IN PRAISE OF THE MICRO-ADVENTURE
How shaking things up a bit makes your brain and your muse happy
Today I was feeling a bit ho-hummy about sitting down and writing my weekly blog post. Sometimes I’m psyched about doing it, and other times I have to cajole my muse into poking her head out from under her virtual high-thread-count down comforter and help out a little for pete’s sake.
It’s as if my Muse were a hula hoop artist who is reluctant to get booted and suited and do her thang if she’s not feeling properly appreciated.
MUSES CAN BE A BIT HIGH MAINTENANCE SOMETIMES, BUT WHO AM I TO HOLD THAT AGAINST ANYBODY?
My Inner Manager, on the other hand, was cracking the whip and getting a bit shrill and bossy with me, to be honest, yelling: Hey! Get at it, already! Let’s get this done! Jeez, if you pick up that phone to play Design Home again, I swear to you I. Am. Walking. Out. Right. Now.
I could see things were going to swirl out of control pretty soon, so I decided it was time to pull out one of my secret weapons for getting my creative mojo going: The Micro-Adventure.
What’s a Micro-Adventure, you ask? Well, it takes all the advantages of a Mega-Adventure and compresses them into a tasty little amuse bouche of an experience.
I was out running an errand this afternoon and thinking about writing, and instead of heading straight back home, I meandered through the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago and recalled the glorious space housed in the Restoration Hardware store. Actually, it’s called RH Chicago, because it’s fancy. “The six-floor gallery-like space occupies the magnificently renovated Three Arts Club Building, which dates back to 1914 and was a historic haven for women in the arts,” said some website. (That last bit I didn’t know until I looked it up. Which is part of the fun of a micro-adventure, picking up intriguing flotsam and jetsam.)
Anyway, I claimed a prime spot in the 3 Arts Club Cafe, within minutes had a hot latte in front of me, and I soaked in the sound of the fountain beside me…the laughing woman’s cloud of golden curls across the courtyard…the smell of the hot espresso…and the grey snow-spitting sky visible through the glass roof of the atrium.
My heart was full, my senses fed, my spirit revived.
My Muse poked her head out and decided things had definitely taken a turn for the better.
AND PRETTY SOON THERE SHE WAS, ALL DRESSED UP IN RED SPANGLES, HOOPIN-DEE-DO. SHE WAS DOIN’ THE DAMN THING. WHEN THE MUSE IS ON, SHE’S ON.
So what’s that all about? What has our Inner Muse, that part of us that creates the crazy magic…what has her show up?
Turns out neuroscience has a thing or two to say on the topic. Not that I think this is the only lens through which to look at this…but it’s useful to have in the mix.
When it comes to adventure, including micro-adventures…there’s a part of your brain that wants this.
Here’s a fun little rabbit hole:
Scientists have identified a key region of the brain that encourages us to be adventurous. It’s activated when we choose unfamiliar options, suggesting an evolutionary advantage for sampling the unknown.
When we take a chance on something unknown or new, and when we make a particular choice or carry out a particular action that turns out to be beneficial, our novelty seeking is rewarded by a lovely rush of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which is released when you experience something you enjoy. (Yay, dopamine!)
(Obviously it’s possible to take this, as with most things, too far — novelty-seeking run amuck may play a role in gambling and drug addiction. It could also wreak havoc in a relationship if you decided to get all novelty-seeking with other partners. Let’s stay on the right side of the tracks with this, shall we?)
Anyway, there are some immediate feel-good vibes that result from even small deviations from your routine into the unknown.
And here’s why adventure is GOOD for your brain…and you.
Our brains have the ability to essentially “re-wire” themselves — to grow and change over time — which is a beautiful thing. That’s what’s happening when someone loses their sight, and their other senses become more acute, for example.
THIS ABILITY, CALLED NEUROPLASTICITY, IS ALSO WHAT ALLOWS US TO SHIFT CURRENTLY ENTRENCHED WAYS OF THINKING AND CREATE NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS — KIND OF LIKE DIGGING A NEW TRENCH FOR THE WATER TO FLOW AND IRRIGATE YOUR LUSH FIELD OF THOUGHTS.
Creating long-lasting changes depends on whether your experiences are stimulating or fascinating enough, or if the outcome is felt as significantly good, bad, or meaningful on reflection. A key factor here is if experiences offer novelty or new challenges. For example, learning to play an instrument or mastering a new language are both known to induce wide and positive changes in the brain.
One thing science tells us for sure: Novelty is one of the factors that enhances your brain’s ability to be nimble and able to grow in positive ways.
And dopamine not only motivates us to learn, it helps us retain that new information. Neuroscientist Dr. Martha Burns refers to dopamine as the “save button” that helps us remember experiences and information.
What’s more, trying new things can boost your creativity, your ability to connect things in unexpected ways.
Basically, you improve your brain function when you give your gray matter an enriched environment. Travel is one of the best ways to do that, but you don’t have to have a passport to shake up your routine and get out and explore a bit.
Which brings us back ‘round to the beauty of the Micro-Adventure:
Let’s talk about getting more Micro-Adventure into your diet, shall we?
Just as exercise needs to be a regular thing to bring all the benefits, keeping your brain all juiced and happy — and your soul fulfilled — means getting some bite-size adventures sprinkled into your days and weeks, not putting all your eggs into the once-a-year vacay tote basket.
HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS TO GET YOU SPARKIN’:
Look up an interesting MeetUp group and attend one of their events.
Talk to someone new.
Be a tourist in your own city.
Take a different route to a familiar destination.
Go to an event that’s unlike what you’d normally do.
Sign up for a class and be a beginner at something.
Take a sketch pad to the park and draw what you see.
Invite someone interesting to lunch.
Find a new place to sit and work for a while.
Get thee to an ethnic market and buy something unfamiliar.
Go on a date!
What’s your favorite Micro-Adventure? Or what’s one you’d like to try?
HOW DO YOU GIVE YOURSELF A NEW VIEW, A NEW PERSPECTIVE?
HOW DO YOU COAX THE MUSE OUT OF HIDING???
Please, pretty please, share your ideas below, we’ll all benefit! 💃🏻
ALSO: If you’re interested in having a guide on your own journey and exploration of living your life as a work of art, I’d be honored to discuss that with you.
Send me a note if you’d like to learn more about the new live group workshop, SOUL CARE: A Moxie Masterclass and other Moxie services for women for whom ordinary is just not an option.
Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing from you below!
With love and moxie,
Wait, there’s more?… Get the full Moxie Diaries in your inbox by signing up here.
We respect your privacy and will never sell your info.