— Life —

The Exhilaration of the First Time

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When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I recently spent an over-the-top fun weekend with my daughters and daughter-in-law in Boston. On the flight back to Austin, I chose a middle seat so my pregnant daughter could have the aisle. The plane was filling up when a woman asked to sit next to me by the window, and I breathed a sigh of relief that she was not a young mother with a crying baby in her arms.

As we were getting settled, I asked her if she was headed home. She smiled and said she was going to see her newly-married daughter, and it was her very first experience on an airplane. She opened up with childlike excitement and said, “I’m really not even nervous!” As we taxied out the runway, she looked out the window and kept saying “it’s so big.” And as we took off, she gripped the armrests and said “wow, that is so beautiful,” followed by “do we fly above the clouds the whole way?”  She was in awe of so many little things we take for granted.

The wonder of doing something big for the first time can be so exhilarating, and it can add years to your life. Neuroscientists have found that the brain is hardwired to enjoy novelty and challenge. New experiences and challenges stimulate the brain to produce dopamine as you go into problem-solving mode. Increased dopamine acts like adrenalin, giving you that “high” feeling of exhilaration, and it affects movement, motivation and the feeling of pleasure.

Without dopamine, we experience a decline in memory, cognitive functions and attention. Also, it’s been proven that major depression is associated with a state of reduced dopamine transmission. I like to think my new friend added a few days to her life by taking her first plane trip in her 50’s. She certainly inspired me.

To make life count, we must bring new experiences into our lives on a regular basis. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, safe inside our comfort zone where life is familiar and often just mediocre. It takes work to explore something new, but it’s oh so worth the effort.

Doing something new doesn’t have to be huge, but it can change your life as it brings you joy and enthusiasm that lights up your soul. What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Here are a few ideas.

  • Learn a new language
  • Write poetry, or even a book
  • Take a painting class
  • Take a trip to a new destination
  • Go bungee-jumping
  • Go scuba-diving
  • Draw with your non-dominant hand
  • Change careers

What new thing will you do this week? How will you continually have fresh and challenging activities in your life that keep you happy and healthy? Don’t get stuck in a rut. Do something you’ve never done and #makelifecount!





  • Carol Cassara October 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I love change. I live the high it brings and the uncharted path ahead. I always have. In that respect, I’m fearless. In other respects, not so much but on that? Oh yea.

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Bravo for your fearless spirit, Carol! Too many women are afraid of the unknown, and miss out on so many rich experiences in life as they stay stuck in the status quo. I’m sure you will live longer because of your courageous spirit!

      • Ali Davies October 25, 2016 at 9:05 am

        Hi Susan, I am a great believer that we don’t have to be fearless to step into the unknown or try something new. I think helping folks understand that can help them with taking the first step toward despite fear.

    • Ali Davies October 25, 2016 at 9:03 am

      I’m with you Carol. LOVE change. Feels like I am living fully.

  • 1010ParkPlace October 25, 2016 at 8:33 am

    The first time for anything is a big moment. I remember my first airplane ride, flying to meet my boyfriend’s parents when I was in college. So nervous, not about the plane, but about meeting them. The woman next to me said, “Don’t worry, honey. In a 100 years, no one will remember it.” LOL! For some reason that stuck with me, although I now know some of our actions have major consequences 100 years later. xoxo, Brenda

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Brenda, it was such a treat to sit next to this first-time flyer. She was just like a little girl, looking out the window with wide eyes as she saw Boston from a new vantage point. It made me think that we have lost the “wonder” of experiences because we are busy, or simply because we don’t allow ourselves to try something new from time to time. What a blessing she gave to me!

  • Ali Davies October 25, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Great point. Adventure is one of my values so I LOVE trying new things. Doesn’t have to be big things. Can be small things too. For example a couple of days ago we went to Junior’s first ever competitive curling game. Curling is a new sport to our family. Fabulous fun and lovely doing something new. Having said that, doing big new things is exciting too. Having moved countries twice (from England to Ireland, and then Ireland to Canada) that level of newness really is a fabulous experience and I think grows us a people in many ways and on many different levels.

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Ali, you have definitely kept your mind sharp with your adventures! You are so right…it doesn’t take much to stretch our brains and make them stronger. I have always been fascinated by curling. Not something we have in Texas. 🙂

  • Jen Lawrence October 25, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Susan, what an inspiring post. I visit seniors with Alzheimer’s with my dog and they are always doing new things at the seniors’ centre. They had a belly dancer in the other week and I think that it keeps everyone sharper. I’m at the stage where I don’t love change (I think I’ve had too much of it) so this is an important reminder to bring new things into my life. xo

    • Brenda Coffee October 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Jen, Now we know where those references to “old dogs” and “new tricks” come from. We just don’t like change like we did when we were younger. xoxox, B

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      Jen, we moved my mother to an assisted living home when her health was declining. I expected her to live at most another three years. She surprised us all and lived 10 years after that move! I know it was because she had daily activity, she played bridge several times a week, and she had a social life. I don’t remember them ever having a belly dancer, but I would like to see the residents in that class! How fun! Maybe I should try that next.

  • Jen Lawrence October 25, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Love this!

  • Laura Dennis October 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    The best part about facing the empty nest years is the opportunity to explore new things and have new adventures!

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      Laura, since we entered the empty nest, I have become an entrepreneur, published author, speaker and coach. Today, I submitted an application to start my own nonprofit, as a present to myself for my 60th birthday. There’s no reason to slow down! With all this activity, my brain might just outlast my body.

  • Cathy Chester October 25, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Ah, firsts. First boyfriends. First croissant in a Paris patisserie. (YUM) First sailing. First, first, first. I hope we always hold a childlike view of things just as we did the first time we did them. Wonderful piece.

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Cathy, I love watching my 4-year-old granddaughter play. She is so inquisitive, and has such joy with the smallest new discoveries. It certainly has made me slow down and appreciate the little things in life more. However, I am NOT looking forward to her first boyfriend. 🙂

  • Cathy Lawdanski October 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    It is so easy to stay with what is comfortable – to be in a rut! Good reminder.

    • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Cathy, I have a picture that shows the difference in living inside and living outside. Inside you’ll settle for mediocrity, you’ll be worried and fearful, you’ll be depressed and tired, and you’ll just be surviving. Outside the zone you have passion, excitement, purpose, confidence and a life witth no regrets. It’s a choice we have every day. Cheers to living outside the comfort zone!

  • Jennifer Dunham October 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I love your comment about the effort it may take to try new things being so worth it. I am a huge advocate of always being open to trying something new, whether something simple or a major life change!

  • Susan Tolles October 25, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Jennifer, it is so easy to be lazy, to make excuses and to settle for the status quo. But with a little effort, the opportunities are endless!

  • Esther Zimmer October 26, 2016 at 10:30 am

    What a lovely story! I feel like we often let the extraordinary escape us, simply because we get so used to looking at it. Esther xx

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