Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Increase Your Experiences to Enhance Your Mind

By Tamara Martfeld

Human beings tend to find a routine and stick to it, sometimes to the point of being in a rut. Sometimes this is good because the things which need to be done daily such as getting dressed, brushing the teeth, getting to work on time, etc. get done without having to put a lot of thought into deciding what to do. However, having too much routine in your life can prevent one from opening doors to other ideas and experiences. Is your routine to always go to one particular art event, and never any other? Do you always read the same type of book? Although you may not think of these activities as routines, they are and they can be limiting your life and your thinking. There is a cure – simply seek to experience the opposites or alternates of your routine!

Let’s start with the examples above. What are your particular art events? Do you always go to symphony concerts, or is your preference hard rock? Do you visit classic art museums, or modern art museums? Do you watch action movies, or documentaries? Do you participate in only one of the many art forms, ignoring all others? Whatever your preference, break out of your box!

Whatever type of museum you visit, try a different one. The number to choose from is enormous. My family and I have visited historical museums, buildings which were museums on their own (such as plantations, mansions, castles, and forts), art museums of various types, spy museums, even museums which concentrated on one type of food. We have usually found at least one interesting item in each location, and sometimes we have become interested in a new subject because of the museum. Many were free or low cost, and most of those with costs were working to preserve whatever they were exhibiting so that it was there for future generations. If you live in the Washington D.C. area or have a chance to visit, the Smithsonian (as of the last time I checked) are all free and have a wide variety topics to explore.

Do you always watch one type of movie? Next time pick a movie in a different classification. The American Film Institute has published a few lists of the “best” movies of several genres. This can be a starting point from which to choose your movie. I suggest going for a “classic” simply because the classics tend to be the ones that are still popular because they were good whereas there is not yet a full decision on anything currently in the theaters. Also, the classics can generally be bought or rented for less or might be free on the internet. One word of warning here: If you are into special effects, some of the older movies can be quite funny in how they achieved their special effects. However, if you look at the time the movie was made and what was available to work with at that time, you may find yourself amazed at what they were able to do.

Take a look at your reading list. Do you have variety? If not, get some. If you are always reading one type of book you are probably noticing patterns in the plots and you can probably predict the outcome a little too well. There is nothing wrong with having a preference, but every 10th book or so read something different. Like music, there is quality in every category. Can’t think of anything new? There are biographies, fiction, non-fiction, history, action, science fiction, science, romance, and action just to name a few. If you are reluctant to break your routine, try something in another genre which is related to what you like. For example, if you like biography, try history, the topic for which the person in the last biography was famous (for example, poetry for Robert Frost, science for Albert Einstein), a work of fiction based on the life of the last person you read about, or even the work (or a book about the work) of the person you just read about. If you like romance, try the true stories of famous real couples, a travel book about the location of the last romance you read, or a book about the occupations of the characters. This is another low-cost activity. There are many free books on the internet, especially those out of copyright. And of course, there is your local library.

Do you experience a variety of art forms? If not, you just read a short list of the many available. If you have never tried one of them, try it. You may find that you truly enjoy that activity.

Art is only one example of where routine can exist. Are you a sports fan? Do you watch only ball games, or have you experienced other venues of sports? The Olympics is a good place to experience other sport venues. Do you take the same route to work every day? Find another. It may even save you time. My car-pooler and I have a “bail route” – when everyone else is sitting in the parking lot they refer to as the highway due to an accident, we are on another route and get home within 10 minutes of our regular time. We even have a few bail routes to our bail route! Do you eat the same food or type of food every day? Try something new. If you live in a place where there is not a variety of restaurants, find a simple recipe from another country’s food and try it (the internet if full of them). Sometimes the difference is primarily in the spices used – for example, you can bar-be-queue with flavors from Italy, Greece, India, China, or almost any other country, but still be using the basic cut of meat and likely spices in your cupboard if you are a regular cook. There are also many ways from the various countries to cook vegetables.

Whatever activity in which you participate, find the opposites and alternates within that activity and try one every now and then. It will help open your brain to new experiences in general, not just the one you are trying. There are also reports from the medical community that exposing your mind to new activities may help reduce or eliminate your chances for Alzheimer’s and dementia (I don’t know if they are accurate). You may even find that you have been biased about an activity based on someone else’s experience. My sister and I had great laughs in the 1980’s when Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony came out as a rock piece. We had a difficult time convincing our co-workers (all teens) that it was really Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a classical piece of music. They all categorically hated classical music and loved Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and I am not sure we convinced everyone of the reality. We knew it was classical because we were exposed to all music in our home growing up.

Enjoy these easy steps to exercise and open your mind. Because you are opening your mind you may find yourself finding more creative solutions to any problems or issues in your life.