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Get adventurous in 2022 – ways to stimulate your sense of fun and curiosity

Written by on January 12, 2022

An “adventure” is defined as an “unusual or daring (even risky) experience”…and the strange thing is, in many ways we’ve been living under a veil of “risk” for two years where even a shopping trip or a takeaway could bring you into contact with a disease requiring your hospitalisation(!) – and yet we’ve perhaps felt more unadventurous than ever. 

We’ve not been able to have holidays, and even local outlets have been closed to us.  With what we have been able to do, we might already know every nature trail and park in our area (we weren’t able to travel to neighbouring counties for leisure for a while), and the opportunity to see the museums zoos worldwide, while lovely isn’t quite the same as being there.

Our brains, while not necessarily “programmed for adventure”, do respond to threat and fear with both stress – but also a release of dopamine – a neurotransmitter which is the body’s main “feel good” chemical.  This may explain the drive to try extreme sports, or the curiosity underpinning wanderlust to places we’ve not been or to try foods we’re unfamiliar with.  Further to which, after an experience where the stress response has been triggered – and stopped, we release endorphins (the body’s natural pain relief) giving us a sense of calm, so it’s not only the excitement of the event that we might find much enjoyment in, but the relief that “we got there” afterwards!

As such, giving the brain a little healthy stimulation through adventure (or at something unknown that we have chosen for ourselves, rather than an “unprecedented” pandemic which we had to learn to adapt to) can be a great way to boost our mental wellness.

Practically too, having a “little adventure” – even if it is a family outing to somewhere you’ve not been before like a farm, or even a café or different park, can give you a sense of being somewhere new and the added benefit of shared experiences and memories as part of a unit.

How does adventure boost our mood?

It is worth remembering that sometimes the things we think we fear, may not be real – but things we have been brought up learning to fear.  Social Learning Theory would surmise that a fear of spiders for example, may not be an evolutionary hangover from when they might have been hazardous to our health, but rather because we’ve seen a parent or care giver demonstrate (albeit unconsciously) fear behaviour around them.

As such, if we have been brought up on stories on how it’s much safer to stay at home, this becomes a narrative which we may follow – even though it not something which reflects our true nature…if we just gave it a go.

BUT “just giving it a go” can be very frightening for someone who hasn’t tried, and the importance of having a safe space to fail as well as a supportive guide (rather than a “just do it” cheerleader) can be of greatest help here.  (Along with a reminder to adults trying something new – that it’s ok NOT to like it when you’ve tried it, and you don’t need to do it again even if you did it once!!)

What can adventure mean to different people?

For some “adventure” can mean white water rafting; for others it might be travel; for others it might be going to a different supermarket to shop, or trying a different food (even at a favourite restaurant!).  Adventure is often novelty which brings with it a mild sense of trepidation – mainly “what if I don’t like it”/”what if it makes me uncomfortable”.  For some the risk may be high eg – extreme sports bring with them a risk to life, for others a risk of not enjoying a film after you’ve bought the ticket can be adventure enough.  That’s ok.  You do you!

If you are looking to push out of your comfort zone, try the following to ease into stretching yourself:

  • Learn about what it is you want to do (do not fall prey to “paralysis by analysis”, but having an idea of what you might encounter can mean you can start reflecting and deciding – realistically – whether you have the means and resources to do it.  Asking people who have done it (especially from the same starting point as you) can be helpful, although remember, do what works for you – you know yourself and your limits/openness best.
  • Visualise yourself trying it – bit by bit.  Focus on calming your breathing (eg. breathe in through the nose for 4 and out through the mouth for 6 – counting) if the visualisation triggers any sensations of stress.
  • Identify your motivation for wanting to do it – and it is often going to be more powerful if the motivation is one regarding your health or loved ones or something you are passionate about, rather than the more extrinsic – “money” or “external praise”.

How can we have adventures close to home?

There are LOADS of things we can try to bring a sense of micro-adventure into our lives:

  • Go on a different walk (even if it’s to a familiar place), or consider taking a different form of transport eg riding a bike rather than jogging.  While on the walk, you might also aim to take photographs of unusual or beautiful things you observe.
  • Try something different for a meal
  • Try “geocashing” (a bit like Pokemon for adults) – where you follow trails left by other geo-cashers on your smartphone
  • Read something new
  • Do some DIY or change up one of your rooms
  • Plan your actual adventure for after lockdown has lifted safely/fully
  • With your children – or without them(!) remember the sense of fun you had and – build a den, and then perhaps create stories around this soft furnishings castle!
  • Camp in your back garden and admire the stars – you can even hire yurts for this!  Even make an evening of it with things like roasted marshmallows or singing campfire songs.
  • Create a treasure hunt and challenge your friends, or try an escape room (either going to one now they have opened, or any of the online platforms.)  Nothing bonds a team together than “Mild peril” as you try to beat the clock to escape!!
  • Change up your wardrobe with a virtual (or in-person) fashion show and clothing exchange with friends.
  • Create (and use) a home gym/obstacle or circuit course
  • Find a charity to support and do something that’s new to you (or just do something that’s new to you anyway!!)

Dr Audrey Tang is the host of The Wellbeing Lounge, Tuesday nights at 9pm, and this week’s show (which can be heard on the Listen Again page) is all about enriching and stimulating our senses.

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