decided they want to be part of the craziness of modern life the only thing that can be done is periodic tune-outs like Peat does (he says he does one day weekly with absolutely no reading/talking). The excessive verbalism contributes a lot to low dopamine and high cortisol.
Maybe that's what the study got a hint of - that periodic resets (tuning out daily work somehow) help buffer workplace stress.
 

DaveFoster

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Messages
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Spokane, Washington
@haidut

I don't believe in this at all.

I may live in very different context than this experiment though.
I'm a software engineer. I constantly need to learn new stuff.
New languages, new APIs, new libraries, new programmer paradigms.
I rarely have a day without any novelty.

For me relaxation, doing nothing, is one of the most important gifts that I can give myself.
For a scientific point of view, this is also the only way to fully trigger the archiving brain.
The archiving brain is constantly reordering your neural pathways, making new creative associations, and storing stuff in long term memory.
But only when do you nothing. When you don't focus on anything in particular.
When you constantly do things, you block this process, and then it will only happen when you sleep.

However, many connection that could have been made in the day by your archiving brain get lost.
Most of your short term memory will never go to your long term memory and will be lost forever.

It is not for nothing that most brilliant ideas are often born in the 3 b's, as many scientist say: bus, bath or bed.
The same can be said for walking.
I don't think it is as effective as full relaxation, but modern humans allow themself to do this much more easily.

The problem is that most people just don't know how to fully relax.
And are relaxing by checking their whatsapp messages, or facebook timeline.
The archiving brain won't be triggered when you load it with new information.
You have to fully relax, go lay in the sun for example, and just listen to the sound of your breath.
Dr. Peat has said that lying down, as opposed to sitting or especially standing accesses a higher pathway of consciousness.
 
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
8,253
Being immersed all day in the same IT environment and learning more things related to IT probably does not count as learning something new. I am also a software developer and if I feel a wave or burnout or boredom/irritation approaching then doing more IT stuff certainly does NOT help. This is why the biochemistry, Peat and the supplements are such a great hobby for me - it allows for truly new experience in a completely different field.
The study did not elaborate if "learning something new" has to be sufficiently removed from the daily routine

Yes. Very much.
 

johnwester130

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Aug 6, 2015
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I am reminded of a documentary on solitary confinement

A doctor would visit the prisoners and give them crosswords and puzzles to help them through the day


The manual labour job is the solitary confinement

The novel experience is the stress relief the brain needs
 
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