Wellness Wednesday: There and Back Again

I have a large and closely knit family. But each and every one of us has travelled this last month. Some have travelled for work, some for play and some to reconnect with old friends. But we have all experienced a change in our usual routine, our place, and even our food. This week, we all will have returned home for the season. 

Travel is an exercise in contrasts. It is about how you feel just before you leave home, and how you feel just before you return. In those watershed moments, you learn things. 

You learn that for better or worse, you were in a routine. When you leave, you cannot help but critically appraise that usual routine. And you should critically appraise your usual routine. 

You learn how you feel about being with your spouse, and that is precisely because he is elsewhere. You may make new resolutions about what good things you will do when you get back. But beware, inertia is powerful, and there are reasons why you always did things the way you did. You must figure them out if you want your life and your relationship to move forward. 

You will learn how people change over time. My daughter marveled at the changes she saw in her 18 month old daughter after a ten day adventure. I marveled at the changes I saw in her. 

At reunion I visited with friends of 35 years duration. They are still themselves, but more so. I am glad I chose my close friends wisely so long ago. I still adore my sophomore roommate. Time loops back in a circle and we felt and acted like roomies for the span of one evening, then we went back to our alternate realities. 

Some of us like to stay curled up in our Hobbit holes smoking our figurative pipes and drinking our tea. But adventures knock on the door, annoying us at first then compelling us. As the Hobbit's tale teaches us, the journey is the only way to learn who we are and where we are at home. 

Wellness Wednesday: The Wellness of Being Yourself

My new T shirt 

My new T shirt 

As most of you know I recently returned from my alma mater, nerd nation, the mothership, Stanford University. Here is a group of misfits so diverse and enthusiastic that they just might save the world.

Wikipedia defines nerds as follows:

Nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating that a person is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.[1][2][3]

The Wiki goes on further to add the following:

"Nerdy" interests[edit]

Some interests and activities that are likely to be described as nerdy[by whom?] are:

Jane McGonigal writes convincingly in her book “Reality is Broken" that the gaming community is full of people with great capacity to focus, as well as a passion for adventure and righting wrongs. She proposes to harness this energy for good and not just for gaming. This nerdy passion for adventure and justice combined with an intense capacity for focus was just what I saw at Stanford.

I returned from nerd nation inspired and encouraged. However I also found myself with a number of questions. Have I had enough faith in myself and the world? Have I tried enough new things ? Have I developed myself to my fullest potential? Have I done enough to make the world a better place ?

There is the temptation for these questions to become very heavy. However, in nerd nation, there is the acknowledgment that everyone is unique and that everyone has something unique to contribute. It was provocative nonetheless to meet a considerable selection of people who are doing things that could actually change the world, and by change the world I mean things like discover life on other planets or cure cancer. It is even more provocative to consider that most of these nascent accomplishments were not that hard. Rather than coming from brute force of mind, they came from unencumbered creative thinking, an environment supportive of trial and error, and steady efforts in a collegial team environment. 

On balance the visit was more empowering than daunting. This is where the connection to wellness becomes evident. I have written before about the connection between wellness and creativity. I have also written about the connection between learning and wellness. There is clearly a connection between wellness and altruism. I write now to encourage all of us to have a little more faith, a little more creativity, maybe some continuing education, maybe a little travel to get us out of our own heads, and more drive to make the world a better place.

Get your nerd on people.

Wellness Wednesday: The Benefit of Trying New Things 

Nutrition, fitness and good relationships can keep us healthy. But... trying new things ? Yes, being adventurous has physical as well as psychological benefits to our health. (1) 

Adventure is a relative thing. For one person it might mean trying a new cookbook (me) while another may need to paraglide to 5000 feet above sea level (my son). But in all cases it means doing something different than your usual, and, for best results, it means getting out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones vary considerably in size.  

Does adventure have to be dangerous ? Of course not. But it should expose you to a new environment and require you to do things you have not done before. So why does it have to be all that? 

Before I explain, lets take a look at the American vacation. It is an endangered species. We are one of the few developing countries without a national policy of paid leave. Those companies who do provide paid leave do not always encourage its use, even though research shows it greatly improves employee productivity and satisfaction. When the companies do provide leave AND encourage its use, employees are reluctant to take it. Why ? Forty percent are afraid of coming back to " a mountain of work" , a third feel no one can do their work but them, a third feel they cannot afford it, and about a fifth feel guilty.  Forty-three percent of adults do not remember the last time they tried to have an adventure. Reasons for avoiding adventure range from lack of money to embarrassment. (2) Fear of one thing or another plays a role in skipping vacations. Ironically, it should be the opposite, since skipping vacations is associated with a measurable and significantly increased risk of heart disease in men and women, according to the Framingham study. (3)

And yet, we bemoan our lack of time off and we make bucket lists all of the things we don't and won't do. We execute what Tim Ferris calls the " deferred life plan". (4) Moreover, we note how every year seems to pass more quickly. 

Enter adventure. If we do get around to it, here is what happens. First, our narrow view of the world opens back up. We experience different ways of living, and see ourselves and others in a new light. Novelty and some degree of challenge have to be a part of it. This way, our confidence and competence is enhanced. A 2015 Study on newly graduated nurses found that a nontraditional outdoors adventure leadership program increased feeings of competence and confidence. When they returned to work, their transformation was felt to have impacted their entire work culture. (5) 

Adventure may even be an antidote for the accelerated passage of time. Dave Engelmann, a neuroscientist, notes that the more familiar the world becomes, the less we remember, and thus the faster times seems to pass. (3). I deduce that novelty and adventure may help us savor the time we have. 

Check out these fun resources: 

30 New Things to Try by

The Beginner's Guide to Trying New Things

Staying on Top of Your Game