The Benefits of Small Life Adventures

IMG_3004Before my week off, everyone asked, “What are you doing for your vacation?” I did have some things planned, but for me it’s mostly about what I’m not doing: the same old, same old.

I like what I do in a normal week, but it gets stale. For me, vacation is a chance to do something, anything different.

It doesn’t have to be exciting to be enjoyable for me. I took about equal pleasure in watching my daughter water pretty much everything in the backyard with her watering can, seeing sites in the White Mountains, listening to live music, and working out in the middle of the day.

I find that it’s in the new space of being out of the ordinary that I feel energized. I begin to be more present. I can see the world a little bit differently. I start to make more connections. There is a creativity that comes from slowing down and living spontaneously.

I often give a piece of advice to clients who are feeling stuck, depressed or bored: do something different no matter how trivial it feels. Go to the library and pick out a new book, listen to something different for music, go for a walk somewhere new, drive on a new road. Explore. Experiment.

This is solid advice but hardly anybody likes hearing it. People want to know how to focus more on making the problem go away. The thing is that it’s over-focusing that often makes problems worse.

I think negative patterns get a lot of traction from focus. In a depressed state we tend to ruminate about what’s not working and think of all the ways what we’ve tried doesn’t work. We tend to believe nothing will work. Our focus gets quite narrow. Our worldview is small. We think we know how “it” (life, the world, humanity, our future) is and “it” sucks.

In this mindset, it is easy to dismiss and underestimate the value of small changes. People think, “I have a big problem here, Hannah. Do not tell me to go to the library.”

The Big Problem we are dealing with is often exacerbated by an over-focus on solution. Learning how to invite creativity into our lives is actually the ultimate anti-depressant.

Doing something new can lead to new understanding. It can open the world up. We can start to understand that our way of thinking is not the only way. There are other ways to be. We have choices.

Depression cannot thrive when we truly understand that we have choices on how to think and feel and behave. Depression is about being stuck, helpless, trapped. Playing, experimenting, and being spontaneous- these ways of being promote health.20090826-IMG_9508

So I say, do not look for the solutions. Go and explore what life has to offer. Stop over-focusing on your problems and enjoy something the world has to offer instead. It’s in that space, and in that way, that new insights emerge.

Even if you don’t feel it, even if you think it’s a “waste of time,” I hope you’ll consider my advice. I hope that you’ll consider that solutions, goals, or a road map are sometimes not the right tools. Even on vacation, it can be fun to meander down a road that’s out of your way. You can call it getting lost. I prefer to say I’m having an adventure.

Life is an adventure, too. Whether we like it or not, there are challenges, threats, obstacles, and struggles. The goal is not to completely avoid them. That’s impossible. Instead, focus on how to creatively navigate your way.

What do you think? Do you make time to experiment, play, wander, or try new things?

1 Comment

  1. Lynn

    Love this, Hannah. Today I actually went to a new coffee shop that opened in my neighborhood. I’ve been saying for years that I wish we had another option for a coffeeshop besides the large chain around the corner. But I noticed part of myself wanting to avoid the new option and go to what was familiar. I pushed through and went to the new coffeeshop, which was awesome. But how interesting to notice that initial resistance to trying something new.

    And I agree, so much about depression is about not being able to see possibility. Great post!

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