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Balancing Sameness and Variety


Pandemic aside, how many of you lead a balanced life? Do you have too much sameness without knowing how to spice it up in a healthy way? The need to have enough of each of these polarities is not so different from trying to get the right measure of structure versus freedom.

Many people enjoy sameness, while others abhor it. Often if you had an unpredictable childhood—parents marrying, divorcing and remarrying or the family moving from place to place—you crave sameness. You want to keep your old friends, live in the same house or apartment and never move, spend your annual vacations at the same spot, visit tried-and-true restaurants, and avoid what’s new and different.

Alternately, if your parents ran a household where change was looked at with horror because it made them anxious, you might have developed an itch for variety. For you, doing the same old thing is boring, boring, boring and makes you want to jump out of your skin. Variety means fun, excitement, newness, stretching yourself, something you didn’t have in childhood. You love to travel, meet new people, see different sights, and can’t seem to get enough stimulation.

It's hard to live an emotionally healthy life at either end of the spectrum. Too much sameness and we become dull and boring to ourselves and others. Too much variety and we’re frantically on the go and jumping from this to that, making it hard to enjoy stable relationships or hold down a job. What works is for each individual to come up with a balance of sameness and variety that suits them.

This is true of food as well as activities. You might value and find comfort in watching the same sitcom week after week, season after season, but at what cost? Maybe you don’t color outside the lines in any way but with food and use it as the sole way to spice up a mundane life. Let’s have some ice cream, you think, because you’re tired of eating salad, fruits, lean meats and vegetables. Let’s go out to eat and have some fun. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating ice cream or dining out, but you’ll want to have more than these food-focused activities to shake up your life. 

Consider what you like about the sameness in your life and what you might do to add a bit of variety outside of the food arena. If you’re already way into variety, think about ways you might enjoy doing the same thing more often (something you like to begin with, of course). When you want some excitement, think past food and consider what activity you’d really get a kick out of. Experiment to find a comfortable balance.