Over the Easter week break I underwent smile and thrill therapy at Disneyland, California Adventure and Universal Studios, Hollywood.
I’ve been roller-coastered, Micky-Mouse’d, Toy-Story’d, horror-ized, minion-ized, transformer-ized, and Krusty-the-clown’d to death. I’m officially 3-D-theme-parked out and I never want to stand in another line again. You can bet I’ll be requesting a Fast Pass next time I go anywhere–even to the grocery store.
But beyond my trivial complaints, I actually had a great time hosting my 10-year-old Australian guest who has always dreamt of visiting his “Auntie Di” in California. I feel refreshed, re-energized, and I’ll be ready to conquer all kinds of new challenges as soon as the blisters on my feet heal.
Although my young friend surely learned a few things about life in sunny Southern California during his brief visit with me, I gained quite a few insights from him. Here are some of the notes I made along our miles of smiles over the last few days.
1. Each of us has an inner child that needs to be nourished. Spending several days seeing the world through a child’s eyes is a reminder of the importance of joy and wonderment. Children live life in a realm of openness. Between the ages of seven and 14, a child’s brain operates in an alpha state, which is a dream-like, meditative quality that’s like a light sleep for adults. This means that children quite literally exist inside a bubble of imagination. This state of mind is the birthplace of creativity and curiosity. The condition of awe makes us unafraid to ask questions and motivates us to explore a vast array of ‘what if’s’. Imagination is what opens the brain to possibilities.
2. Dreams are more than just little happy thought bubbles. Dreams are life’s desires that live in the imagination and provide nourishment for both mind and soul. What we often forget as we grow into adulthood is that dreams add meaning to our lives. When we lose our dreams, a piece of us dies also. By leaving our imagination behind us in childhood, our minds and hearts stop expanding and we feel a little less alive.
3. Therapy comes in many forms. Theme-parks aren’t just for kids. They have therapeutic benefits for adults as well. Lost in a sea of thrilling nuances that make us smile and scream ’til we laugh, the brain sends out millions of positive bio-chemical messages across its neurotransmitters, which flood our bodies with happy hormones. We get a rush of that ‘in love with life’ feeling and the world feels new again. The sudden bio-chemical infusion makes us feel young and alive.
Did you know that wonderment is a mental state that opens new neuropathways? Awe is a force that actually keeps our brains active and expanding. Curiosity keeps us young because it is a creative condition that motivates us to learn and continually regenerates the brain.
4. Be mindful of dreams–yours and others’. Dreams are a powerful force that keep us moving boldly toward the future. Remember to be mindful of your own dreams and those of others. Mindfulness master, Thich Nhat Hanh, encourages each of us to live in such a way that we can realize our dreams and increase our well-being every day. Through fulfilling our own dreams, we can also help others to live theirs.
If you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, ask yourself what dreams you may have left behind. You can reawaken yours by sharing them with someone special. In the process you’ll also be helping someone else realize their dreams too.
Having trouble remembering a lost dream? Spend a day with a child. Emerse yourself in laughter, imagination and play. Then watch your dreams resurface. When they do, nourish and protect those dream bubbles like a precious newborn. Feed them with your imagination and watch them grow into reality.