Yesterday was the first day it had snowed in Exeter all winter, as far as I can recall.
Luck would have it that it was the day that I had chosen for myself and eleven of my girlfriends, all in our forties, to try a Segway adventure at Haldon Forest.
As I got into my car first thing, the temperature showed minus six degrees, and not being a fan of cold weather, my first response was that of dread. Was it too late to cancel, I thought? Could I, as the one who had planned it, wimp out this late in the day?
No, of course I couldn’t. I would just have to wrap up warm – hat, gloves, thermals, big thick coat – and when I arrived I realised everyone else had done the same. These usually well-dressed women had chosen practicality over style and I was relieved not to be the only one.
It may have been the sense of camaderie between us, the fact that we all share that sense of adventure, trying something new each quarter when we meet up, but it ended up being memorable as a result of the weather, not in spite of the weather.
The moment the snow started, as we were doing our preparatory drills at the hut, there was an air of excitement, of pure magic. Twelve forty-something women turned into young girls, awe-struck by the flecks of snow on our fur-lined parkas, and shrieking in delight at the winter wonderland that was appearing before us.
I looked around at the faces of my friends, and I thought how young they looked, that it was incredible how everyone was just embracing the snow. The childlike wonder was in us all, and I thought how I wanted to have more of that feeling. I thought about how important it is for us all, to keep seeing the world as if through the eyes of a child.
Perhaps this is the secret to staying young?
It is when we stop seeing the magic in everything, when we stick to the same old routines, when we turn down adventures because of fear, that’s when we get old.
Literally, we stagnate.
In Chinese medicine it is believed that most disease is caused by stagnation. Like old pond water, we become dirty and without any flow or movement, the toxins are never expelled.
I think this stagnation could be of the body or the mind, and it happens not just when we stay still, but when we do the same things over and over again. Our comfort zone shrinks as we don’t step outside into anything other than the known.
To maintain our youthfulness, we need to scramble these pre-conditioned patterns that keep up stuck in our ways.
We need to keep things fresh, move and twist, and take new routes, feeding the body with fresh energy to keep it alive and vibrant.
We need to take time to play, embark on new challenges, and approach it all with a fresh, curious mind.
We need to lose that part of us that is afraid of looking silly and instead embrace our silliness. It is that wholehearted, free part of us that makes us come alive, and that also makes us more attractive to others.
We need to look for the wonder in everything, seeing it all, like a child, for the first time.
We need to spend time with people who make us feel young, who lift us up, not bring us down.
We need to keep that balance, as children do naturally, between rest and movement, not work so hard that there is no time for play, and not worry too much about the things that really won’t matter in the end.
I’m inspired by my friend Rosie, who has the most positive and upbeat nature, and her youthful energy is infectious. She was going skiing last week, and I asked her what was the first thing she was going to do when she got there.
Of course it was!