You know that feeling a killer song gives you the first time you’ve heard it?
Or driving through the summer night with the windows down?
Or taking a tipsy midnight stroll with someone that you know, but haven’t really gotten to know, and learning so much about them?
Keep that feeling in mind.
I remember this vividly: my very first cross-country road trip, alongside my new boyfriend (now husband) on the approach into the gateway of Oregon. The landscape had shifted once again and now before me was rolling hills, open fields, and a sagebrush-scented spring breeze. Everything was so new and everything made me so full of this indescribable feeling of “what’s going to happen next?”
If I had to try to sum it up — I think that’s, my friends, the feeling of wonder or “joie de vivre”.
And, I know, this sounds really fucking cheesy. But, oh man, I really really really hope you understand what I’m saying here.
I’ve found that as I’ve aged and experienced more places, people, and things that I’ve gotten sort of jaded. What I certainly do not mean is: I’m a “sad bear” and everything is awful. But that “carefree enjoyment of living” is dulled.
It’s not that I want to be an emotional wreck when I see a jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunset. It’s just that I want my mind to automatically be like “oh wow, it’s not every day that we see something like this. Let’s take a moment and experience this.” Ya feel?
So lately I’ve been on an unofficial journey to regain that. Here’s a few practical methods I have discovered thus far:
Retrain your brain.
- – Mindfulness
If you’re (like me) this “lack of wonderment” it’s probably because something has been left to wayside. This is not a problem. Well, it is. But it’s not a permanent problem.
The brain is really interesting. There’s this thing called neuroplasticity, and while it’s still in its early stages of being understood, scientists recognize that it’s a really significant development. This little snippet from an article titled “Rewiring Your Emotions” on Mindful.org explains it well:
“But how far can neuroplasticity go?
Perhaps as far as an emotional reset—harnessing neuroplasticity to change how you respond emotionally to the ups and downs of life. Neurobiologist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, an expert on the emotional brain, calls it “neurally inspired behavioral therapy.” He is talking about a kind of therapy that identifies the brain activity underlying an emotional trait you wish to change, such as a tendency to dwell in anger, and then targets this brain activity with mental exercises designed to alter it. The result is a healthier “emotional style,” as Davidson calls it.”
This greatly reminds me of the marketing “rule of seven,” in which the customer has to be exposed to your ad at least seven times before being driven to act. There are actual scientific studies to back this up like this one.
Interesting, right? It’s just gonna take a lil’ practice. How do we do that?
- – Meditation
Let me tell ya, it’s been pretty difficult to sit myself down every morning for five minutes in complete stillness. But one of the greatest strengths of meditation: you get to teach your brain how you want it to think.
So when your brain starts to wander (EG: “man, I’m hungry… what’s there to eat?” or “Oh! I need to add that to my list of things to do today”) then you purposefully have to bring your brain back to that state of Zen. Or maybe your brain’s go-to is anxiety? Remember that guy, Davidson, from the article I mentioned earlier? He says that meditation gives you “the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, note that it as an interesting mental process, and resist getting drawn into the abyss.”
And it’s hard.
Like anything that’s worth doing. I liken it to mental weight lifting (without the benefit of a good dose of pre-workout, unforunately).
I’m not going to explain the “how to” breakdown of meditation. I’m still just a beginner. Instead, here are some resources that have helped me:
An app: Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax
- – Go Outside
Just fucking do it. There’s a million studies as to how being in nature help your brain. It aids concentration (study) and it makes you more creative (study). There are literally 111,000,000 results on Google when I type in “brain benefits of being outside.”
And, as a side note, my dad sent me a video about “grounding” that was really interesting. In short: having bare skin contact with the ground can have numerous positive effects on the brain, healing injuries, and improve overall well being. I’m still a little unsure of the validity of this claim, but here’s an article that plays devil’s advocate if you’re interested in learning more.
Something a little unorthodox: download the Ingress app on your phone and partake in a worldwide outdoor adventure. More on this later. Or you can try the brand-new Pokemon Go app if you prefer becoming the world’s greatest trainer.
Incorporate this new habit.
This is yet another gem that I picked up from Tim Feriss’ podcast. (It was featured in this post I wrote a few weeks back.) Chase Jarvis (award-winning photographer + entrepreneur) discussed his top daily habits that he literally tracked in an app called “Habit List.” One of these was
“play or make every day.”
Now, this is a habit that will probably resonate with you. But likely there’s an obstacle; eg: I’m so busy already. Why should I take time out of my already packed schedule to incorporate a childish activity?
The answer? Because it’s as beneficial as cleaning up your diet, getting more exercise, etc. If you can make time for that 5.11 hours of TV per day (someone please tell me that statistic is made up), then you can find a half hour to do something that’ll bring you joy.
Expand your perspective.
– Learn from others
Connect with people; ie: have a conversation. Learn their life stories. But, excitingly, you don’t even need to limit yourself to learning from just conversations.
Read something out of your typical niche or something with a focus on happiness. I just finished reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Elizabeth Gilbert, a la Eat, Pray, Love), and it was so freaking good. I borrowed it from the library, read it in one sitting, then ordered it on Amazon so I’d be able to write notes in it.
Listen to podcasts – especially those long-form conversational-style podcasts. It’s basically like eavesdropping on a really interesting conversation (and who doesn’t like to eavesdrop if we’re being honest). I wrote a post about my favorite podcasts if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Snapchat is a cool tool (teehee) for this because there’s less “posturing” than on Instagram. You can take a peek into other people’s lives and hear what they have to say. Though today’s new “Memories” update might change that (info on that here).
- – Be curious
Encounter something interesting?
Did someone say something that was super polarizing to a long-held belief?
See a weird plant?
Do a little research, what’s the harm? You’ll be a little more knowledgeable about a subject and possibly uncover a newfound interest. What’s the point of carrying around these little tiny computers (read: smart phones) if you can’t self-teach with them?
- – Take more pictures
Now I’m not saying that you need to turn into a filtering Instagram goddess. But sometimes attempting to capture something in a unique way turns into thinking about it in a unique way. The brain’s weird like that.
Okay, so this post accidently went from 600 words to more than double that, so I’ll leave this subject be for now. I wanna hear your take on it:
Do you think that a “lack of wonder” is a real problem? Or is it some hippie BS? Or maybe you have some tricks up your sleeve that I missed? Let me know in the comments section.
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