Wild Women having an adventure — Photo by Rob Mulally

All Generations are Programmed for Joy

Perhaps I’m from a lucky generation.

“Go outside and play and don’t come home till dark,” mum would yell joyfully, as she shut the door behind us.

Together, we would skip into the great outdoors without a care in the world.

This was a time when trees were for climbing, fences for jumping, grass for cartwheeling, playgrounds for running and Sundays for lilo-ing down river rapids. There was no Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. None.

Mum or dad cooked every night and we ate out at the local Chinese restaurant only on birthdays. We’d never had processed food and we’d never heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, allergies and epi-pens in pockets. Never.

After dinner, we read books, doodled, played cards or just lay on the couch day dreaming. There were no screens. None.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t have problems and that doesn’t mean life was perfect. At 12 I thought I was fat, by 17 I was a sugar addict, by 20 I’d experimented with bulimia, by 23 I wanted a breast reduction and by 40 I was flabby and bored. I’d almost always loathed my body.

But I’d never heard of anxiety.

Sure, we got anxious butterflies around boys and feared firsts of any kind, but anxiety, acne and gut pain weren’t a thing.

Shit happened and we learned to deal with it. There was no internet, no mobile phones and no social media. We walked to the phone booth to ring grandma and got social at the park.

Today’s world is very different. Good and bad different. But what used to be a natural part of our lifestyle must now be learned.

Now our lifestyle is making us sick. Not bedridden sick so much as tired, emotional, flat, bored, flabby, lethargic, stressed out and anxious.

It’s taken me thirty-five years working as a health professional to understand how best to help my clients manage moods and create joy. And we do this by engineering healthy lifestyles using the latest neuroscience and some old-fashioned common sense.

For seniors and baby boomers, it’s about becoming kids again. For the other generations, it’s all new. But we all deserve joy.

One of the best treatments for unhappiness is active adventure. Put simply it’s, a walk in the park with friends.

Daily Rituals of Joy - from Di Westaway’s book Natural Exhilaration.

We now know our bodies and brains crave active adventure; it’s in our DNA. Active adventure promotes health. Back in our cave dwelling days, moving for survival and eating for hunger kept us healthy. Today, the easiest way to get motivated to move more is to have an active adventure with friends in nature to look forward to. This might be a camping weekend, a hike, a bike ride or a paddling expedition.

And while that’s driving your motivation to get off the couch, you can diffuse the pressure cooker of life and feel joy with certain daily habits. Neuroscientist, Paul Taylor, shows how ritualizing certain behaviours gets results because rituals require less effort than new behaviours. Just like brushing your teeth, when you practice the same patterns every day you no longer need to think. You just do.

The best daily practices for joy include loving, moving, nourishing, sleeping, mindfulness, nature, goodness, gratefulness, giggles and tech-off. I call these the Daily Rituals of Joy and a hike with friends can ignite them all.

It’s not as easy as taking a pill but far more effective with no harmful side-effects.

For more details check out ‘Natural Exhilaration: Lead an Adventurous Life You Love” and Coastrek

Di Westaway is exhilarated by nature — Photo by Rob Mulally
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