Why choosing an adventure mindset might make you happier
Choosing an adventure mindset means seeking novelty and adopting an attitude of anticipation, curiosity, creativity and play. Whilst these new experiences may be challenging, striving will ultimately bring you a sense of pleasure and a hit of happiness in the form of dopamine.
So if you’ve been feeling a bit blah, meh or generally uninspired by your life, choosing an adventure mindset might help you get your mojo back.
Choosing an Adventure mindset: novelty + curiosity + challenge + anticipation = pleasure + thriving!
The rush of happiness hit me as I walked onto the plane
“Now this is really living!” I said to myself as I crossed the aero-bridge onto the plane. In that instant I realised just how much my brain had been starved of novelty and adventure during the pandemic. I was finally busting free from the turgid, grey soup of work and routine! I felt joy bubble up through my torso and almost had to hold myself back from dancing onto the plane.
I’m not saying you need to get on a plane to make yourself happy, but choosing an attitude of creativity, curiosity and play might just open you up to mini adventures and increase your general level of happiness. Here’s why…
Routine makes you feel safe, but your brain also craves novelty
I feel like the pandemic dulled my natural curiosity. How about you? I was looking for safety and reassurance. Moreover, I remember choosing movies and TV series that I’d had already seen, because it felt like my nervous system needed the comfort of already knowing the ending.
However, now that we are back in sort-of-safer times, my brain is craving novelty. It is missing that sense of joy, adventure and challenge.
Novelty will deliver a hit of delicious dopamine
Dopamine is your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. It gives you that feeling of motivation, joy and a positive frame of mind.
If you’re feeling gloomy or unmotivated, doing something that you already enjoy may deliver some of the good stuff. BUT doing something novel will directly impact your dopamine levels. (Read more about the science of this in Psychology Today).
This could involve doing something completely new, but it could also mean doing something you already know in a totally different way. Essentially, thinking laterally, with a fresh, creative mindset.
e.g Internet dating sucks (It really does). How could I get off my sofa and meet people in real life?
TIP: Have you heard of Edward de Bono, the man who coined the term ‘lateral thinking’? He has some great books that can help you spark creative ways of thinking. I enjoyed his “Thinking Course”.
A little bit of struggle will make your achievement even sweeter
You will get a greater sense of achievement and dopamine hit if you have had to struggle or suffer a bit in your task. If something is too easy, you won’t get the same amount of pleasure.
A state of flow is felt somewhere along the scale between anxiety and utter boredom. If it’s too easy, your brain could almost be on autopilot and you won’t feel as much pleasure. However, if you are really absorbed and fully concentrating, then you’ll likely get into that wonderful flow state. (Cue the dopamine hit!)
Here are some ideas for creating an adventure mindset
Curiosity: seek wonder, knowledge and experiences
Be like Alice and go down the rabbit hole. Allow yourself to be inquisitive. Maybe try new foods or drinks. I wonder what that Mocha cappa/frappa/on macadamia with a twist of caramel would taste like? (Sweet AF I suspect but I’m going to give it a red hot go).
Similar to curiosity, remember that sense of wonder and awe that you have when you went travelling? Give yourself time to appreciate the small moments of wonder around you.
Yes you may feel fear come up when you try something new, but if you feel stuck in your dull, daily routine why not stretch yourself to try new experiences? (Fear is something you and I can address in therapy sessions.)
Bring out your play mindset
If you hang around kids you’ll likely remember how much you used to play. As adults we rarely engage our sense of play, instead getting hooked by routine, responsibility and drudgery. (Eyeroll. Heavy sigh…)
But what if you could engage that sense of playfulness whilst you do your routine adult tasks today? How could you make your responsibilities more fun?
Less “FML I’ve got to do that BS thing again today” and more “I’m just going to try this and see what happens…”
Anticipation – the joy of waiting
Anticipation is another factor in creating that sense of joy. Remember how it feels when you’ve booked those flights for 6 months’ time and you then get to start planning your holiday? Oh yeah… more of that please!
Instant gratification might be the way society rolls at the moment, but waiting 2 weeks for that book to arrive from America might bring a greater sense of pleasure.
Hmm I wonder if that pizza might taste even better after you’ve made it from scratch, instead of getting it delivered via an app?
Look for glimmers of adventure in the smallest of places
It doesn’t have to be a big holiday. What if you could try a new route home from work today?
Or perhaps you could pick up some of those ugly veggies that you have to Google/YouTube so that you don’t inadvertently poison yourself?
Your body seeks novelty too
The state of your body will impact your mental health (think how pain makes you feel flat and low). And vice versa, the state of your mind will impact your body.
Did you know you can use your body to improve the state of your mind?
If you’re bored of doing the same classes each week, why not try out a completely new type of movement class: Capoeira, roller skating, or animal flow classes?
Even the way you sit at work can be physically creative
Having to sit still during interminable Zoom meetings makes me want to jump up from my seat and do interpretative dance. Probably not appropriate. However, WFH and the advent of standing desks has given rise to a whole new way of working.
Why not try different ways of sitting whilst you work? What about sitting cross legged on the floor with your laptop on a coffee table? Or perhaps wiggling on a Swiss Ball under your desk?
I’m a fan of Katy Bowman’s work. She has a great book called Move your DNA, but she also has this helpful blog post on how you can vary the ways you sit whilst you work.
Let your adventurous friend drag you to new experiences
I have a bestfriend called Susan. She drags me out to what I consider the wildest dance classes for my middling years.
Reggaeton hiphop pretending your fingers are guns? No problem I’ve seen Fast and Furious, I know how this shizz rolls. I am 100% certain that I looked hilarious, but I had the best fun, my body moved in completely new ways and we laughed for ages afterwards at our fish-out-of-water’ness.
If you have an adventurous friend, say yes to some of the crazy things they invite you to. No matter how far out of your comfort zone. Your brain and body may just love it.
Here is your recipe for thriving by choosing an adventure mindset
- Be curious and inquisitive and make time for wonder and awe
- Seek new knowledge and be open to new experiences
- Stretch yourself (you might need to strive and suffer a bit in the process)
- Create a sense of anticipation
- Allow yourself to play (and find fun in the routine)
- Use your creativity and lateral thinking
- And above all… look for novelty
Choosing an adventure mindset: novelty + curiosity + challenge + anticipation = pleasure + thriving!
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