When 6-year-old Kaiser Whittaker broke his leg last year jumping on a trampoline, his parents’ first priority wasn’t taking him to the emergency room. Instead, it was more important to give him medicine to prevent any possible internal bleeding. Then, they rushed him to the hospital.
Kaiser has hemophilia, which means his blood doesn’t clot easily. Kaiser’s dad, Jed, said what’s most worrisome about this type of medical disorder is something they can’t see: If Kaiser falls and hits his knee hard on the concrete, for example, Jed’s concern immediately centers on the chance of internal bleeding.
“It’s a stressful reality for me and my wife,” Jed said.
Protecting Washingtonians against that uncertainty is why Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators passed the nation’s first public health care option.
“We should not be cautious and conservative on this,” Inslee said. “We should be bold and energetic.”
Inslee convened health care leaders, legislators, elected leaders and stakeholders in Seattle Wednesday to discuss the first steps of implementing Cascade Care, an effort that will be led by the Exchange.
Mayor Durkan and the City of Seattle joined with organizations from across the Puget Sound to host a resource fair at the Rainier Beach Community Center to help residents learn how to protect their health during wildfire smoke season.
Wildfire smoke has become increasingly normal in the Seattle area during summertime. Last year, wildfire smoke led to 24 days of poor air quality. This year, the air could get even worse.
In response, Smoke Ready Communities Day was created to ensure that our diverse communities will have the resources they need to stay healthy and safe when our air quality is poor. Smoke Ready Communities Day comes as a joint effort between Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Snohomish counties, Mayors of cities in all four counties, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, Emergency Management departments across the counties, the Washington Department of Health, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
As an outdoors-loving city and region, we must ensure that while we do enjoy nature and the outdoors, we stay safe and inside during heavily smoky times. Stay safe this season!
Thumb-sucking. Prolonged thumb-sucking or the use of pacifiers beyond the age of 4 increases the risk of altering the bite. “In a proper bite pattern,” Booms says, “the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth. But dependence on thumb-sucking or a pacifier for extended periods can prevent that from happening. The back molars may touch when the jaws are closed but the front teeth don’t. And the frequent presence of a thumb, finger or pacifier while the two front adult teeth erupt can cause them to come in improperly.”
Mouth-breathing. The inability to breathe through the nose can be a major cause of growth-related bite problems. “This happens to a lot of children who have precursors to sleep-disordered breathing, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or allergies,” Giannetti says.
Damaged or prematurely lost baby teeth. Booms and Giannetti note that many parents undervalue the importance of baby teeth in regard to how they can affect the bite. For one, accidents can affect the development of a child’s teeth and bite. “When a child knocks a baby tooth out, the buds of the permanent teeth grow underneath the roots of the baby teeth,” Booms says. “So sometimes trauma to a baby tooth can dislodge or move the developing bud of the permanent tooth, which eventually comes in crooked.”
Cavities in baby teeth. “When children get cavities that cause their baby teeth to crack or be lost, if the baby tooth isn’t fixed, or a space maintainer is not put in, the teeth just drift around,” Giannetti says. “Teeth grow until they touch another tooth, and this process can be the root of most problems when it comes to environmental causes.”
In 1920, female life expectancy in the United States was one year longer than male. Half a century later, that gender gap had grown to 7.6 years. Over the next few decades, the difference shrank to 4.8 years. But, over just the past two years, while women’s life expectancy has remained steady, men’s declined, and the gender gap has crept back up to 5 years[i]. Despite numerous advances in medical science, men continue to die at younger ages and in greater numbers than women of nine of the top 10 causes of death.
Within the broader men’s health crisis, there is one area where differences between male and female mortality and morbidity are especially stark: mental health, the most visible manifestation of which is suicide.
Across all ages and ethnicities, American men commit suicide at far higher rates than women. According to the most recent CDC data, between the ages of 15 and 64, roughly 3.5x more men than women commit suicide. From 65 to 74, male suicides outnumber females by more than 4:1. For those over 74, the difference is a startling 9.3:1[ii]. Overall, for males, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death. For females, it’s number 14[iii].
One sub-population that’s profoundly affected by the epidemic of male suicides is the military. Historically, servicemembers were less likely than their civilian counterparts to take their own lives. But since 2001, more active duty servicemembers (including Reserve/Guard) have killed themselves than have died in combat. And those numbers are dwarfed by the number of veterans who complete suicide. According to the Military Times, veterans account for a total of 14% of all adult suicides in the US, even though only 8% of the population has ever served[iv].
The alarming disparity in suicides is undoubtedly driven by equally alarming disparities in the underlying mental-health conditions that lead to suicide itself, including depression and anxiety[v], psychosis, and substance abuse. In fact, nowhere is the connection between suicide and an underlying mental health condition more obvious than with substance abuse.
Between 2015 and 2016, male life expectancy decreased by .2 years[vi], a rather dramatic decline over such a short period of time. That decline was driven, to a large extent, by an even-more-dramatic 9% increase in the male suicide rate, which, in turn, was related to a parallel increase in substance abuse—in particular opiate use—among men. Such a change in the suicide rate over the course of a single year could easily be classified as the bellwether of a looming public health catastrophe. Actually, two catastrophes. The second is the dramatic increase in opiate overdose deaths. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, between 2015 and 2016, those deaths increased 20.4% among women and 31.5% for men[vii]—primarily middle-aged men, who would otherwise be expected to be among the most productive members of their communities and our society as a whole.
Medical providers, members of the public health community, community organizations, politicians, and the media have collectively been unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge the massive scope of the mental health issues that affect men. As a result, tens of thousands of American men and boys are dying and suffering from what many experts believe are preventable or treatable behavioral and mental health issues.
The effects of this collective mismanagement of mental health issues in men and boys extend into nearly every aspect of American society and have broad implications for the ways we provide (or don’t provide) preventive mental health services to our fathers, sons, brothers, partners, and friends. (The Affordable Care Act, for example, provides girls and women with annual, free, well-woman visits, which include mental-health screenings. No such coverage exists for boys and men.)
At the very least, the lack of adequate mental health care negatively impacts men’s and boys’ academic endeavors and achievements, their productivity in the workplace, the overall quality of their family life, their ability to care for their children and spouse or partner, and their level of community engagement and the contributions they make to the social capital of their communities and our nation.
So what can we do about the male mental-health crisis? First, most experts agree that in order to help boys and men manage the behavioral health and mental health issues, particularly those that are inextricably linked to violence, we need male-focused tools, programs, social support systems and clinical care, not only in primary care providers’ offices, but also in our schools, work environments, social support networks, and community organizations, both on the hyper-local and national levels.
Second, rather than criticize “toxic masculinity,” we need to celebrate fathers and other male role models. From a very young age, boys grow up hearing that “big boys don’t cry,” “play through it,” and “man up.” Those powerful messages keep boys and men from recognizing that they need help and from reaching out to get that help—especially with regard to mental health issues. Fathers and other adult male role models can help boys and young men understand that expressing emotions and asking for help are signs of strength, not weakness, and that caring and nurturing are far better ways of showing you’re a man than committing senseless acts of violence.
When it comes to having access to quality health care, minorities still lag behind their white counterparts, research shows, and that can include dental and orthodontic problems that get postponed or go untreated.
“This is a huge problem because regular checkups and care are critical to keeping your teeth and gums healthy,” says Dr. Bobbi Peterson (www.allthingsdrbobbi.com), an orthodontist who is an African-American.
One contributing factor to the limited care for minorities is a lack of diversity in the medical profession. Studies have shown that minority patients are more likely to visit medical professionals who also are minorities, but diversity among dentists does not mirror the overall population at all, according to the American Dental Association. In a 2015 study, for example, just 3.8 percent of dentists were black, while the nation’s overall black population was 12.4 percent.
Meanwhile, just 5.2 percent of dentists were Hispanic, compared to 17.7 percent of the overall population.
For many people, this does matter, and there’s even a mobile app and website called Hued that tries to match patients with black and Latino doctors.
“Of course, for many people there might not be any medical providers whose offices are that close to them,” Peterson says. “Even in a place as large as Brooklyn, I’m one of only three black-female orthodontists with their own office.”
The lack of care for minorities has been a concern for years, and some of the issues that have been raised include:
- Minorities have more oral-health problems. African-Americans and Hispanics have significantly greater rates of untreated cavities than non-Hispanic whites, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African-Americans and Hispanics also have disproportionate rates of tooth loss, the CDC reports. Would those statistics be different if the patients had access to a dentist or orthodontist who was a minority? Perhaps, though other factors could play a role, such as the cost of dental care. Still, in 2015 psychiatrist Damon Tweedy wrote in a New York Times guest column that black patients are more likely to feel comfortable with black doctors, and studies have shown they are more likely to seek them out for treatment.
- Trust can be an issue. In that same column, Tweedy wrote that, compared to other races, black patients are less trusting of physicians and their medical advice. As a result, they often delay or refuse needed treatments. Peterson says she has seen in her practice how important trust is. In some cases, that may transcend race. “The mouth and the face are two really intimate zones as part of your personal space,” she says. “To allow someone into that personal space patients have to trust them.”
- Reaching out to the community is important. Peterson says it’s important for healthcare providers to reach out to their communities, especially in areas where there are low-income families who can’t always afford care. Peterson often volunteers in community schools to teach students and staff dental health, and to provide free screenings to middle school students.
Peterson says it’s important to put patients at ease when they arrive in the office. Otherwise, they might not be inclined to return.
“I like to greet them with a smile and give them a detailed description of what their treatment plan should be,” she says. “They need to know what to expect.”
About Dr. Bobbi Peterson
Dr. Bobbi Peterson (www.allthingsdrbobbi.com) is an orthodontist whose office, Aces Braces, is in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, NY, where she offers child, adolescent, and adult orthodontic services. In addition to instructing new Dental Residents at Kings County Hospital, she volunteers in community schools to teach students and staff dental health and to provide free screenings to middle school students. Dr. Peterson’s training allows her to specialize in all aspects of orthodontics – including retainer installations, crooked or crowded teeth, gapped teeth, and crossbites. Dr. Peterson earned her dental degree from Howard University, and she completed a residency in orthodontics at Maimonides Medical Center. She is multilingual, speaking English, French and Spanish.
While friends and families cheered from the sidelines, about 130 students who are blind or visually impaired participated in a track and field meet that first lady Trudi Inslee attended Thursday. The event took place at the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver and included athletes who ranged in age from about 5 to 21 years old.
While the bulk of students traveled from Washington, some traveled from other parts of the Northwest and Oregon to compete, participate and network with each other.
The first lady said the event was an appropriate highlight of the student’s accomplishments.
“The student athletes from today are such an inspiration to all of us as they overcome challenges, enjoy competition, build teamwork and — most of all — have fun,” Inslee said. “Thank you for sharing your day with us.”
The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC), an inclusive organization dedicated to the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and the elimination of health disparities, is pleased to announce the election of new and returning members to its board of directors. Michelle A. Albert, MD, MPH, President-elect, and Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, Chair-elect, will serve for one year before stepping into their role as president and board chair, respectively, in March 2020. Anthony Fletcher, MD began his two-year term on the board of directors in April.
Dr. Albert is a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and director of the CeNter for the StUdy of AdveRsiTy and CardiovascUlaR DiseasE (NURTURE). She maintains a clinical practice focused on preventive cardiology and the most critically ill heart disease patients at UCSF. She has a distinguished novel research career focused on adversity and cardiovascular disease and is the principal investigator for NIH RO1 funding, an American Heart Association (AHA) Merit Award and other foundation funding. She is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the Association of University Cardiologists (AUC). She is President of the AHA’s San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley Board of Directors. She has held multiple roles within the ABC, including most recently as Secretary of the Board of Directors. Dr. Albert also serves on the Sarnoff Foundation Board of Directors and the NHLBI Board of External Experts.
“At this critical time in the history of the ABC and of our nation, I am honored to be elected as the next president of the ABC,” said Dr. Albert. “We are at an inflection point wherein efforts focused on growth and development of the membership for both women and men along the career life-course is essential. In addition to the latter, enhancement of our brand through strong fruitful collaborations and fiscal strengthening, expansion of our community health impact and magnification of the academic productivity of our organization and membership will be among key goals of my tenure.”
Dr. Ofili is a professor of medicine (Cardiology) at Morehouse School of Medicine, and chief medical officer of the Morehouse Choice Accountable Care Organization. She is the founder of AccuHealth Technologies, “Empowering Patient-Centered Health and Wellness.” She is the principal investigator of the NIH funded national consortium of the Research Centers at Minority Institutions (RCMI) which includes over 18 historically Black, Hispanic, and Minority Serving Institutions across the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. She is the multi principal investigator of the NIH funded statewide Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance (GACTSA), and the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). She also serves on the boards of: Georgia BIO, Georgia’s Life Sciences Partner and Alliant Health Solutions. Dr. Ofili is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the AUC. Dr. Ofili was the eighth and first woman president of the ABC.
“I am pleased to serve the ABC at this moment in its history. The ABC has pioneered programs that have lasting impact on the diversity of the cardiovascular workforce and cardiovascular health equity,” said Dr. Ofili. “However, much work remains. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to expand the ABC’s national and global footprint on cardiovascular health.”
Dr. Fletcher currently practices at the Cardiology and Medicine Clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas in association with Dr. Frances R. Harris and Dr. Joe L. Hargrove. He has practiced cardiology in the Little Rock community for the past 32 years. He is an active staff physician at Baptist Medical Center, Arkansas Heart Hospital, St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center and is a former clinical professor in the Department of Cardiology at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He was past president of three different affiliates of the American Heart Association (AHA). He has served as president and CFO of the Arkansas Medical Dental and Pharmaceutical Association. He was a past member of the National Board of the AHA and has served on several national committees. Currently, he is a member of the Arkansas Commission for Healthcare Improvement (past chairman), and he sits on the Advisor Board of the UAMS College of Public Health.
“My vision for the ABC, is to use its resources and talents to be a strong voice for underserved communities, to address the many inequities in cardiovascular care in our nation and around the world,” said Dr. Fletcher.
The following board members are returning to the board of directors for another term (2019-2021): Uzoma N. Ibebuogu, MD, Kevin Sneed, PharmD, CRPh, and Millicent Gorham, PhD (Hon), MBA. The ABC Board comprises a wide range of experience in various fields, including healthcare, organizational management and capacity building. To learn more, visit http://abcardio.org/board-of-
May is National Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Awareness Month. More than 30,000 adults and kids in the United States have CF. In Georgia, a CF survivor is currently winning her 35-year battle with the disease — thanks to her life-saving double lung transplant. Today, on May Day, she and her husband will be celebrating her 40th birthday and ‘transplantaversary.’
More than 10 million Americans are symptomless carriers of CF and 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. CF causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs, which over time leads to sinus issues, difficult food digestion and permanent lung damage due to constant infections. For Bonnie Griner of Moultrie, Georgia, these statistics and these challenges have been her reality since she was diagnosed with CF at the age of five. This month’s celebration of her 40th birthday and her new lungs is a milestone for Bonnie and her husband, Nick Chastain.
“I was born with CF and I grew up knowing a transplant would probably be somewhere in my future. ‘The transplant’ was always talked about as being down the road … not now … sometime far away,” Bonnie said. But ‘the future’ became a reality in December 2016 when for the first time in her CF battle, Bonnie was put on oxygen while her CF specialists at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta began to research transplant centers that would potentially accept Bonnie for a transplant evaluation.
In early 2017 Bonnie received the news that Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina – 525 miles away from their home in Moultrie – would do two weeks of testing to see if she would be admitted into its transplant program. While overjoyed, both Bonnie and Nick started to wonder how this next step in her transplant journey might financially impact their family. On February 3, 2017, Bonnie called COTA to learn more about fundraising for transplant-related expenses. On February 16th a COTA fundraising specialist travelled to Moultrie to train a very large group of friends and family members and walk them through the entire fundraising process.
COTA uniquely understands that parents/spouses who care for a child or adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so all contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and these COTA funds are available for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses. Within days of their on-site training, the COTA team in honor of Team Bonnie G was off and running, planning fundraisers and receiving guidance from COTA’s team of professionals. These amazing COTA volunteers named themselves the Bonfighters.
While the majority of COTA patients are children and teenagers, there are a significant number of adults working with COTA — especially those diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis early in life who can wait for years to qualify for a double lung transplant. In Bonnie’s case, it was Nick who was at her side when the time came to start the transplant process. Recently Nick sat down and shared these thoughts about Bonnie’s transplant journey to date … a journey he has shared with her for many years.
“COTA was an organization I was not familiar with prior to late 2016. Bonnie’s lung function was deteriorating quickly. Her infectious disease specialist put it to us plainly … Bonnie needed a lung transplant. Without getting into too much detail, he explained the odds we were up against, the timelines associated with the procedure and the urgency of Bonnie’s situation. Once we started scheduling our pre-transplant evaluations, we had to figure out the logistics of travel, accommodations, and my lost work time. We did not have disposable income for hotels, gas, and meals away from home. Luckily at that point in our journey, we had some relatives who helped us financially so we could travel to these preliminary meetings. My wife (Bonnie), in her infinite wisdom, bought me a book that was written by a CF spouse. When I read it, I cried. I nearly had a panic attack. I worried and then I cried some more. The author of the book, Ray Poole, likely saved us from financial ruin because he explained the concept of fundraising for transplant-related expenses in a way that I could understand it and feel comfortable proceeding with.
Friends and family want to do something … but often do not know how to contribute without adding more stress. The book explained how COTA was structured, and I suddenly had a sliver of hope. Up to this point I was preparing myself for the eventual sale of our home, resignation from a job I loved, and the prospect of seeking part-time work to afford an apartment near the hospital she chose for the transplant. These thoughts were the source of many nightmares and sometimes caused me to experience unbearable waves of anxiety, stress, and depression.
One evening in the early months of 2017, I mentioned COTA to a group of our friends who had gathered at our home. I was not sure how one should go about seeking an individual willing to take on the responsibility of running the fundraising effort. After some discussion about COTA (with the very limited knowledge I had), I brought up that crucial first piece of finding a leader. From one of the most unlikely mouths came the words I will forever remember … ‘I’ll do it,’ said Lacey Herndon, who would become our COTA Campaign Coordinator. I honestly did not know her that well; I knew her husband much better. I had no idea the blessing — and miracle — her words would be for Bonnie and me. Fast forward a few days and Lacey showed up at our house with a binder full of information, a contact name and phone number from COTA. I read all of the information and then had an informative call with COTA’s Family Services Team. I was blown away by the things I learned.
Basically, the life we had built together would survive this process. I would not lose our house. I would not have to wait tables in Durham while Bonnie was inpatient. I would not have to sell my plasma at the blood bank in order to get a decent meal. All of my worries and anxiety trigger points were explained and eliminated, one by one, by COTA staff members.
Once they got started our COTA Bonfighters were unstoppable, which was a blessing. March 2017 was complete chaos for us. Bonnie was on five liters of oxygen and tethered to an oxygen concentrator. I had to navigate the process of explaining to my superiors the transplant relocation requirement and then I had to figure out how to apply for an unpaid leave of absence. Once Duke accepted Bonnie, I had to search for an apartment in an unfamiliar town 10 hours away. And then – boom! The credit card bill arrived from our pre-transplant evaluations. Bonnie and I had not been on a vacation that included a hotel stay in years. The bill almost put me back in panic mode. It was more than I brought home in a month. Then I remembered COTA and reached out. I was assured that COTA funds were able to be used for transplant-related expenses like hotel rooms, meals and mileage. That day, COTA provided me with the first of many, many, many ‘miracle moments’ of thankfulness.
At the end of March we relocated to Durham, North Carolina. Our modest apartment was clean and near the pulmonary rehab center Bonnie visited daily. The rent was more than our mortgage. And our mortgage payment still had to be paid. And I was on unpaid leave from work. The COTA team was there for every problem that came up, for every concern I had and for every decision concerning transplant-related expenses. COTA allowed me to focus all of my energy on Bonnie and her path to transplant. My mortgage payment was made on time, we were able to pay rent every month, and the calorie-rich meals Bonnie required were purchased.
Meanwhile, back in South Georgia, the Bonfighters were on fire. Their fundraising efforts were exceeding all expectations. Our COTA volunteers were able to raise more than $150,000 for COTA in honor of Bonnie in a short amount of time. We were not able to attend even one fundraising event held in Bonnie’s honor. We will be forever indebted to the Bonfighters and our community of Moultrie. And we will be forever grateful to COTA for remaining constant in their support and unwavering in their commitment to provide financial peace of mind during a grueling, agonizing, life-saving, and (let’s face it) expensive time in our lives.
Bonnie received her new lungs … and her second chance at life … on her birthday, May 1, 2017. She remained inpatient at Duke for five weeks and was then released to move back to their transplant housing apartment. She began post-transplant rehab, which she completed in August. She and Nick were then cleared to move back to Georgia to begin their new post-transplant chapter together.
Since her life-saving transplant Bonnie and I have traveled to Duke about once a month. Our minimum monthly stay is three days. Meals away from home, parking at Duke, time missed from work are just some of our monthly realities. The financial requirements of Bonnie’s transplant journey are still well above the amount I earn as a school teacher. COTA has been there for every trip, every expense and every curveball we have encountered. Every staff member at COTA passionately helps transplant families weather the storm of uncertainty. They are steadfast in their commitment to support, guide and help transplant families.
COTA was also instrumental in helping the Bonfighters design compliantly worded posters, invitations, and tickets for fundraising events. COTA staff members trained our volunteers on how to collect, report and disperse funds for fundraising expenses. The Bonfighters put in the sweat, tears and time to make the community campaign a success. Their ability to follow the process with fidelity is due in large part to the training provided by COTA, which was provided at no expense to anyone associated with the COTA in honor of Team Bonnie G team.
COTA President Rick Lofgren visited Bonnie in person while she was still inpatient at Duke. COTA simply handled so many of our worries. COTA gave our community and friends a ‘coping outlet’ during a time of worry and distress. COTA is the epitome of what a charitable organization can and should be. Sound leadership, dedicated and knowledgeable staff members, and an unwavering commitment to the mission of the organization: The Children’s Organ Transplant Association helps children and young adults who need a life-saving transplant by providing fundraising assistance and family support. COTA does that and so much more.
Bonnie’s transplant recovery, and journey, continues. She is extremely thankful for the new life that has been given to her and says her post-transplant life is more than she ever dreamed it would be. Bonnie is hoping to one day meet her donor’s family and let them know how thankful and grateful she, Nick and the Bonfighters are for the selfless decision they made. Recently Bonnie shared with COTA that she is the Event Coordinator at Ashburn Hill Plantation in Moultrie. She is thrilled to report this is the first time she has been able to work in 12 years and it feels wonderful.
As she looks back over the past two years, Bonnie said, “From the moment we heard about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) we had hope. Before we knew COTA existed we were so worried about how we would ever be able to pay for a double lung transplant and relocation to another state and medications and the list went on. Once we started working with COTA our financial fears were gone. Without the support and guidance from COTA, I would not have been able to receive this transplant. It is very comforting to know COTA will be there to answer any questions and help in any way possible … for a lifetime.”
For more information about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA),
or to find a COTA family in your area, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are You Living an Adventure-Starved Life? 11 Ways to Shake Things Up
By Vella Mbenna, author of Muddy Roads Blue Skies
Have you fallen into a routine of drudgery? Do you feel stuck there? You’re not alone. If we’re honest, many of us will admit that we’re kind of going through the motions—work, home, eat, TV, sleep, repeat—and living by default instead of design. Life isn’t bad; it’s just dull. Uninspired. Actually (and ironically), a bit lifeless. We shouldn’t just accept our adventure-starved status quo.
Life is meant to be really lived. I’ve come to believe adventure is a deep human need. We read about it in books and we watch it in movies because deep down we crave it.
And we owe it to ourselves to pursue things that give us that spark, that jolt of excitement. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your income is. You can and should weave some adventure into your life.
Growing up in rural Georgia, I dreamed of travel and excitement. But after college I found myself broke, divorced, and struggling to raise my child alone. All that changed when I joined the Foreign Service and embarked on a 26-year adventure in which I lived in dangerous parts of the world, performed high-states diplomatic work, and defended my country in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks. My career provided the adventure I had always craved.
If you too feel adventure-starved, don’t worry. There are plenty of small ways to infuse totally ordinary days with life-shifting excitement—and it doesn’t require a globetrotting career or a big budget. Follow these tips to create the adventurous life you’re dreaming of.
First, commit to a self-imposed TV or social media ban. Before you can start your adventures, you need to stop doing the stuff that sucks up all your free time and keeps you in a state of lethargy. When turning on the TV or browsing Facebook is no longer an option, you’ll have to fill up your time with something. If nothing else, boredom will push you out the door.
Force yourself to do something that scares (yet excites) you. You’ll never reach your full potential by living small. So take a risk and challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and do some things that intimidate you. Start training for a marathon or sign up to be a foster parent or go for that promotion at work or even start the business you’ve daydreamed about for years. When you challenge yourself, you’ll truly find out what you’re made of.
It’s okay to start by taking small risks. If you’re normally silent in a meeting, speak up. Or if you’re getting over a painful breakup, join an online dating service. The idea is to practice leaving your comfort zone in small degrees, until you’re ready to make a bigger leap.
Take a class or learn a new skill. Learning shouldn’t end once you’ve left school. Exploring our interests is what keeps us alive. You might take a coding class, or learn to speak Russian, or learn how to scuba dive. The learning itself is an adventure, and so are the activities that naturally flow from that learning—the trips you go on to speak the new language you learn and the events that pop up when you meet new people in the classes you take.
Plan frequent mini adventures… When you need to shake things up a bit, choose a destination you’ve never visited within 100 miles of where you live and take a day-long road trip with your friends or family. This quenches your wanderlust without breaking the bank.
…and budget for a great trip. If you dream of traveling to the exotic locales you’ve seen only in photographs, you can absolutely make it a reality someday. Start an “adventure fund” by putting a small amount of money aside each month. Over time, it will add up, and even if it takes a few years, you will one day be able to go visit those places you dream of today.
Expand your circle. It’s fine to socialize with a core group of friends most of the time, but don’t close yourself off from meeting new people. You never know how a new friendship or relationship could transform your life. So, go to a Meetup group that interests you or join a sports league or running club as a way to socialize and have fun with new people.
Say yes to every invitation that you possibly can. As you start meeting new people, they’ll invite you to do things. Maybe they’ll ask you to be on a committee or join them in a fundraising effort. Hopefully the events themselves will be exciting, but they will also lead you to meet new people who, in turn, may invite you to do other things.
Don’t waste the weekends. Yes, you’re exhausted after the work week. I get it. But if you’re not careful, you’ll go into crash mode and squander the weekend “recuperating.” Don’t. Napping all weekend isn’t rejuvenating, anyway. Ever noticed how sluggish it makes you feel?
Plan ahead so that there’s a mini-adventure scheduled into every weekend. Be intentional about how you spend this rare and precious time away from work. Weekends are for trying new things, taking day trips, attending local festivals. If your spouse or partner doesn’t want to get out, grab the kids or a girlfriend and just go.
Get outdoors every chance you get. There’s a reason we associate “adventure” with the great outdoors. That’s where the mountains and oceans and rivers are. It’s where you get to camp under the stars or navigate whitewater rapids or hike dark, wooded paths to the top of hills to see the sunrise. It’s also where you might get caught in a thunderstorm or encounter a snake—and that’s part of the adventure equation too.
Being out in nature is a little risky. That’s good, though. It’s hard to be adventurous inside four climate-controlled walls.
Find novel ways to celebrate your milestones. Big achievements—like promotions, anniversaries, graduations, or even birthdays—deserve thoughtful commemorations. Celebrate them by doing something you’ve never done before. You don’t have to go skydiving on your 50th birthday—unless you really want to—but you could go ziplining or save up for a trip to Costa Rica.
Instill curiosity and wonder in your kids. You can teach your kids to enjoy an adventurous life by exposing them to the world from an early age. Take them with you when you travel, introduce them to other cultures and unusual foods, and challenge them to be brave even when it feels uncomfortable to do so.
You really get out of life what you put into it. So if you’re stuck in a life that’s underwhelming, it’s up to you to shake things up. It’s never too late to infuse your one and only life with great adventure. And the passion, excitement, and joy that you discover along the way will make any temporary discomfort you feel well worth it in the end.