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Learning About What It Takes to Make it to 100 … from Kids

January 27, 2017 by  
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kauai kidsI’m am sure hoping that you, my reader, are not getting tired of me talking about being on the beautiful beaches of Kauai and sharing some of my insights and discoveries on life and living. Why? Well, because I’m once again on the beach and am still thinking, talking and writing about “100 wonderful ways to live to be 100”. I do, however, want to add one of my own to that list to make it the list of “101 Ways to Live to be 100.”

The list of 100 does include “have a family” but I would add this to the list:

101. Hang out, play with, observe, and learn lessons from your kids and grandkids.

This addition to the list is one activity that will certainly bring a smile to your face and, no doubt, will add years to your life. Right now, as I write this, I’m watching my son and grandson as they begin their snorkeling adventure not too far from the shoreline. Their excitement, especially my grandson’s, is so sky high because it’s such a new experience for him. Meanwhile, I can see my wife and our 4-year-old grandson and his 8-year-old sister having an absolute ball splashing in a very small and shallow pool of water surrounded by coral and lava rock. Such simple entertainment can bring such a high level of joy and happiness.

As adults, we can, and should, learn so much from these kids. Why do such simple activities bring so much pure joy and entertainment? It’s because these things are new and unusual for them and our brains are always seeking novelty. When we experience new things, our brains are stimulated to produce two brain chemicals that make us happy, excite us, and make us feel good. Those two brain chemicals are serotonin and dopamine. The problem with being adults is that basically we’ve been there and done that so many times that it’s not new, novel, or exciting to us.

Heavens … you can give a small kid a cardboard box and it can keep him entertained and happy for an hour or more as the kid crawls in and out, over and under, or makes it into as a hiding place. As adults, we can, and usually do, get great satisfaction and joy from just watching kids do these things, especially when those kids are having a blast doing them.

So, my 101 on the list is to take time to hang out and closely observe kids doing, what is to them, new things and watch how much joy and fun they get out of it. Then go one step further (and maybe this step should count as 102 on the list) and challenge yourself to come up with new activities, adventures and experiences that are very novel to you and that will most likely stimulate those two pleasurable brain chemicals.

I’m pretty darn certain that stimulating those brain chemicals is a major factor in how I push myself to visit new and different countries and cultures and to go out of my way to meet new people and make new friends. Just today I saw this very tall, good-looking guy at Walmart and noticed he had an accent. I just had to go up and ask where he was from. My guess from his height and accent was that he was Dutch. And, sure enough, he was from the Netherlands. Rob turned out to be a film maker vacationing in Kauai. Even though it was a short conversation, we decided to stay in touch and I walked away feeling great from the brief encounter because, yep, those two brain chemicals were at work.

What new and novel things excite you? If you need help identifying new things to do and try, just ask around and see what other novel and exciting things people are doing. These new experiences don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. The simple act of meeting Rob today was great, and even just driving through a totally different neighborhood, or walking, hiking or jogging on a new mountain trail can do the trick. Take time right now to make your own list. It can be eating at a new restaurant, eating a new type of food, trying out a new exercise, or making friends with complete strangers.

It’s all so worth it because not only does it make you feel good right now but it’s bound to help you live longer and live in better health–maybe even to live to be 100!!

Money Can Buy Novelty

November 14, 2014 by  
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It’s too bad that much of the time money, especially having a ton of it, gets a bad rap. The negative view of money probably started a very long time ago, maybe even before the Christian bible made the comment that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I do believe that tons of money can ruin some people’s lives, especially if they come into that money overnight and not by their own hard work over many years. But let me talk about one super wonderful thing that money can do for you, especially if you are wise enough to do the right things with that money.

It seems that way too many people think that the best thing to do with lots of money is to go out and buy a lot of stuff, especially fancy and high status goods. But that stuff can quickly become worn out and/or very boring. Consider the following as an alternative and one that can, and will, jump start and excite your brain as well as lasting a very long time.

This is all about giving your brain a huge dopamine boost through experiencing new and novel things. You see, the human brain craves novelty, and money makes it so much easier to give yourself novel experiences. Gregory Berns in his book Satisfaction says, “Novel experiences are the surest route to satisfaction.”

As I write these words my wife and I are on a flight to the French Rivera. Just minutes ago we had lift off and as we did, believe me my brain got a big dose of dopamine and that’s just the beginning. We’ll be staying in Cannes at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel and then later in another 5 star hotel in Nice. Then we’ll drive to the Italian town of San Remo to meet an old Swiss friend, Reto Moro, who I met 30 years ago on a tennis court in the south of Germany. We are visiting places, some of which are totally new to me or, in other words, ‘novel’.

Castles, old churches, new restaurants and all that I will see will pump my brain with dopamine. As you probably know dopamine is the natural brain chemical that makes you feel so very satisfied. I just love it. For years I didn’t have a clue about this thing called dopamine that was making me feel so good, but I certainly knew that I got a huge charge and brain boost by my visits to new places, so much so I came up with my bucket list of trying to visit every country in the world. I currently have hit 84 countries and my wife tells me that since I am now 70 years old I better pick up the pace—there are, at present, 196 countries in the world!

I guess I could have spent my money on fancy new cars and other expensive stuff but I’m pretty sure the novelty of a new car wouldn’t last very long. Traveling to new places has given me great memories that will last for many, many years, especially since I can easily re-stimulate my brain chemicals with so many pictures and videos!

The bottom line is, it’s true that money can’t necessarily buy happiness, but it can open up so many possibilities and make it easier to obtain more novel experiences. It gives one more time to carefully and creatively design, plan and carry out a wide range of novel experiences. So now I hope I have given you another good reason to push yourself to earn, save and invest your earnings.