Everyday life these days can be uncertain and unsettling for anyone, and getting older may just seem to make that worse. It may feel tempting to settle into your rut, retreat into safety. In fact, you’re likely to be more happy and resilient if you open up to fresh adventures.
I don’t mean the kind of teenage lads’ adventure where you nearly kill yourself. This is about trying something fresh, being someone new, having the courage to explore the unknown, both in yourself and around you. It’s by surprising yourself and exploring the new, even if it feels a bit risky, that you’ll find fresh talents in yourself, make new friends, discover more insights.
There are three types of adventure you might like to explore: inner, outer, and social. How can you tell what kind of adventures suit you: here are a couple of ways you can check them:
· Do you have a sense of who you’d like to become, how you’d like to develop in the next few years?
· Is there a long-standing hope or dream from your youth that you might fulfil now?
· Do you have an interest or talent that you’ve never used, which you might develop at last?
· What might you do that would surprise you…?
I’m using this term to mean ways you can explore new aspects of yourself, and discover new strengths. These kind of adventures won’t cost money, and you can do them almost anywhere. Here are a few examples to show you what an inner adventure might look like:
- Try some music, books, or a movie, that’s unlike any you’ve tried before. Maybe pick a category at random, like steampunk…
- If you don’t do meditation, try it – mindfulness and some other methods are designed for first-timers.
- Experiment with slowing right down, and observing: watch the wind in the trees, or your own breath coming and going. See how much you can notice.
- Try observing yourself, kindly: try a benign running commentary, highlighting the good things you’re doing.
- If any difficult feelings come up for you regularly, try befriending them, chatting with them: ask what you can do to stop them troubling you.
- Consider keeping a journal, as a new way of understanding yourself. The book The Artist’s Way has a good method for this.
Remember that the nature of true adventures is that you can’t control them, they’ll take you somewhere different, you can’t be sure of the outcomes. So let go of any expectations about where you get to with all of this!
These can include physical activities from the gentlest, like water colours or origami, to the most strenuous. Try to be clear why you’re choosing something: be wary if it’s just about impressing people, copying others, ticking a box.
The most satisfying outer adventures are probably those which stretch you gently, and in several ways: not just physical fitness, but also emotional resilience, mental skills and awareness. For many of us, learning to relax and have fun can be a stretch! Getting out in Nature can offer all this, and is a classic way to get new insights and direction when you need them.
As we get older, there’s a risk that we have fewer friends and personal connections. This may be because people fall out with each other, move away, or just simply through retirement. The skills of making and mending friendships become very important in later life, and that’s partly what social adventures are about. If you’re shy and quiet, you need such adventures even more. Here are some ideas for social adventures:
- Try joining one or two new groups. Pick ones where their focus interests you, but deliberately stretch yourself, see if you can make some new contacts, even if it all feels stressful.
- Experiment with turning an acquaintance into a friendship. For example, invite someone you know a bit to join you for a walk or some other outing. Remember, it’s an adventure: don’t reproach yourself if they turn down the invitation, or your outing feels a bit flat.
- Do you have any unresolved conflicts in your life? Maybe someone you fell out with years ago, or a person you see currently, who you don’t get on with? A brave adventure would be to seek them out, and try to clear the air. Having a third party friend to support you both can be very helpful, and make things safer for both of you.
The holiday-retreat I’m co-leading this November in Southern Morocco offers all three kinds of adventure, in a gentle form. It’s a safe, beautiful, welcoming region. The team who host us have won awards for eco-tourism, and we can eat, sing and dance with the local community we’re supporting by our visit. You can explore Sufi meditations and my approaches to natural happiness and creative ageing, or not: it’s all optional. And our trip includes two nights at a campsite in the Sahara, whose vast spaces and starry skies will surely inspire you. The trip is open to people of all ages, and runs November 10-20. Find out more here...
This is an adapted excerpt from Alan Heeks’ new book, Not Fade Away – Staying Happy When You’re Over 64, available from Amazon and other online channels.