Mental Health Maintenance: Do the New
A student recently asked me, “Do you still try new things? Do you still talk about doing new things? Do you write about doing new things?”
To which I said, "YES. YES. YES."
“Why?” she asked. “Why is this the thing that’s so important to you? Why?”
Because, dear one, dear reader, it’s mental health maintenance, plain and simple—and I do walk this talk.
This week, I’m: learning to play pickleball, planning a trip to Spain and teaching a class I’ve never taught before.
All of which involves some risk, right? I have to learn new technical skills for a class I’ve never taught. I might be awkward and unsure of myself in pickleball—and who the heck can figure out that scoring thing?! And what if something awful happens in a foreign country and I don’t know the language?
I’ve got fears about doing the next new thing. Sometimes I want to default to "no." But, I have a year of 365 first-time experiences under my belt to remind me there are rewards to saying "YES," and living the same day over and over again is the road to being stuck. It’s just not good for our mental health and well-being. It’s the equivalent of sitting on the couch watching TV and eating a pint of ice cream every day—it feels good at first, and then, not so much.
Our brains need a workout! A steady diet of NEW. Our minds need fun, different, a little risk, discovery and maybe discomfort to feel alive, creative and our best selves.
You know this from your own experiences. Think of the last time you did something for the first time (if it was pickle ball, let me know. I’m working up to playing an actual game. I’m not there yet...see below).
The dopamine hit in our brain when we do something new gives us an immediate lift. We create new neural pathways in the brain. It is another kind of self-care.
I love when I see others experience this. Just look at the faces of my college students competing in some crazy new jeopardy game I created for them. This is good stuff!
So, yep, that’s me. Still doing the new, speaking about it, writing about it and risking getting hit with a pickleball. Worth it. Dare on!