2 Reasons Why 'Micro-Adventures' Are Crucial For A Richer Life
Unsure of how to bring back the sense of adventure in your life? Research shows it's the little things that can be most fulfilling.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | January 29, 2024
Many people come to therapy with a sense of time slipping away. They yearn to reconnect with the present and live a fuller life. They often say things like:
- "Ever since the pandemic, I feel like I'm just on autopilot. Everything is a blur, and I can't seem to remember the days of my own life."
- "The days just blend together. I wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. I want to break out of this rut and experience something new."
- "Everything in my life is moving fast, and on some days, I feel I can't keep up. I wish I had a pause button I could hit."
On the one hand, we all share this experience of time seeming to accelerate as we age. It's only natural to feel a twinge of sadness as precious moments pass. But before we resign ourselves to the whirlwind, let's remember that although time is a fixed reality, our perception of time isn't.
Time perception is malleable, and by taking small, novel steps every day—"micro-adventures"—we can learn to bend time to our will. Here are two powerful reasons to embrace novelty as a way to live a richer life.
1. Chasing 'Peak Experiences' Speeds Time Up, While Experiencing Micro-Adventures Slows It Down
We dream of exhilarating peaks—that Grand Canyon trek, the concert under the stars, the adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane (for some of us, at least). But what if these peak experiences we chase are paradoxically making our lives feel emptier?
A 2022 paper published in Frontiers in Psychology hints at a likely possibility. Our emotions, especially excitement and anticipation, which are hallmarks of peak-seeking, act like amplifiers on our internal clock. Days spent waiting for the next thrill shrink, devoured by the constant hunger for extraordinary moments. In this pursuit, everyday moments (like the laughter shared with a loved one or a peaceful walk in the park) become footnotes, squeezed out by the anticipation of the next big thing.
Another thing to consider is the practicality of living for peak experiences. We all have bills to pay and responsibilities to keep up with. So, for most of us, peak experiences are few and far between. This is why random micro-adventures are a far more realistic way to spice up our daily lives. These seemingly insignificant acts also act as anchors in our memory, allowing us to recollect our days better.
With 2024 knocking at the door, here are some resolutions to inspire you to pursue a life of micro-adventures:
- If you like eating out, try to cover as many restaurants in your city as you can. At the end of the year, see how far you've come.
- Organize skill-sharing Sundays with friends or family, teaching each other something new like juggling or playing an instrument.
- Strike up one long conversation with a stranger each day. If you are consistent, you will find that your conversational skills have improved beyond measure by the end of the year.
2. Micro-Adventures Can Make You Childlike In Your Perception Of Time, And That's A Good Thing
A 2023 study published in Scientific Reports found that children tend to perceive time based on the content of events rather than the actual duration. As we age, our perception of time shifts, and it becomes more influenced by the significance or excitement of events. In simple words, when a child experiences excitement, time tends to slow down for them.
Embracing micro-adventures can reconnect us with a childlike perspective, where the experience, not just the clock, shapes our sense of time. Here's what this can look like in a seemingly mundane life:
- Reframing work tasks. Try to zoom out and understand where your tasks fit into the organization. Recollecting the task a few days later, wouldn't it be a far more exciting memory if you knew your completion of the task was crucial to your organization?
- Making a grocery run exciting. Instead of approaching it as a regular chore, challenge yourself to explore a new section of the store or pick up a fruit you've never tried.
Thinking of time less as a scarce resource and more as a dispenser of experience can help us focus on the small details in daily experiences we tend to overlook.
The mindset of finding extraordinary moments in an ordinary life can slow down our experience of time. By basking in simple pleasures, engaging in micro-adventures and appreciating the variety in everyday experiences, we not only "make" time but also make memories that enrich our lives with depth and meaning.
A similar version of this article can also be found on Forbes.com, here.