If you’re ecstatic after a trip to the shops, it’s your brain thanking you for the novelty | Richard A Friedman

The monotony of lockdown life has starved us of spontaneity and serendipity, which enhance learning and memory

  • Richard A Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College

I hit a wall in late February and felt that life had taken on a quality of stultifying sameness. Was it Wednesday or Sunday? I couldn’t really tell: every day of the week felt identical because there was nothing to distinguish them. Work, read, exercise, eat, repeat. Like nearly everyone I know, I have settled into a state of dreary uniformity.

The pandemic has been a vast uncontrolled experiment – not just in social isolation, which is bad enough, but in the deprivation of novelty. Overnight we were stripped of our ability to roam around our world the way we usually do. Gone were the chance encounters with other people and the experience of new things and places: no travel, no adventures, no restaurants, no theatres, no crowds. We weren’t just quarantined from Covid: we were cut off from the ubiquitous stimulation of the unfamiliar and new.

Related: ‘Start a daily routine – and make the weekends different’: the isolation experts’ guide to lockdown living

Related: ‘Be kind to yourself’: experts’ tips on coping with lockdown stress

Richard A Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College

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Category: Mental Health