Simple and practical steps to regain a sense of wonder and possibility
October 22, 2014 2:26 AM   Subscribe

I was reflecting last week on how I felt last time I fell in love. Aside from a motherload of the strong feelings for the other person, I remember a strong sense of wonder and possibility. I'd like to feel this way again - but without the need to fall in love with someone.

At the time, I had a keen sense of the world opening up to be bigger and more exciting, brimming with possibilities and options, fascinating and amazing. Everything looked brighter, clearer and more beautiful.

I had a strong sense of connection between my mind and body; and I was eager to throw myself into all sorts of new things and also to re-engage with things I was already into.
Ideas and people seemed much more interesting, and I was strongly motivated to act on opportunities. I felt like a better version of myself, and boy, I felt amazing.

What are some ways that I can trick myself into feeling something like this again? (I'm generally a cautious anxious person with a tendency to over-think and procrastinate and get paralysed, so "just get out there and do stuff" isn't really working for me).
posted by Gwendoline Mary to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I've had that when I've played in an orchestra /group music sessions(uke and djembe). And with my running group. Running also gives endorphins and the bonding thing so it's a double whammy.
posted by taff at 2:35 AM on October 22, 2014

I think one of the reasons why this happens when we fall in love, is that our attention becomes so focussed on the the object of our affection that the noise of everything else in the world is perceived in a different way. The voices of our everyday cares and insecurities and to-do lists become less influential - so we start to notice the trees and the flowers and the smiles of little children, and all that soppy stuff.

A good way of trying to re-capture this is to look for activities which cause a similar disruption to our sense of what we pay attention to. Leave your car behind and go on a long hike, do a language immersion course, take some life-drawing classes, run a marathon, teach a class, meditate for several hours - something like that. Those activities classed as promoting "flow" might be good to look at in general.

As with falling in love, you might find that the effects are only transitory for any one activity - and that you therefore have to move from one to another eventually.
posted by rongorongo at 2:51 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've gotten this by big moves, eg moving abroad or interstate where everything is literally new, language, location, people, work, everything. It's pretty drastic but it has been amazing. It's been five years since I did it last and I'm getting the itch again...
posted by Jubey at 3:40 AM on October 22, 2014

Extended travel is good for this. You don't have to deal with anything back home, know there are weeks or months ahead of you where anything is possible, and if you realize you don't like something, you just move on to a new locale.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:56 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I get it in hotels, for reasons similar to what travelwithcats describes. I feel like I'm in some sort of liminal world where I'm a terribly important person on my way to something amazing but there's absolutely nothing I need to worry about to get myself there. Or I'll sit in the lobby and think about all the different places people are coming from and feel like I'm at the center of some richly interconnected universe. Even TV is more exciting when I'm in a hotel: I'll watch Wheel of Fortune and feel like there's something life-affirming about it.

Airports used to do this for me too.
posted by urufu at 4:09 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

New friends. Public talks on interesting subjects at a local university or similar.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:13 AM on October 22, 2014

When I was a kid, reading popular science books did this for me big-time. Actually, it still kinda does - maybe go to a zoo or a wildlife preserve or a planetarium and just try losing yourself in "holy crap this universe has some incredibly freaky-ass and cool things in it".

(Seriously I just learned the other day that there is this bug that when it hatches, and its exoskeleton is still soft, it quick gulps in a bunch of air and sends those air bubbles towards its EYES to stretch their head out so its eyes are on these super-long stalk things and I was like how can you change the shape of your HEAD just by doing that, holy crap...)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I get this exact feeling whenever I'm on an airplane. No idea why. Can you afford a cheap round-trip flight to somewhere you've always wanted to visit?
posted by jbickers at 5:32 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing travel - even a quick one or two night jaunt is enough to give me that 'new experience' rush, and it needn't be anywhere particularly exotic; just some place I'm not all that familiar with.
posted by usonian at 5:55 AM on October 22, 2014

Discovering certain books and artwork has done this for me; as has engaging in creative pursuits when they are going well.
posted by BibiRose at 6:00 AM on October 22, 2014

Acid and mushrooms can do this.

Habitual mantra-chanting meditation.

Consistently long, good sleep and hydration.
posted by vitamind at 7:01 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just read this article.

I like taking weekend trips to new places, especially state parks with camping.
posted by mareli at 7:32 AM on October 22, 2014

Oh, another thing - birdwatching.

I don't mean the way you're thinking, where you have this checklist of birds you are trying to go somewhere and see with your own eyes. I mean the kind of birdwatching my ex subtly taught me how to do - where you see a bird and you actually, y'know, watch it. Check out what it does.

We did this once in the tropical bird room at the Central Park Zoo - a place I'd been through loads of times, but I'd always just sort of sped through, "oh, cool, that bird's blue, freaky" and would pass through on my way out. But he made me stop and really watch what was going on around us. And we were standing there a good 20 minutes, first watching one yellow guy building a nest - then watching the yellow guy and a blue guy subtly compete over who was going to get one twig or another (we actually both cheered when the yellow guy dropped a twig and the blue guy swooped down and got to it himself), and then we watched the yellow guy get into a shouting match with another yellow guy halfway across the room, which let the blue guy steal even more twigs, except when this big pokey black flightless thing was nearby, and...and the whole time everyone around us was doing the same speedwalk through that I'd used to do, and they were totally missing all of this. "There's a lot going on in this room!" we kept saying.

Try just stopping and observing some kind of critter sometime. Just to see what it does. That could open up a whole umwelt for you that you hadn't considered.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

This feeling is much more common for me when I am practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis.
posted by jaguar at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2014

Being in the mountains does it for me. For others that I know, it's the sea or the desert.
posted by tardigrade at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2014

I just saw this article and thought it might be helpful, though it's coming at the question from the other direction:

These Things Are Killing Our Sense Of Wonder But Here's How You Can Fix Them

What really struck me as being related to your observation that you tend to have more of a sense of wonder when you're in a new relationship was this:
Similarly, answering or checking your phone when you're with a friend is a guaranteed wonder-killer. How can you concentrate on what they are saying if you're checking WhatsApp?

"Be present with yourself, a friend, a loved one. Really pay attention and notice what you really love about each person.

"Look up to the sky and pause. In the stillness, we can find a new sense of wonder. We need it to recharge, re-balance and appreciate our lives."
New relationships can inspire us to stay mindful and present and in the moment, because we're so enamored of the new person and relationship. So I think part of the trick is learning to cultivate that "Be here now" feeling without needing the excitement of a relationship.
posted by jaguar at 5:48 PM on October 30, 2014

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