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Excitement and Growing Old


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A recent survey shows that people crave joy and excitement. However, as people get older, they find it more and more difficult to achieve these feelings. So much so, that people find it difficult to talk about it. According to one study, people find it easier to talk about their sex life than joy and excitement (no, they are not always the same thing).

When someone feels joy and excitement, certain chemicals are produced in the brain. People feel these emotions for a variety of different reasons. Some people get it from eating chocolate. Others from playing dangerous sports or watching horror movies. Research by Dr. Hillary Shaw suggests that the more we do of these activities that give us pleasure, the less they excite us. As Shaw puts it: “This means that we get accustomed to a stimulus to our senses”. As a result “we crave ever more intense sensory inputs to maintain the same level of happiness, as measured by levels of brain chemicals that are produced when in a satisfied state of mind”.

Shaw argues that as the “human brain seeks more extreme stimulation, the human body has a job to do, to maintain a fairly constant internal environment within quite narrow limits of temperature, levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, fats, sugars, etc.” The problem is that there is a conflict between the “aims of increasing brain excitement and avoiding internal bodily disruption”. This results in your brain receiving a warning that says “stop this or your life support systems will be compromised”. Some people do stop and become miserable about the lack of joy and excitement in their life. Others do not stop and end up overweight, destitute or in prison.

Dr. Hillary Shaw believes there is a solution to this problem. Anybody know what it can be?

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I'm afraid it's sad but true. When I go to the Sydney Opera House nowadays, for instance, I am consciously aware that the first visits I made 25 years ago, gave ma an incredible buzz which I no longer feel, and I really regret it.

And I have to admit that I am starting to look at young people with the awareness that I'll probably not experience those extreme emotions of youth ever again.

However, I'm pleased to report that there are still things which give me joy and excitement, including travel, a good restaurant with good wine, the company of close friends, thatre, concerts, and a good book. Are they the answer?

Mmmm Now you've made me wonder if I should risk becoming fat, destitute and imprisoned or settle into my armchair witrh a heavy sigh.

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I'm afraid it's sad but true. When I go to the Sydney Opera House nowadays, for instance, I am consciously aware that the first visits I made 25 years ago, gave ma an incredible buzz which I no longer feel, and I really regret it.

And I  have to admit that I am starting to look at young people with the awareness that I'll probably not experience those extreme emotions of youth ever again.

One of the great tragedies of life is that it becomes increasingly difficult to capture the excitement experienced in our youth. It only becomes a real problem if you did not experience those things when you were young. A middle-aged woman recently told me she had never been in love. She wondered if it was because she never met the right man or was it because of a flaw in her own personality. That is a question that cannot be answered. However, both answers are painful.

Although I accept I will never feel the excitement of a new passionate relationship, I am aware that life can still be exciting. Dr. Hillary Shaw argued that it is important to find a variety of things that create a sense of excitement. For example, the fastest growing hobby in the UK is family history research. People find it exciting to find out about their ancestors (it is a bit like having a new relationship).

The need for excitement is an important part of my personality. I get a lot of excitement from watching and playing sport. I also get excitement from having a stimulating conversation. This includes discussing topics on the forum (although I agree with Andy that moderating the forum is not so exciting).

Most of the arts do not excite me in the way that they did (theatre, cinema, concerts, television). However, reading still gives me that feeling of joy associated with excitement. One of the great pleasures of life is reading the Guardian in the morning. Strange as it may seem, I actually feel a sense of excitement reading about the latest political developments. I even experience this listening to the news on the radio.

The other great excitement I get is receiving a new book in the post that I have ordered via the internet. These are nearly always history books. In some cases, as with the latest book I am reading, Nina Burleigh’s A Very Private Woman, this expectation is fulfilled and I experience both excitement and pleasure.

On Wednesday I took my 4 year old grandson to the cinema to see Robots. It was only the second time he had been to the cinema (the first time he had to leave because he found it too frightening). The look of excitement on his face when I picked him up at his home gave me a great deal of pleasure. I think I was sharing in his excitement. I was recapturing the excitement I felt as a child when my father took me to the cinema for the first time.

At the end of the film I asked him if he wanted to go the cinema again the following week. “Yes please” he answered. “Can we go on the balcony next time?” I asked him why and he said he wanted to know what it would be like looking down at the screen. He was excited by the idea of a new experience. This is what we find so difficult to achieve. However, being with someone you love who is having an exciting time, is as good, if not better, than the original experience. In fact, it is as good as it gets.

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At the end of the film I asked him if he wanted to go the cinema again the following week. “Yes please” he answered. “Can we go on the balcony next time?” I asked him why and he said he wanted to know what it would be like looking down at the screen. He was excited by the idea of a new experience. This is what we find so difficult to achieve. However, being with someone you love who is having an exciting time, is as good, if not better, than the original experience. In fact, it is as good as it gets.

Have you not stumbled onto the magic of teaching - why teaching is such a good profession? I obviously wouldn't say I love my students, but introducing new concepts, skills, ideas and discussions - instilling the love of learning and discovery - is this not the key part of teaching?

Thus would it be fair to suggest that teaching is the answer! :plane

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Have you not stumbled onto the magic of teaching - why teaching is such a good profession?  I obviously wouldn't say I love my students, but introducing new concepts, skills, ideas and discussions - instilling the love of learning and discovery - is this not the key part of teaching?

Of course I have. I founf teaching a very exciting job.

Great lovers and great teachers have several things in common. This includes a generous spirit. A young teacher once told me he was leaving the profession because he realized he was too selfish to become a good teacher. It was a wise decision.

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Great lovers and great teachers have several things in common.

I've found an inexhaustible supply of energy and a willingness to try new techniques have helped in both vocations

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And I should have added that my job still provides me with strong emotions, not always joy, but definitely excitement. I regularly have to make speeches to large numbers, sometimes with politicians in the audience, and I always get a buzz from people telling me I moved, inspired or even angered them. I get angry about govt and departmerntal stupidity quite frequently which then prompts me to action which still excites me. I came to this position late in life, and I can now see, if I'm absolutely honest, why many people are attracted to power. I hope I'm able to use it in the right way, but it is quite exciting to know you can influence and change important things. When I come out of the Minister's office having made a successful point and achieved some change or improvement, it is very satisfying.

My partner is a few years older and he's to-ing and fro-ing about retiring, and worries he will be bored, not enough to do etc. That's partly because like many men he has put a lot of his energy into work for many years. He doesn't have many active hobbies - he reads, loves cinema, theatre, TV etc but probably wonders if that's enough to fill up his days satisfyingly enough. That aspect doesn't bother me at all. I have loads of things I want to do, including writing, travelling more etc. However, I'll put it off for a few more years.

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Great lovers and great teachers have several things in common.

I've found an inexhaustible supply of energy and a willingness to try new techniques have helped in both vocations

:clapping

A good point, I agree.

I never think of getting old, though I could start the countdown to my retirement (in terms of years, of course).

I think teachers are lucky because they are always in touch with young people, who are growing and changing under their eyes every day.

It is extraordinary to see how they accept to follow you and your ideas for a while and then start rejecting them, critizing them and suggesting their own interpretation of life.

A few years ago I found it more difficult to manage the gap between their opinions and mine and probably wanted to assert my point of view. Now I find it much easier, I think I have started accepting the fact that they are the future inhabitants of this planet and maybe their ideas are more effective than mine.

I think this constant exchange between distant generations is one of the most exciting and interesting aspects of a teacher's job.

I still find a lot of interesting things to do and see: as John wrote, sharing or just witnessing young people's experiences is a source of joy, I can see it with my children, though granparents can feel it even more strongly because they are not so directly involved as parents are and their relationship is more balanced and relaxed, free from the anxiety which is typical of parents.

The only thing I really miss is the time to do all the things I would like to realize.

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John writes:

A recent survey shows that people crave joy and excitement. However, as people get older, they find it more and more difficult to achieve these feelings.

I took early retirement from teaching in 1993 – the wisest decision in my life. I’ve enjoyed 12 stress-free years. I reach the age of 63 in June, still enjoying good health and vitality.

I went downhill skiing this year in January and March. I still get an incredible buzz schussing at 30 mph down a wide, flattish blue run, skis parallel all the way. But black runs tend to scare me now; my muscles and bones are not up to the strain, and I need fun, not challenges, these days. Then there’s the apres-ski: busy bars with people of all ages having a great time singing hopelessly out of tune on karaoke evenings.

I play golf during the spring and summer, and I look forward to the sheer joy of hitting the occasional great shot that lands within three feet of the hole. In both skiing and golf I enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful scenery and – on my local golf courses – the abundance of wild life on view: mad March hares scampering across the fairway, the sound of a green woodpecker drumming on an old tree, the little monkjack deer that suddenly shoot out from the undergrowth and put you off your shot.

I walk at least a mile with my pet greyhound every day. This year I have been enthralled by the white carpet of snowdrops that covered our local churchyard and adjacent woods, followed by the primroses and daffodils – and now the bluebells are already growing quickly and will soon be in bloom. What a sight!

My wife Sally (10 months younger than me) and I visited the Grand Canyon four years ago. Our first sight of that huge hole in the ground took our breath away. We’ll never forget that experience. After that, we drove on to Las Vegas – which is pure, totally over-the-top entertainment and exciting in an entirely different way. Last year we went on a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska. Our excitement when we approached the spectacular Hubbard Glacier matched that which we experienced on our visit to the Grand Canyon. Then there were the 12 bald eagles hovering in the sky over Ketchikan, the tail of a humpback whale diving for food, an orca leaping out of the sea – what more can I say?

Sally and I also enjoy the simple pleasures in life, a candlelit dinner at home with a bottle of good wine, a barbecue on our patio filled with the warmth from a wood-burning chimenea when it gets cold in the evening, a visit to our local pub where we can chat with friends and solve all the world’s problems. And our first granddaughter, born in June last year, is a constant source of joy - pleasure without the pain. We are not finding it difficult to achieve joy and excitement. Life has never been better!

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  • 3 years later...

I don't remember the author of the below quote but it seems to apply.

"Middle age is when you're sitting at home on a Saturday night and the phone

rings and you hope it's not for you."

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I don't remember the author of the below quote but it seems to apply.

"Middle age is when you're sitting at home on a Saturday night and the phone

rings and you hope it's not for you."

I have not yet got to that stage, unless of course I am watching football on television.

Thank you for getting this thread going again. I forgot it existed. Last Saturday I took my grandsons to Lapland (Kent) to see Father Christmas. I will always remember William's face (he is four years old) when he met him for the first time. Even so, I still felt fairly guilty for misleading him about his existence.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Thank you for getting this thread going again. I forgot it existed. Last Saturday I took my grandsons to Lapland (Kent) to see Father Christmas. I will always remember William's face (he is four years old) when he met him for the first time. Even so, I still felt fairly guilty for misleading him about his existence.

Just found out this week-end my Wife and I are going to be Grandparents for the first time, Thanks Nick and Sandra. I'm quite excited.

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Just found out this week-end my Wife and I are going to be Grandparents for the first time, Thanks Nick and Sandra. I'm quite excited.

Congratulations Grandpa!

So your disco days are over :ice

Edited by Cigdem Eksi
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I do find that age and the scars of accumulated deaths and such have changed which things give pleasure and to the same extent as earlier, but I find there still are things which do - being high on a mountain - having hiked and scrambled there myself; reading a good book; making a great intellectual connection between two or more ideas; seeing that you really ignited a spark of interest in a student; you have to teach me how to do that :ice wonder at the Universe on the smallest and largest scales; and other things. Some things that once gave the 'buzz' in the past, no longer do - or perhaps not as often; but there are other things.....I think we just have to find those new experiences that create the same synaptic neurotransmitters - novelty helps, as others have pointed-out above.
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