As children we are introduced to new experiences and possibilities in life, and there is a freshness to life's experiences as we gallop through the fields of childhood. Why is it then, that in adulthood, we find ourselves in sudden ruts desperately making up ways to feel alive in the most unconvincing ways? Furthermore, what can we do about this?
The human brain changes at an amazingly rapid pace during childhood. With billions of new brain cell connections forming well into adolescence, there is a potent sense of aliveness and freshness as we form the pathways that determine "who we are". Add to this that the experiences in childhood and adolescence are oftentimes new and invigorating, and that these years of our lives are filled with play, and we start to have a clue as to why the drudgery of adulthood is filled with fences rather than open fields like the wandering years of our childhood.
In adulthood, we face the challenges of habits that have already been learned and brains that are reluctant to let go of old ways of doing things. Add to this the monotony of a routine, and you have a formula for disaster. Consider also, that our brains, once building at an incredibly rapid pace start to slow down and with the fats, toxins, and painful experiences that growing up brings, the once fun-filled brain ceases to want to sprout new connections and seems to reel back in shock and hold onto its habits for fear that something new might tip it out of balance. We learn to become "responsible"- something people are so attached to, often because without it, they would have to be faced with the panic of change and the possibility of unseen pain. A burned child dreads fire, and a brain once hurt by the perils of love, abuse or change tends to want to hunker down instead of flying into new territories of aliveness and freshness.
If this is the case, what can we do about this? What are some of the fundamental changes we need to make to our lives if we are to challenge the groaning, aging brain? Here are some things to consider:
1. Abandon the concept of "This is who I am": As long as you do this, you are not accounting for the fact that the adult brain can change and that by holding onto who you apparently are, all you become is an unchanging person with a boring life.
2. Identify one habit and change it in a direction that you are curious about. If you are used to saying no to going out to socialize, say yes. If you are used to not exercising, give threat up. As long as the new way of being enhances your life, give up the old habit. Start with one that is less challenging.
3. Try out feeling instead of thinking. The next time you are asked to "justify" your position in an argument with a friend or domestic partner, consider the fact that your emotions are an important kind of justification. This will free you to develop he habit of feeling rather than thinking which can deaden life.
4. Increase the amount of play in your life. Whether it is a board game or a playful attitude, increase play.
5. Set aside some time to do something really childish. Having the urge to eat ice-cream and pizza. Why not do it? Want to be petulant with someone you love, do it. Whatever the activity you choose, let it free you from the shackles of adulthood.
6. Try out a new way to do something you're used to doing in an old way. Find a new route to work. Try baking instead of frying. Whatever the old habit, do the same thing a different way.
7. Meditation and invigorating diets can freshen the mind and create a way of looking at old things a new way. For example, people will sometimes see a flower they have passed by every day in a new light.
The essence of these suggestions is that the adult brain can change but for it to cooperate and give us a feeling of freshness, we have to be willing to take a chance to be "alive". We have to face our fears and make the changes that are necessary to help build our confidence in trying out new things. When you are on this journey of trying out new things, consider taking a loved one with you. It can make the journey a whole lot less lonely and also much more fun.