I’ve often used the quote, “Variety is the very spice of life” to share how I feel about trying new things whether it be new foods, new activities, moving to new cities and embracing the uniqueness of different cultures. The sentiment of this expression traces back to at least the 1st century B.C., as recorded in the writings of Publilius Syrus. However, its first recorded use in this exact form is in The Task, a poem written by William Cowper in 1785. When Cowper wrote, “Variety’s the very spice of life,” he was reflecting on the ever-changing fashion of clothes.
Spices are these little things — mostly seed, fruit, root, and bark — which are used in nutritionally insignificant quantities to pep up one’s food. Their unique flavors enhance the food. Spices also serve as a preservative by killing or preventing the growth of harmful bacteria.
The phrase “Variety is the spice of life” was probably coined to express how variety, if added in our lives, could have the effect of a spice and enhance our everyday existence. Variety does to our lives the same thing that spice does to food. It makes it more fun, more interesting, more meaningful. It can cure depression and alleviate boredom.
Everyday life can get mundane. Adding spice means that life could be made more interesting by making some significant changes. The message conveyed by this phrase, if taken seriously, could change the course of our lives. It is good to try different things. After all, a rolling stone gathers no moss. Besides, it serves to break the monotony of our lives — one of the reasons for depression these days.
If one is used to having lentil and rice every day for lunch, biryani is a very welcome change. A cook uses different spices, different garnishes; each rendering a different taste in the same dish. Similarly, if we make changes in our life, we could challenge the sameness and lead more meaningful lives. Variety in our lives does not necessarily mean that we go about making drastic changes. That could be disastrous.
When children study a particular subject over a period of time, they get bored. A good way to keep the child’s interest up would be to introduce some variety. A picture book or a game that teaches the child while he plays could be a good way to help him learn.
Youth are probably the most open for new adventures and variety in their life. That is in part because at this stage, one is more open to change, more open to learn new things and more open to experiment. Adults have a lesson to learn from the youth.
Just like a spice could ruin food if it is used in excess, similarly variety could ruin our lives if we started applying it indiscriminately. Changing your diet to eat more vegetables may be the best thing you could do for your health, but going from eating no vegetables to eating only vegetables may cause stomach problems. So, make some changes more slowly.
If a husband and wife are bored with their family life, they should do something different. Instead of eating dinner every day with the family, they could opt once in a while to go for a candlelight dinner.
Instead of watching a movie with the family every Sunday, they could go out for a small excursion. Introducing variety in one’s life does not have to be expensive. You just have to put your mind to it. As a family, if you put your heads together you will be amazed at the suggestions your kids could come up with to make your weekends exciting. When one leads an exciting life, there will be little room for either depression or boredom. You will wake up each morning looking forward to a different day. So live life to the fullest. Experiment and innovate and you will find that variety can really spice up your life.
Mary Ganzel, senior program director at the Albany Area YMCA, has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years.