How to have fun?

Why, I often wonder, is it so hard to Be Gretchen and to know what I find fun? I’d think that nothing would be more obvious to me than my own nature, but it’s a constant challenge to be myself.

Other people have told me that they also find it difficult to identify what they like to do, for work and fun. And I’ve identified one reason for that.

Scientists, such as Daniel Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness, point out that we’re all more alike than we think. And that’s true. But I think it’s also true that we’re all more unalike than we think. (It’s one of my Secrets of Adulthood: the opposite of a great truth is also true.)

This is true when it comes to fun (whether fun at leisure or at work). Many people assume that they find something fun because that activity is inherently fun. But nothing is inherently fun.

A friend of mine was explaining what she did for work when she first moved to New York City. She sad, “I could only work part-time, so of course I tried to get a job at a florist shop.” Why “of course”? It would never occur to me to try to work in a florist shop. I always wanted temping jobs.

My college roommate majored in English, then got a Ph.D. in anthropology. I asked her, “Why didn’t you take any anthropology courses as an undergrad?” She said, “I thought that was the stuff that everyone found interesting. It didn’t occur to me to study it.”

A former colleague told me, “If I didn’t have the job I have, I’d love to be a travel agent. But of course, that’s just so fun.” I told her, “If I were condemned to perpetual punishment, it would be as a travel agent.”

My husband’s former boss, a real wine connoisseur, spent a long time trying to convince me that wine was a fascinating, enjoyable thing to study. I spent a long time trying to convince him that I didn’t really enjoy wine. He simply couldn’t believe that a person might not like wine.

It can be easy to overlook our likes and dislikes, or take them for granted, because we assume, “Well, sure, everyone likes video games,” “Everyone likes computer programming,” “Everyone likes reading and writing,” “Everyone likes getting the chance to speak in front of a large group,” “Everyone loves music.” But that’s not true! The phenomenon of homophily describes our tendency to spend time with people who are similar to us, which reinforces the notion that our likes and dislikes are widely held.

That’s why, if you’re trying to figure out what to do as a job or as a hobby, it helps to ask yourself, “What do I actually do, when I have some free time?” Really examine it. Be honest. Not what you think you should be doing, but what you actually do with yourself, and enjoy, and captures you interest. What’s true for you is not true for everyone — and that’s significant.

The opposite of a great truth is also true, so this can work in reverse, as well. For a long time, I assumed that no one loved children’s/young adult literature as much as I did. Once I acknowledged what I found fun, and started asking around, I quickly identified many people who shared my passion. So don’t assume that everyone shares your interest, or that no one shares your interest.

How about you? Have you had an insight about what you find fun — or not?

* Happier.com has lots of interesting material. I especially enjoy the discussion of happiness-related research.

* I send out short monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month’s posts to about 31,000 subscribers. If you’d like to sign up, click here or email me at gretchenrubin1 gmail.com (don’t forget the “1”). Just write “newsletter” in the subject line. It’s free.

I don’t know how to have fun anymore.

Everyone’s depression has its own flavor and emotional dynamics. No one has any reliable solutions or hacks and I encourage you to see a doctor if you haven’t already. With that said, I’ve struggled with depression for 15+yrs and the following is how I’ve personally learned to understand it and work myself out if it.

What best defines my depression is what I now understand as the experience of losing touch with reality itself. Reality is instead processed as a series of categories. My brain stops processing the reality underneath those categories and life becomes a series of meaningless tasks automatically triggering the programmed routines for completing them. When eating, the whole experience is reduced to the script to follow to successfully complete the activity category of eating. Tasting and enjoying food is not essential for that task, so the feeling/meaning areas of my brain literally have no access to that data. I become a script following actor of my own life living in the shadows of experience.

Step one is paradoxical: STOP TRYING TO DO STUFF. This is actually not easy. Being numb is quite miserable and a part of your brain is desperately coming up with all sorts of things you should do to get up and going again. But then the action-generating part inevitably stutters. There’s slight chance you’ll be able to do anything productive and a very high chance that you will end up judging yourself harshly and feeding the depression. I like to think of life-draining depression as being in a psychological coma. The positive-feeling/meaning areas of your brain are basically shut down.

Once I stop squirming and feeding my own self-loathing, the key is step two, which is to start noticing details. Details I define as everything that is not an essential aspect of a category of activity. When I start processing detailed data, I begin to step outside of script-mode. Even in the most mundane and familiar of environments, sitting at my desk, say, I will start directing my attention to anything and everything, large and small, that is just there and is a certain way and not any other way now in this moment. The shade of off-white of the page in the book I have open, the way the branches of a tree sway slightly, the intricate way the light and shadows fall on its leaves, the particular way in which the jeans of someone in the street are ripped, the textures and tiny patterns of shadow on the wall, etc etc. When taking the dog out for a walk, I pay attention to how excited she is, that her strongly wagging tail makes her whole backside swing, and when she pulls me to the familiar patch of grass she always pees at, I notice the dozens of shades of light green and yellow at my feet, the particular gray of the sidewalk, that is just that shade of gray and no other, the debris in the gutter that has fallen there and made that particular shape, etc. You get the idea.

It takes time, and it’s not a silver bullet, but this is what most reliably wakes up the meaning-receptive parts of my brain. Once I start finding myself actually processing reality again, the infinite uniqueness of this exact moment of consciousness, only then do all those positive actions you know you should try to do get traction on my emotions. Going for a run feels good, and I feel good about myself for doing it. Eating a healthy meal gives satisfaction. Completing a chore boosts my self-esteem. And slowly but surely, after several days, my mood will start changing.

But again, just my personal experience.

4 Ways to Find a Hobby You Love (Because It’s Good for Your Life and Your Career)

Having a hobby that you enjoy—whether that’s crocheting a sweater for your bestie’s new baby, hitting the slopes to enjoy some fresh powder, or practicing pirouettes in ballet class—has all sorts of well-documented benefits, from lower levels of stress to an increased sense of belonging and purpose.

Clearly, hobbies can make a serious impact on your quality of life. But they can also improve your work performance. According to licensed professional counselor Rebecca Weiler, when you’re engaged and fulfilled in your life outside of work (like you are when you’re pursuing meaningful hobbies), that happiness spills over. It can make you more focused and enthusiastic when you’re on the job.

And depending on the hobby, the skills you gain as a result of your leisurely pursuits can also make you better at your job (and make you a more appealing candidate for potential employers). “For example, someone who performs in an improvisational group as a hobby could be attractive to an employer because they can think quickly on their feet and may also be more comfortable presenting in front of a group of people,” Weiler says.

So, having a hobby that you love can do good things for your life and your job. But what if you don’t actually have a hobby you enjoy? You’re not alone. According to Weiler, trying to find meaningful hobbies is one of the primary reasons her clients—especially young people—seek counseling.

Clearly, there are plenty of people out there who don’t have, or don’t know how to find, a hobby. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find one. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 85 years old—it’s not too late to hop on board the hobby train! Here are a few strategies you can use to find a hobby you truly love.

1. Transform What You Already Enjoy Into a Hobby

Even if you don’t have something that you consider a hobby, there’s definitely some activity that you enjoy—and chances are, there’s a way to transform it into a full-fledged hobby. “I always ask people what it is they like to do for fun,” says Weiler. “It’s a good thing to explore—because things like ‘eating’ and ‘watching sports’ could easily be turned into hobbies such as ‘taking cooking classes’ or ‘joining a softball team.’”

Look at the ways you already enjoy spending your time and figure out how they can become hobbies. Have you watched every stand-up special on Netflix…twice? Try taking an improv class. Is your favorite part of the day playing with your dog? Try volunteering with a rescue organization. Love reading about random pop culture facts on the internet? Try joining a trivia team.

The point is, you’re already doing things you love. The easiest way to find hobbies that you truly enjoy—and that will make you a better, more well-rounded person and employee—is to figure out how to build off those things.

2. Reclaim Your Childhood Interests

Think about the hobbies you used to enjoy before work, life, and #adulting got in the way.

When you were a kid, what did you like to do? Did you spend hours finger-painting masterpieces to hang on the fridge? If so, you might want to explore taking an art class. Were you constantly getting dressed in costume and putting on shows for your friends? Then maybe you can check out a local acting troupe. Or maybe you spent the entire year looking forward to Field Day at school—in which case, you could explore joining an adult kickball or flag football league.

When you were a kid, you probably had hobbies you loved—so revisiting them as an adult can be a great way to get back into the groove.

3. Take an Assessment

The most fun hobby in the world for one person can be downright torturous for another—and vice versa. People tend to enjoy hobbies that appeal to their own unique strengths, interests, and personality characteristics.

According to Weiler, there are a number of personality assessments that can help you figure out which hobbies might be the right fit. Two of the most effective? The Strong Interest Inventory, which can help you identify key interests, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which can give you deeper insight into your personality type. These assessments can help you figure out which hobbies are most aligned with who you are and offer insight into what you might enjoy.

So, for example, you might take the Myers-Briggs assessment and find out you’re an ENFJ. ENFJ’s tend to be social, passionate, and altruistic—so doing volunteer work for a charitable organization might feel like a meaningful hobby to pursue. Or maybe you’re an INTP, in which case you value logic above all else—so learning how to program and spending your free time writing computer software or games could be a great fit.

4. Start Trying Things (and See What Sticks)

The truth is, no matter how you approach finding a new hobby, it can be hit or miss. For example, you might think crafting is the perfect creative outlet—only to find it feels boring and monotonous. That’s OK! If you really want to find a hobby you love, you need to be willing to put yourself out there—and be just as willing to accept that not everything you try is going to be a slam dunk.

Think of anything you might find interesting—whether that’s kite surfing, macramé, or karate—and take a class. If you like it, great! Keep pursuing it. If not, cross it off the list and move on to the next potentially interesting thing.

“Join organizations, clubs, or groups where you can try things out. Websites such as Meetup.com are a great way to explore different interests which can then lead to hobbies and also allows people to test the waters at no or a low cost,” says Weiler. “Connecting with similarly minded people can also be important as it can teach us more about ourselves and what we like/dislike or want to make a commitment to.”

It might take a few attempts to find a hobby that you love, but the key is to not give up. Keep putting yourself out there, connecting with people, and exploring new things that feel exciting to you. Eventually, you’ll find a hobby that feels like the right fit—and you’ll learn a bunch of new things and meet cool people in the process!

Ignore the bad reviews !! They don’t… – Labranda Sandy Beach

I’m Greek, born in the UK and have been to many Greek Islands and stayed in many family resorts. This was the worst unfortunately out of the lot of them. That doesn’t mean it was terrible, it was just average at best for a lot of things and we were left feeling very disappointed at the impersonal nature of this hotel. Not everyone would share this opinion and I could see some people enjoying the things we hated about this place but here’s my attempt at a thorough and balanced review.
People who rate this 5 stars in my opinion haven’t experienced anywhere near the best that Greece has to offer. Let’s start with the basics…
Location – nice setting but nothing of note near this place other than a few restaurants/bars and the beach. It’s one of the furthest hotels from the airport and taxis want a small fortune to transport you there and back which is about a 30 minute journey. There isn’t a Luna park here which is a shame for the kids – but you won’t find one anywhere on the entire island. There are bars if you want to watch the footie while you’re away, one which has a terrible Ozzy Osbourne impressionist. Why oh why?! But the whole place seems a bit of a ghost town mainly because Aquis is the only hotel here and everybody is all-inclusive and doesn’t venture out much. These bars only exist due to the hotel. It’s like they planned to do something big here and it didn’t quite happen. If you want to get into town, I recommend getting the hotel bus which leaves daily for Corfu Town. You can rent a car, of course, and would recommend checking out Achilleon and Paleokastritsa as well as the old town and it’s fortresses. Again, all nowhere near the hotel. Also – if you need a hospital, as someone who I witnessed diving into the pool and smashing their face in did, you are in big trouble because it’s miles and miles away. Make sure you have insurance please! The doctors will come and see you but aren’t cheap.
Beach – the beach is the hotel’s strong point. It’s clean, the sea is clean and calm and mostly sandy other than a few pebbles when you first step into the sea. Some nice little huts too you can relax in. However, for an all-inclusive resort which has ‘beach’ in its name, I resent it when they charge for the sunbeds. Why is it free to use the sunbeds by the pool but not 50m away by the beach? Being in a party of 7, using the beach every day is too expensive. It was supposed to be a private beach for use by paying hotel guests, so is cheeky of them to charge you again. Also, I hate people trying to sell you things constantly while you’re trying to chill by the sea. Some guy carrying some mutated donut and waving it around in my face is not what you come to expect of a private beach.
Food – don’t get me started. Everything is of the poorest quality and by Greek standards this is unacceptable. There is a restaurant around the corner called Oceana and highly recommend it as some of the best Greek food and seafood I’ve had and quite reasonably priced too. I only wish we found it sooner and we would have eaten there most nights. There’s nothing really Greek and decent on the hotel menu – the stuff they claim to be Greek and occasionally put out is just badly prepared and for me and the other 6 in our group, tasted awful in comparison. There’s a lot of general food variety, different meats and potatoes, salads, breads so you’ll find something to get by but quantity certainly does not equal quality. It’s normally quite difficult to get decent buffet food but you normally find a few dishes that are more-ish. Not at Aquis Sandy Beach however…there is no pride in the preparation of this food.
For those that rated the food highly, perhaps they have different taste buds – I just don’t understand it. The bacon for example is just badly processed meat and fat, flattened to resemble bacon and tastes nothing like bacon and is downright bloody awful. The self-service drinks are either watered down crap or too sweet and half the time only water comes out. The desserts are average at best. After a couple of weeks eating here, even having a McDonalds in Corfu Town felt like we were eating at the Ritz in comparison. You may occasionally find something you really like but you then realise that you’re kidding yourself, you’ve just become accustomed to accepting poor food and average food then tastes good in comparison. I’ve stayed in resorts half the price of this place in Rhodes for example and the food was outstanding in comparison. There are two restaurants, the smaller of which is far less busy but has less variety and still poor quality in my opinion. Even the fruit is just average – you expect more from a Greek island. We never had any figs or prickly pears which is unusual for Greece. When we ventured out to Corfu town, we had some great fruit – reminding you that you are on a Greek island and that all the average quality food and ingredients end up in hotels like ours.
Hotel standard – the whole place is a little dated from the exterior and consists of separate buildings scattered around. I’ll give credit where it’s due though – the rooms we stayed in going towards the rear of the hotel were first class – very spacious, well-decorated, had good facilities – aircon/fans, TVs with DVD players and USB keys if you have movies to watch. The rooms are very, very clean. The cleaners did a great job every day and that really impressed me. I resent hotels that charge you for use of the safe but this is unfortunately one of them. But I don’t think you need to worry about that.
The biggest shame for me is that there’s no real evidence you’re in Greece. They have the same CD playing every day at the dinner hall and you can faintly hear some Greek music. That and a couple of Greek statues around is about it really. There’s a Greek night with Greek food but…yes, that costs extra. Other all-inclusives I’ve been to usually allow you to book at a nice restaurant at least once during your stay.
Entertainment – sorry, not my cup of tea. The animation team work hard and some of the shows were quite funny, if a little crude and cheesy. The Beatles tribute band from Hungary were quite poor unfortunately but maybe that is due to the outdoor acoustics to be fair to them. The kids enjoyed the magic show. The African show was the best by far. The kids club was quite good and the mini disco was pretty standard and familiar for the kids. Animation teams are always good with the kids.
There’s a park in a sandy area for the kids which is quite good. Also, there are family bicycles (seating 4+) and small quad bikes you can rent which are good fun in theory. However, you get kids racing up and down in the days and evenings on the path that guests are walking on and although I only saw a few near-misses, it’s a disaster waiting to happen (which has probably happened many times is my guess). It’s great when you’re driving them though!
Service – average. When you go to Greece, you expect great hospitality and warm, friendly people. Not so at this hotel. There were a few we met like Katerina and Michali who were great and very helpful. I prefer resorts which have waiters that come over and take drink orders – it makes it more personal and feel like a real restaurant rather than an army camp food factory. The drinks service at the bar huts is pretty good (but anything decent costs money). For some people, alcohol is alcohol and they’re happy. If this is you, then you’ll love the constant supply of watered-down vodka/whiskey, cheap beer they give you. I suppose they have to cater for a lot of people but why should we excuse that when other resorts seem to be able to handle it differently (and are often cheaper). When you speak to them in Greek, the attitude is different but there just isn’t the welcoming feel I have come to expect with…. well, being on holiday!
The hotel is supposedly all-inclusive but they’ll charge a few euros for drinks after 11pm unless you are a returning guest from a previous holiday – go figure! Also, they charge you for crepes at €1 each – why bother? The Hotdogs next to the crepes prepared by the same guy are free though, and ice creams that they put into the crepes are free at the bar. Popcorn and candy floss in the evenings cost money too near the amphitheatre. All-inclusives should not have so many exceptions and rules. Either it’s all-inclusive or it isn’t…
Bees – this hotel rates highly 5 STARS for bees (not 5 stars for beers though). If you enjoy being chased and stung by bees, you will love this place. Bees everywhere – especially in the restaurant seating area outside of by the bars who have bar tenders that suffer frequent stinging as they pour their severely watered down drinks. I completely lost my temper with the bees by the end – waving them away continuously or watching them land in your drink or nearly sting your children is not my idea of fun. Sitting inside helps but I could also do that back home eating better food.
Pools – there’s a good selection of pools, some deep, others shallow. I’m not sure about the cleanliness of the water though, you can see that the lip of the pool keeps the dirt inside. Almost our entire party became ill at some point. I can’t blame the pools or the food because I’m not sure, but I suspect it. The water slides are really great though – there’s a selection of four slides and I felt that the kids were safe on these and we all enjoyed them immensely. The lifeguard on duty there was great with the kids too remembering all the kids names from one day to the next.
Overall – first impression – I was disappointed when I arrived at the hotel and although it was OK overall, I left feeling disappointed wishing we had gone somewhere else. Except for the new building we stayed at, I can imagine this hotel being exactly the same 10-15 years ago. It will probably be the same standard in 10 years from now too. For that reason, I wouldn’t stay here again. Not a complete disaster but too impersonal and not enough of a high standard for me. “The focus is not on the guest” is the empty feeling this place left me with. Moreover, Corfu is a bit of a strange island – it’s beautiful in places, there isn’t a great deal to see but I warn you – it can rain and when it does, it is torrential and lasts a long time. That isn’t reflective of this review – I’m judging the hotel here. With some effort and a refresh of how they do things (especially meals and entertainment), this could be a much better place. However, I definitely won’t be returning.

Photo: Doug Cheeseman/Getty Images

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Dear Polly,

I am 30 years old, live in an exciting city, and have a full-time job, a great education, a long-term boyfriend whom I live with, and a supportive family. My problem is that I have no hobbies, and if I’m being totally honest, there are very few things that I enjoy doing during my waking hours. My boyfriend is increasingly bothered by this, and it is straining our relationship. He has lots of things he enjoys, like running marathons and making art, but none of them really appeal to me.

For a while (the past 5-6 years) I thought it was because I worked all the time (or worried about work all the time) and that left little energy or space for doing things for pleasure. But now, I feel self-conscious and concerned by my lack of interests, and a new job has left me with enough free time that I can’t use work as an excuse anymore. The few things I DO enjoy: watching certain TV shows, reading novels and the news, and talking to my sister on the phone. And I sleep a LOT, probably nine hours a night or more. I went to a doctor and he told me I didn’t seem clinically depressed, and encouraged me to try meditation and exercise to lift my energy. I now exercise and meditate halfheartedly. I would say I am shy but I have a lot of friends, though few of them live in the same city as me. I find myself feeling very unmotivated to go out and try to make new ones. (I read your reply to the woman asking how she made friends in her late 20s and it all made great sense, but I guess I lack the motivation to implement those steps.) I don’t feel sad or tearful — just not moved to do much. In my early 20s, I remember myself as a very social person. I was constantly out and about, and although I didn’t have any particular burning interests then either, I was much more energetic about seeing friends and going to parties and such.

I don’t particularly love my job, and it is one of those that’s supposed to be intrinsically rewarding, but for me, it feels like just a job most days. (I don’t think I hate my job. It offers a lot of autonomy and I am probably unfit for more structured work.) My days generally look like this: Drag myself up around 11, work on things, interspersed with reading the news or daydreaming, maybe exercise, eat dinner, make small talk with my boyfriend who works a demanding job and is exhausted when he comes home, stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning watching TV or reading, and fall asleep fitfully. On the weekends, I walk around town, maybe do a little shopping or watch a movie, and about twice a month, see people for dinner. I guess I spend a lot of time outside of work lying around or taking care of trifling tasks or doing things that should be fun (like visiting street fairs) but don’t feel particularly fun to me. I don’t hate myself, but I do feel terribly dissatisfied and exhausted (despite having no real burdens to speak of). It is hard to articulate, but I really don’t enjoy anything and I feel like I’m 80 years old. I have no idea what I should do to fix my fundamental attitude problem. I can’t even seem to form a proper question. I guess my questions are: Am I depressed? Or am I just a boring professional woman who has no passions or hobbies because I’m unimaginative and stuck in a rut? How do I stop drowning in ennui? How do you find a passion in life? Maybe not everyone has it in them.

Lost in a Fog

Dear Lost in a Fog,

I know that some people believe that not everyone has a passion, or should even look for one. Whenever I write about finding your passion, a big swath of humans take time out of their busy days to PASSIONATELY inform me that not everyone can or should have a passion, that simply working at a reasonably okay job and enjoying the simple things in life IS ENOUGH, and implying otherwise sets people up for disappointment and self-hatred, so WHY DO THAT TO PEOPLE, PEOPLE WHO ARE PERFECTLY FINE WITHOUT SOME BURNING PASSION IN THEIR LIVES? NOT EVERYONE CAN BE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR PASSIONS THE WAY YOU PASSION-FIXATED PASSION FETISHISTS EXPECT THEM TO BE!

I love these passionate rants against passion. They remind me of a relative of mine who, after a long vacation with our family, angrily hissed at another relative, “WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY AND GRUMPY? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE HAPPY?!” Even though I know that this hissing relative is pretty happy, she doesn’t seem to notice that she’s also very angry. And she doesn’t realize that people can cry and be angry and be happy at the same time. She believes that strong emotions are the enemy. Like the very passionate people who have come to the conclusion that being satisfied with what you have is much more important than passion, my relative feels that you should never “give in” to your strongest feelings, you should simply DECIDE to have a GOOD ATTITUDE and to feel GRATEFUL, and the threats of anger and despair will be dodged for good.

Optimism and gratitude are powerful things. But I think, at some point, Lost in a Fog, you started to see all of your strong emotions as a threat to your happiness when really they may be your only escape from feeling numb. You’ve powered down your feelings. You were working too much, now you’re working less and that was supposed to make you happier, but it’s not working. You’re even less happy now. Your boyfriend says, “WORKING LESS WAS SUPPOSED TO HELP, REMEMBER?!” That doesn’t help, either.

You’re telling yourself you have an “attitude problem,” which is what a shitty teacher says to a kid who finds his shitty teacher’s shitty class really boring. You’re scolding yourself for the few feelings you DO feel.

If you were in crisis, if you were alone, if you didn’t have a boyfriend who expected you to put a brave face on things instead of just admitting that everything seems blah and worthless to you, you might be drinking too much or picking fights with your not-quite friends or quitting your just-okay career. You might be very depressed, and then you might crawl out of that hole and discover a whole new world, a world where you could say things like “Street fairs are horse shit!” without feeling self-conscious about your bad attitude.

I say stuff like that a lot. And my hissing relative, who is also a really loving person, would not want to hear those words coming out of my mouth. She’s not unlike the random, brand-new Ask Polly readers who write to me each week to say “Why the foul language? Are you trying to be hip? Are you trying to shock us? What’s the point? What’s your problem?”

To which I say: THIS IS JUST THE SOUND I MAKE. I’m not doing anything. But while I’m making the sounds I make, let me just add that street fairs really are horse shit. We’ve supped upon your falafels and your watery agua frescas, and it’s all just okay, comme ci, comme ça, street-fair-loving motherfuckers. We’ve seen your carved wooden signs that say LIFE’S A BEACH and we’re glad that wood-carving is your passion, but the world doesn’t need more whimsical wooden signs in our opinion. Beekeepers are admirable humans, but their artificially flavored honey is not inspirational in any way. Jumpy castles can fuck right off. Ponies that walk up and down sidewalks all day are faintly depressing, even with happy toddlers on their backs.

Personally, I give zero fucks if you dig my language or believe that it’s all an elaborate act. All I know is this: I need to express myself a little recklessly if I want to create stuff that’s worthwhile. You can narrow your eyes at my words like I’ve painstakingly carved them in a whimsical font on a nice piece of wood. You can glare at me like I’ve wandered horrendously astray from the path you might choose for me. More power to you! SWEARING is horse shit, as far as you’re concerned! Those that doubt you suck cock by choice!

All I can do is guard my own little patch of land and make sure that I feel free within its confines. If I can do that, then I can feel my feelings. And if I can feel my feelings, I am EXTREMELY FUCKING PASSIONATE, and I can share that passion with other people. But if I start to give half a fuck about someone who thinks the word “fuck” is some powerful, crazy, dangerous, false, self-conscious, messed up, impure, deluded, un-classy, depraved symbol of all that is wrong with the world, where will I be? I know myself, and I know that THE INSTANT I answer to the very specific and somewhat arbitrary cultural preferences of others in order serve the greater, smoothed-out, acceptable, commodified, agreed-upon, lowest-common-denominator good, that’s when I’m just connecting the dots and writing down words to get a paycheck in the mail. I know myself, and I know that I won’t create anything worthwhile under those conditions. I want to bring the full force of what I have to the table here, and the full force of what I have includes words like FUCKING JACK JUICE and SORRY LITTLE SHIT-TWISTER and GO FUCK YOURSELF, YOU SHIT-TWISTING SON OF A BITCH.

Lost in a Fog, your life sounds compromised and constrained to me. Someone told you to improve your attitude and color within the lines and you listened, and now all of the powerful emotions swirling around inside you have been stilled and muted and you can’t access them anymore. I may be climbing out on a limb here, but I don’t think you’re the kind of person who just wants to do a job and get paid and go to street fairs and run errands and please your hard-working boyfriend. Some people can enjoy an okay job and a simple life and they’re happy. These people are not stupid people. They are not even simple people, necessarily. More power to them! I have friends like this. They’re great!

But I think you crave a more passionate life than that. Not everyone needs a passion. But people who passionately defend NOT HAVING A PASSION tend to be people who secretly wish they had a passion. Likewise, people who walk around saying, “Why don’t I enjoy anything? Why do I feel like I’m 80 years old?” are depressed people, plain and simple. You don’t love your circumstances right now, but you can’t feel your emotions so you have no compass to navigate your way out of a drab situation. You need to figure out what’s making you unhappy AND you need to figure out what might make you feel more passionate about your life.

I think you need to express how angry you are. My guess is that you’re not very good at managing an unstructured life yet and you’re dissatisfied with your relationship, but you’re terrified of being alone, because THEN what will you have? You’re also afraid of following your boyfriend’s suggestions and improving your so-called bad attitude and “getting over” this and sallying forth and accepting an existence that feels like sleepwalking to you. “I’m not depressed!” you keep telling yourself. “I just don’t like anything.” BUT THAT’S EXACTLY HOW BEING DEPRESSED FEELS.

I look back at my life and I see that I was depressed for years. I didn’t like much. I tended to cling to guys as a distraction from my depression, and I allowed them to define what was important to me and what wasn’t. I would never have watched a lot of football or learned the words to songs by the Grateful Dead, if I were left to my own devices. It was interesting and sometimes relaxing, being a tourist in those lands. But there were boyfriends who really loved me for my rough edges and for my tendency to say, out loud, that street fairs suck and the Dead are pretty repetitive when you’re not stoned and the things that we call “FUN” should actually BE FUN instead of just being lame excuses to mill around in cargo shorts ingesting greasy foods and boring the living fuck out of ourselves. And there were also boyfriends who wanted me to SHUT UP and CHEER UP and STOP IT and NOT THIS AGAIN and SERIOUSLY GET OVER IT.

I was never happy with those guys. I felt trapped. I didn’t want to be cheerful all the time. I wanted to be grumpy. I needed to cry a lot. I needed to spend a lot of time alone, writing. I needed to exercise every day. I needed to wake up early after a good night’s sleep. I needed to cut back on my drinking. I needed to know that being myself – not cool, not easygoing, not polite, not clean, not predictable, not sweet, not pretty, not cheerful – was not just okay, but great. Do you see how many different levers and sliders I had to adjust in order to be happy? I NEEDED A LOT.

These are things I figured out by dumping several boyfriends, and by taking and then quitting several jobs, and by moving from one town to another, and by fighting with my mother, and by apologizing to my mother for everything I put her through. These are things I learned by dumping my great therapist and finding a lame one and then finding an okay one and then quitting therapy. These are things I learned by sleeping late and getting depressed and working too hard for a while and buying a house and adopting a dog and writing songs on my guitar and being very, very lonely for a while.

These are not things I learned by going to street fairs with a boyfriend who wanted me to be more cheerful in our free time together. These are not things I learned by sticking with the same career that I wasn’t crazy about forever and ever. These are not things I learned by halfheartedly hanging out with whomever and wondering what the fucking point was.

If you want passion – and I feel very sure that you want passion, LIAF – you need to take some dramatic measures. You need to try and fail at some things. You need to fuck shit up a little. You need to risk being that person who doesn’t give a single fuck about what other people want you to be. You will always be doing something wrong, trust me. You are a woman. We are always out of bounds, every second of every day.

You want to weep into your hands instead of saying “MEH.” You want to find the energy to turn your life upside-down. You need to feel your goddamn feelings. Something happened to you, something that changed you and made you power down all of that enthusiasm you had. You were sensitive and it hurt a lot, so you downshifted. You want to shift into a higher gear now, and you can’t. You’re stuck.

You need a therapist, not a doctor. Find a therapist. You need to set some tough exercise goals instead of just going through the motions. You need to get up at 8 a.m., not 11 a.m. You need to stop watching so much TV late at night. Go to bed early. Get up early. Drink caffeine. Write down your thoughts. Brainstorm your way to a new life. Weep into your hands. Open Pandora’s box. Invite the demons to fly around your head until you’re dizzy. They’ll show you a whole new life if you let them.

And who knows, maybe your boyfriend is just trying to show you that you want more than you think you do. You’re living in a half-assed way and he can see that. But you’re allowing him to occupy a parental space, where he disapproves of what you’re doing and you feel angry at yourself and also a little rebellious. That parental vibe will keep you in a rut indefinitely. You need to occupy an independent space, free of judgment. You need to gripe to your closest friends on the phone more often. You need more freedom, but you also need to stop indulging yourself with stuff that only makes you drift aimlessly, like long naps, midday procrastinating, and late-night TV. You might be able to achieve that within your relationship, but you need to start standing up for what you DO want and believe in, even if it’s as small as “FUCK STREET FAIRS, DUDE. I’M NOT GOING.” You need to stand up for your feelings and your so-called shitty attitude, but you also need to find your own path to self-discipline, without the harsh words of a marathon-running, workaholic artist boyfriend ringing in your ears.

Above all, you need to do something that’s very difficult: You need to ask more of yourself while also letting yourself off the hook. You need to stop avoiding things, and sleeping late, and distracting yourself. You need to look at the big picture and ask some hard questions: “What do I love? Where is my heart?” You need to stop thinking in circles and feel your way to the answers instead.

You also need to stop believing, even for a second, that you’re “just a boring, unimaginative professional woman.” You are someone with buried passions. What happened to you? Where are you? DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.

You have to dig. You have to get down on your hands and knees and let go of your pride and you have to dig, with every ounce of your strength. You’re young, and you haven’t done this before. Do it now! If you commit to nothing else, commit to figuring out what makes you happy, and what makes you unhappy. But to do that, you have to accept that you DO have preferences. Stop trying to be good and stop trying to have a good attitude.

And when a motherfucker comes by and tells you you’re doing it wrong, laugh out loud. No one knows better than you how to do this. Trust your instincts. You can cry and be grumpy and be angry and be happy and hate street fairs and have a great attitude and have a shitty attitude and work hard and be lazy, all at the same time. Follow your heart. Don’t give up. Laugh out loud, and get back to digging.


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8 Reasons to Make Time for Fun

“Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in live and really enjoy it.” – Eileen Caddy

When was the last time you recall having fun? Not merely feeling somewhat pleased, but fully enjoying yourself? The truth is we often feel guilty even thinking about having fun, let alone actively engaged in something we consider fun. Yet, there’s good evidence supporting the recommendation to carve out some time to do just that. Here are eight reasons why.

You must work, so “Do it well, make it fun.”

If you’re not independently wealthy, you must secure gainful employment and bring home money to pay the bills and take care of the family. Instead of dreading the job or feeling stuck in a go-nowhere career, change your mindset. Ron Culbertson is the author of a book with the intriguing and self-explanatory title “Do It Well. Make It Fun.: The Key to Success in Life, Death and Almost Everything in Between.” In an interview in Forbes, Culbertson explained that when he stumbled upon the realization that if he could do a job well (even one he didn’t particularly like) and somehow make it fun, he’d be more effective and eventually be more successful. So, he coined the phrase, “Do it well, make it fun.”

Culbertson further explained that this two-step approach could work in almost any situation in life. A great attitude also provides motivation and inspiration for having fun and making a job or task more enjoyable. A 2004 study by Ford et al. found that employees who related being in a fun work environment experienced increased levels of creativity, communication, satisfaction, enthusiasm and group cohesiveness.

Having fun helps relieve anxiety and depression.

There are numerous studies on methods and activities that help quash mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and some contain gems of wisdom applicable to having fun in the process. One study looked at dance and dance movement therapy and its effect on increasing positive mood and well-being, as well as diminishing outcomes of clinical anxiety and depression. Even more reason to get your groove on with a dance class or dancing to the music on the radio in your living room, right?

Boost your mood with a wardrobe switch-up.

If putting on the same type of outfit or attire day after day starts to get you down, consider a wardrobe switch-up. Remember when you were a kid and the school had backwards-day, meaning students could wear their clothes backwards or mismatched socks and tops and bottoms. In business, that practice morphed to “casual day” or some other clever moniker. Still, the advice to add a bit of zip to your attire by including a contrasting color or even to-die-for undies (nobody knows but you) can serve to elevate your mood and brighten your day. Besides, what women doesn’t turn to retail therapy to have fun from time to time? Shopping for clothes can have a dramatic effect on mood.

Enjoyment and flow: two benefits of cognitive absorption in technology.

Researchers Ritu Agarwal and Elena Karahanna explored the reason why time seems to fly when you’re having fun with technology. No kidding. The title of their research published in MIS Quarterly was: “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun: Cognitive Absorption and Beliefs About Information Technology Usage.” They found that the constructs of enjoyment and flow are perhaps important variables in explaining acceptance of technology. They identified cognitive absorption and defined it as deep involvement with software and theorized it was exhibited by heightened enjoyment, curiosity, control, focused immersion and temporal dissociation.

Remember that the next time you find yourself engrossed and having fun with technology-related devices and projects. Likely it’s not just techies who benefit from this type of enjoyment and flow.

Bust stress with some laughter therapy.

Don’t we all get a kick out of a good laugh? The science behind why laughter is good for you is quite concise. When you laugh, you release a torrent of stress-busting endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Whether you laugh by yourself or in a group, go ahead and let it loose. Even better, the human body can’t tell if something is funny or not, or care if you have a sense of humor, so if you can get your giggle on, you’ll still benefit. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommends laughter therapy for its healing powers and ability to enhance overall health and wellness.

You’ll sleep better.

When you’ve enjoyed yourself laughing, having fun, interacting with people you have a good time with, relaxed, played and pursued meaningful activities you’ll find that you’ve contributed to a healthy kind of tired where you naturally drift off to sleep and stay asleep to get maximum restorative benefits. These include muscle repair and consolidation of memories. So, instead of being fixated on getting enough sleep, focus on the kinds of daytime activities where you feel you’re having fun.

Enhance relationships with a playful nature.

Anyone who’s ever struggled with finding something to say to a stranger, whether a potential business connection, new co-worker, neighbor or someone you regularly see while shopping or getting coffee knows that breaking the ice can be a challenge. Yet, a slight attitude change, such as adopting a playful nature, can help smooth away difficulties. Interactions with others, even those you’ve know a long time but may be experiencing a disagreement with or a rough patch, can be easier. Having fun and sharing activities with others helps build empathy, compassion, trust and intimacy.

Fun helps improve brain function.

It’s not only older adults hoping to stave off Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who can benefit from activities that stimulate and challenge the brain. Everyone can realize gains in mental acuity, concentration, focus and clarity from playing chess, working on puzzles or crosswords and other brain challenging activities. Not only do these activities work to improve brain function, they may also help prevent the onset of memory problems.

8 Reasons to Make Time for Fun

zen habits : breathe

By Leo Babauta

Yesterday I posted about Family Day, where we try to have fun together as a family, often for free or without spending much money. I thought it would be useful to list some ways to have fun with your kids without spending a lot of money:

  1. Have a reading marathon.
  2. Write stories together.
  3. Play soccer.
  4. Paint or draw together.
  5. Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
  6. Go on a hike.
  7. Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
  8. Play board games.
  9. Play kickball.
  10. Get up early, pack breakfast, and have a sunrise breakfast.
  11. Go to a museum.
  12. Go to a playground.
  13. Play hide-and-seek.
  14. Have a pillow fight.
  15. Ride bikes.
  16. Build sandcastles.
  17. Rent a dvd and make popcorn.
  18. Tell stories.
  19. Have a scavenger hunt.
  20. Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
  21. Play card games.
  22. Garden together.
  23. Bake cookies (let the kids help).
  24. Go to the zoo.
  25. Go to the library.
  26. Shop at a thrift shop.
  27. Create a blog together.
  28. Create a scrapbook.
  29. Make a movie using a camcorder and computer.
  30. Learn to play music.
  31. Fingerpaint.
  32. Make play dough from scratch.
  33. Make homemade mini pizzas.
  34. Buy popsicles.
  35. Make hand-painted T-shirts.
  36. Set up a hammock, make lemonade, relax.
  37. Go to a pool.
  38. Go to a public place, people watch, and make up imaginary stories about people.
  39. Visit family.
  40. Write letters to family.
  41. Paint or decorate the kids’ room.
  42. Make milkshakes.
  43. Play freeze tag.
  44. Create a treasure hunt for them (leaving clues around the house or yard).
  45. Decorate a pair of jeans.
  46. Do a science experiment.
  47. Play games online.
  48. Teach them to play chess.
  49. Learn magic tricks.
  50. Create a family book, with information and pictures about each family member.
  51. Fly kites.
  52. Go snorkeling.
  53. Barbecue.
  54. Volunteer.
  55. Donate stuff to charity.
  56. Compete in a three-legged or other race.
  57. Create an obstacle course.
  58. Pitch a tent and sleep outside with marshmallows.
  59. Roast marshmallows.
  60. Play loud music and dance crazy.
  61. Write and produce a play (to perform before other family members).
  62. Paint each other’s faces.
  63. Have a water balloon fight.
  64. Have a gun-fight with those foam dart guns.
  65. Explore your yard and look for insects.
  66. Go for a walk and explore the neighborhood.
  67. Go jogging.
  68. Take pictures of nature.
  69. Play a trivia game.
  70. Make up trivia questions about each other.
  71. Make hot cocoa.
  72. Play house.
  73. Decorate the house with decorations you make.
  74. Make popsicles.
  75. Play school.
  76. Do shadow puppets.
  77. Make a comic book.
  78. Play in the rain.
  79. Make mud pies.
  80. Blow bubbles.
  81. Take turns saying tongue twisters.
  82. Sing songs.
  83. Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.
  84. Build stuff with Legos.
  85. Give them a bubble bath.
  86. Play with squirt guns.
  87. Play video games together.
  88. Play wiffleball.
  89. Play nerf football.
  90. Build a rocket from a kit.
  91. Bake a cake and decorate it.
  92. Play dress-up.
  93. Thumb-wrestle, play mercy, or have a tickle fight.
  94. Make a gingerbread house, or decorate gingerbread men.
  95. Learn and tell each other jokes.
  96. Play basketball.
  97. Learn to juggle.
  98. Walk barefoot in the grass and pick flowers.
  99. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
  100. Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.

The Frugal Introvert: 50 Ways to Have Fun by Yourself on the Cheap

After my recent popular post on 104 things to do during a money-free weekend, I received a most interesting comment from a Lifehacker reader named HFC:

It looks like a lot of free things are boring and/or require you to actually have friends. Aren’t there any fun things I can do by myself?

This comment really spurred my thinking. I’m a proud introvert – most of the activities I enjoy are either done alone or with a very tight group of friends. I don’t feel comfortable in large social situations, though I’ve learned how to cope well with them and not come off as a deeply antisocial jerk.

The only problem is that a lot of activities that you can do yourself require some money to enjoy. Renting a video costs money. Playing a video game? Very expensive.

Here are 50 suggestions for free or extremely cheap ways to spend your time. Some of these have appeared on other lists of free stuff to do before – others are new to this one. Similarly, some of these may appeal to you – others may not.

If you’re an introvert, have fun and save some money!

1. Make a collage postcard for PostSecret. For those unaware, PostSecret is a website to which people send postcards telling their deepest, darkest secret anonymously; the blog creator then posts images of some of those postcards on the blog. All you need is a blank postcard, some imagination, and a secret to tell. Look around your house for the materials you’ll need – old magazines are always a great place to start harvesting materials from. Look for images that reflect the secret you want to tell, then make a collage out of them on the card. Whether you mail it or not is up to you, but it’s a wonderful way to get creative and get some release on a secret you’ve been hiding.

2. Try out parkour. Parkour is essentially an obstacle-course style athletic activity where you try to find the quickest path from point A to point B. You can do this pretty much anywhere – your yard, the park, anywhere in a city – and it’s always a lot of fun and good exercise. Plus, it’s an incredibly effective way to improve your mind-body coordination, as practicing this regularly will improve your balance and also your quick-decision skills.

3. Master a Rubik’s Cube. There are few parlor tricks that are more entertaining (for me, at least) than watching someone solve a Rubik’s Cube quickly. You can easily get ahold of one of these (ask on Freecycle or Craigslist) – the trick is figuring out how to solve it on your own, then how to solve it quickly. Here’s a great guide for solving a Rubik’s Cube.

4. Make a list of all the people who were a positive influence on your life and write each of them a thank-you letter. Think for a bit about all of the people who have inspired you and helped you along in your current life path. Make a list of all of these people – mine, for example, includes my high school English teacher, some relatives and friends, and a few college professors. Then pull out some paper and a pen and write each of them a handwritten letter, reminding them of how they helped you out and thanking them for doing so. It’s a great way to get in touch with the people who helped shape your life, and it’s something you’ll feel genuinely good about for a long time.

  • Related: Planting Seeds for the Future

5. Learn how to make string figures. I love making string figures. All you really need is a big loop of string and some imagination. Figuring out how to loop string around your fingers to make visual compositions of all sorts of things is a lot of fun. You can easily make spider webs, bridges, and other interesting things. Even better, learn about some of the cultural heritage of these string figures and try to relate the stories yourself as you make the figures. Here’s a guide to the basics.

6. Learn some basic yoga poses. Yoga is a great way to relax and meditate while stretching the muscles of your body and getting a surprisingly intense workout at the same time. Basic yoga is extremely simple and feels really good – a stretching routine once a day feels really good to me. Here’s a great introductory video to the very basics of yoga.

7. Take a free online class to learn the basics of a new topic. We’re living in a golden age of free education, with online college courses available from some of the best academic institutions in the world like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard. I recently shared 10 of the best online classes I’ve taken for free over the past few years, in subjects varying from computer science to music theory to philosophy. You can even learn in-demand job skills like computer programming for free.

8. Teach yourself how to cook. Not only is cooking the most cost-effective way to provide sustenance for yourself, it’s also an art form that rewards experimentation and practice. Challenge yourself to assemble an interesting meal out of the materials you have on hand. You might just find that it’s fun, that you’ve learned something new, and you’ve created something tasty to eat for just pennies. Here are a few tips if you’re new to cooking at home.

9. Take a walk in the park. Likely, there’s either a park or a secluded rural area within walking distance of where you live. Set out on foot to go there, then just wander around enjoying what you can observe and take in. Enjoy the natural beauty around you. Even better, find a nice secluded place and engage in another of the activities on this list in a wonderful natural environment.

10. Listen to a podcast. Podcasts are wonderful snippets of intelligent (mostly) and engaging talk radio, where people pour out their hearts and ideas for you to hear – for free. Here are 10 podcasts I quite enjoy to get you started: The Splendid Table (on food topics), Marketplace (on economics and business), Speaking of Faith (on religion), Fresh Air (interviews of general interest), This American Life (quirky general interest stuff), This Week in Tech (technology news), Car Talk (automotive news and tips), Keith and the Girl (pop culture), Free Talk Live (non-partisan politics), and Nobody Likes Onions (comedy).

11. Learn a simple papercraft. Papercraft includes everything from origami (and neat things like paper snowflakes) to full paper models of … well, anything. The excellent OrigamiVideo.net has a huge collection of videos on how to get started making almost anything origami (and many other papercraft projects, too).

12. Do a crossword or a sudoku puzzle. Paper-and-pencil puzzles are a great way to stretch your mind in new directions. You can easily get them for free – the New York Times gives out a free crossword each day, while an excellent free British-style cryptic crossword from The Herald or a huge number of free sudoku puzzles at WebSudoku should provide you with more than enough puzzle-solving pleasure for a long time.

13. Teach yourself solitaire (or a solitaire variant). All you need is a deck of cards, a logical mind, and plenty of spare time. Klondike is the most well known one, but there are a lot of fun solitaire games out there: Freecell, Golf, Patience, and Beleaguered Castle. There are many others – here’s a sampling of ones to try.

14. Put some positive affirmations around you. On a series of Post-It notes, write down 10 or so positive things about yourself (I find writing down positive memories is a great way to go, ones that put a smile on my face), then put them in places where you go irregularly and post them, like a rarely-used supply closet or the inside of your car’s trunk. Then, when you find them, they’ll lift you in a positive way. You could also do the same thing for someone you care about, posting some little reminders of their best qualities in places where they’ll discover them later.

15. Start a blog on a topic that fascinates you. If there’s a topic that fills you with passion, consider starting a blog on that topic. It’s easy (and free) to get started at Blogger or WordPress. Whenever you have an interesting idea about your topic or just get a strong desire to explain the basics, write it all out and post it there. It’s a great way to organize your thoughts and channel your passion on a particular topic.

16. Watch an old movie from your collection. Almost everyone has some old movies lying around. Dig some out and watch them. I find it particularly enjoyable to watch old home movies – videos of when my son was a newborn, for example, are particularly fun to pull out. I also enjoy watching movies that I dearly loved 10 years ago but haven’t watched in years – I now see many of them as goofy fun for a rainy afternoon.

17. Teach yourself a card trick. Card tricks are a particularly fun way to entertain people in almost any situation, and there are as many different card tricks as there are grains of sand on the beach. Pick up a deck of cards and invest the time to learn one cold so that if the opportunity ever offers itself, you can easily show off that trick. For starters, here’s how to do a clever and simple trick called Quick as a Wink.

18. Tour your neighborhood on foot. Most neighborhoods have many interesting secrets and things to enjoy and observe on foot. Just head out of your front door and wander wherever your spirit takes you. You’ll likely find all sorts of interesting things on your journey – places you didn’t know about before, interesting landmarks, beautiful sights, and perhaps an interesting free thing to pick up along the way.

19. Go stargazing. The stars in the night sky are one of the biggest reasons I love living in rural Iowa. I can look skyward any non-cloudy evening and see a sky full of stars. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a clear sky. spend an evening or two gazing at the stars. In particular, try to go outside on nights where a meteor shower is in progress, as that just adds to the beauty of the Milky Way. Download a free app like SkyView Lite (for iOS or Android) to help you pick out constellations, planets, and even passing satellites in the night sky above you.

20. Get your finances in order. While this might not seem like fun at first glance, having a financial plan can greatly reduce the stress of day-to-day life and also greatly increase your peace of mind. Spend some time reading up on personal finance, working through activities like 31 Days to Financial Independence, setting goals, understanding your current financial state, doing estate planning, defining a budget, and so on. It’s all worthwhile, all free, and all of it will add to your peace of mind.

21. Make a time capsule. Find an old shoebox, then go around your home and find items that clearly mark the reality of your day to day life – a newspaper, receipts, your child’s recent drawings, magazines, photos, and so on. You can record a family video on your smartphone and copy it to a UBS drive and include that, too. Put them in the box and when it’s got plenty of items in it, tape it up very securely and write a date in the future when you can open it – say, in 10 or 15 years. Not only is it fun to collect the items now, it can be really interesting to look through those items in the future, when not only your life has changed, but cultural touchstones have changed as well.

22. Find (and read) some free, alternative newspapers in your area. Most urban areas have a handful of free newspapers, supported entirely by advertising or by sponsorship, that often provide insightful and interesting reading. Look for ones in your area in the lobby of the local library, in the lobby of grocery stores, and at city hall. Collect them, then take them home for a nice reading. In my area, I have easy access to Toons (a collection of political cartoons), The Sun (community events), Cityview (an independent public affairs paper for Des Moines), and Juice (a twenty-something paper in Des Moines published by the Des Moines Register). All of these can provide worthwhile reading – and they’re all free.

23. Learn a musical instrument. This might not strike you as a free thing to do, but it’s actually surprisingly easy to learn how to play an instrument for free. You can often get basic instruments (keyboards, acoustic guitars, and sometimes other things) on Freecycle or Craigslist, plus there are countless opportunities online for basic lessons on how to play any number of instruments, as well as how to read music. All it takes to get started is some time and some interest.

24. Listen to your favorite music up loud (and let yourself dance to it). I love to turn the music up loud on occasion and bounce around to it (all in complete privacy, of course). Few things get me more pumped up than a really lively song and a bunch of moving around in rhythm to the music. For me personally, few songs get me bouncing around energetically more than AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. But that’s just me – I’m sure you have your own favorites.

25. Visit the library. This one’s right in the middle of the list, but it’s one of the best free things for an introvert to do on the cheap. Your public library is a gigantic collection of free books, movies, music, magazines, and countless other things – all there for the borrowing. Plus, there’s usually a lot of activities there for the introvert, from film showings to recommended reading lists and community calendars. Stop by and see what things a library really has to offer.

26. Do a jigsaw puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle is a wonderful engrossing activity. My family used to traditionally cover the kitchen table with jigsaw puzzles for much of the winter, with everyone sharing in the puzzle-solving process. You can usually find them for free on Freecycle without any effort at all and they’ll give you many hours of solitary enjoyment.

27. Build a detailed family tree. Most people are aware of at least a couple generations of their lineage, but things often get confused when you get further back than that. Spend some time building a detailed family tree, starting with what you know and eventually adding your own research to the mix. Contact older relatives for assistance, then use resources like Ancestry.com to fill in more blanks. Add as much detail as you’d like or, even better, make it into a multimedia project on your computer, with pictures and other materials.

28. Teach yourself to meditate. For stress relief and aid for overcoming tiredness, few things work better for me than a short period of meditation. The easiest technique is to just sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and focus on nothing but breathing slowly for a while. Breathe in slowly, hold it for a bit, breathe out slowly. Over and over. I’ve been practicing meditation for at least 10 minutes a day, and the effects have been profound.

29. Read a book on your shelf that’s unread. Most of us have a book or two around our home that we haven’t read – something we keep meaning to read “someday.” Let today be that someday. Dig out that book and give it a serious, long reading. Let yourself get lost in the book, no matter what it is, and see if you can get through it (or at least a significant portion of it) in one sitting. Getting lost in a book is one of my favorite experiences – and it can easily be a free one.

30. Start a workout program at home. A basic workout program doesn’t need to involve an expensive gym membership – it just needs to involve personal initiative. After all, many of the most effective exercises — running, walking, sit-ups, prone lifts, push ups, jumping jacks — don’t involve any exercise equipment at all. Before you get started, make sure you’re in good health with a doctor’s visit. Then string some of these free exercises into an at-home workout routine, or try some of the the ever-changing free daily workouts at Darebee.

31. Do a “Wikipedia walk.” I often burn a good hour doing a “Wikipedia walk” as I investigate a particular topic and find interesting connections to other areas of personal interest. All you have to do is think of a very broad topic you’re interested in – say, philosophy – and read through that entry, following any and all links that are of interest. What I usually do is open up a bunch of new browser tabs from links on that first entry, then read each tab, opening new ones, until I’ve had my fill. It’s a great way to learn the details of any topic, from knitting to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

32. Start a natural collection or sketchbook. All that’s required to start a natural collection – or a notebook that collects observations – is an interest and a willingness to investigate. Like rocks? Start collecting and identifying particular samples. Birds? Make some sketches or take some photographs. There’s no limit to what you can observe and record in the natural world. You can observe people, too, or automobiles – the possibilities are endless. Here are some tips for getting started with a natural collection.

33. Organize your collection(s). Speaking of collections, one wonderful solitary activity is organizing your currently-existing collections. Go through your collection of CDs, DVDs, trading cards, books, political buttons, or whatever item you collect and put them in a reasonable order. Along the way, you’ll find all sorts of little things to do to pique your interest, simply from your personal enjoyment of the things you’ve collected.

34. Learn how to juggle. Juggling is a really enjoyable pastime: it teaches hand-eye coordination and dexterity while simultaneously being quite soothing. It’s also quite simple – you just need three balls to learn how to do it. Here’s an excellent tutorial video on how to juggle.

35. Play a free online game. There are countless sources of excellent online games – try Kongregate for starters. Lately, I’ve been playing “Ticket to Ride: Europe” online using the free trial – it’s one of my favorite board games and it’s a blast to play whenever I like.

36. Seek out a solitary place on foot. One activity I particularly enjoyed doing during my college days was exploring seemingly crowded places but searching for nooks and crannies that were completely isolated from the hubbub. I used to find small back rooms of the large university library and just curl up in there and read. I also used to climb the large trees on campus to get up above the crowds below. The search for solitude was enjoyable and finding it was sublime.

37. Start (and maintain) a journal. I’ve been keeping a journal for years now and find it valuable and fulfilling. Just start on any old spare notebook you have lying around your house. Jot down the most interesting things you did that day – even if they don’t seem interesting right now. Eventually, you’ll start to build up a nice catalog of entries and it’ll become quite fun to read earlier writings.

38. Go to a free movie. If you look around a bit, you can often find free movie showings in your community. Start by visiting the libraries available to you – many have open movie nights, where you can go sit in the library auditorium and enjoy a free film. If you live near a university, there’s often a film group there showing a weekly movie as well. Often, other community groups will put on regular film nights as well – just check around.

39. Take up walking, jogging, or running. There are almost no solitary activities that combine physical exertion, rhythm, and peace of mind like sustained walking, jogging, or running, and all you really need to get started is a pair of decent shoes. Define a regular, sensible jogging routine (three times a week for 30 minutes is a good way to get started) and dig in on the paths around you. The key isn’t to kill yourself, but to just exert yourself a little and figure out how to get into a good, healthy rhythm along the way. For a more rigorous, flexible free workout, try rucking – walking or hiking with extra weight in a backpack.

40. Take a long, hot bath. Just fill up your bathtub with some nice, warm water, get yourself in there, and kick back. Enjoy the long soak and just let the little worries drift away for a while. To me, this is almost as good as a professional massage but the cost is just right – plus it’s just as convenient as the bathroom down the hall.

41. Rearrange (and thoroughly clean) a room. Sometimes all it really takes to make a place seem fresh and new is a thorough cleaning and a rearrangement of the decorations and furniture. Put some elbow grease to work in your favorite room in your home that’s just a bit tired and see what you can do to make it smell and look fresh again. If it’s a regular place where you spend time, just that little bit of change can make a world’s worth of difference.

42. Write a poem. This is an activity that forces almost everyone to think a bit differently about the world around them, but from that experience can come much wisdom and growth. Try to express whatever you’re feeling in your heart in words, in whatever form seems the most natural and appropriate. Then tease the words around a little – find ones that seem to click with how you feel. The entire process will leave you feeling interesting things – and often feeling deeply fulfilled.

43. Get politically informed. Find out what candidates are going to appear on your ballot in the upcoming election (as well as any ballot initiatives) and find out more about each one of them. Compare the candidates running for the same office and make a rational decision about each campaign. You can do most of this research online today – if you can’t, call the local offices of each political party to find out about local candidates. Doing this will make you an informed voter and likely an influential one, since you can state clear reasons why you’re supporting the candidates you’re supporting and this can often sway others.

44. Take some digital photographs and share them online. If you’re building a natural collection or observing anything interesting at all, take along your smartphone or camera and snap some photographs of it. Then, take these images and share them with others on a photo-sharing site like Flickr. Be sure to put in the effort to add detailed notes about each picture so that others may enjoy them as well.

45. Discover new music you might like. There are countless free online streaming services available to you that can help you find new music that matches your tastes. Sites like Pandora or Last.fm allow you to type in the name of a musical artist you like, and then get a customized radio station of nothing but similar artists, virtually ensuring you’ll discover some compelling new music.

46. Create an interesting video and share it on YouTube. All this takes is a smartphone or digital camera capable of capturing video, some basic video editing software (there are free web-based programs online), and some creativity. Think of something interesting that you could make a compelling video about, create a tight script for that video, then go around collecting the shots you need. Once you’re done, edit the video into a slick presentation and upload it to YouTube for the world to see. Keep it up, and you could potentially create a new income stream.

47. Enter a short story competition. Short stories are a lot of fun to write – in fact, writing them is my secret passion. Whenever I have spare time, I like to seek out short story competitions, write out stories for them, and then … fail to actually enter because I’m too self-conscious about my short stories. But I still gain something big from it – the process of writing a short story is a lot of fun.

48. Dig deep into a blog. Got a blog you enjoy reading (like, say, this one)? Go waaaay back into the site’s archives and read some of the older stuff. You’ll often find that the writing has changed drastically since the early days and that you’ve missed out on a ton of interesting and compelling ideas. Look for an “archives” page — you can dig through thousands of my past The Simple Dollar posts here.

49. Attend a free concert. Many communities offer free weekly municipal concerts in the park and larger cities often have multiple free concerts each day in various places. Pay attention to the community calendar and other resources and go by yourself to a concert. Live music can be a very compelling and exciting thing – don’t miss out on an opportunity to enjoy it.

50. Watch a sunrise or sunset, from beginning to end.
This really says it all:

That picture depicts sunset over the Grand Canyon in July 2005 when I visited there with my wife. The amazing part of that scene is that you can enjoy much the same beauty anywhere you are, whether you’re an early riser or a night owl. Just watch the sun rise and take on brightness, or watch her set and shed her colors. Beauty, indeed.

How to have fun in ANY situation

I went to a party last night. I know… CRAZY!!!

This might not seem like a big deal to you guys, but it actually was for me.

I don’t really go out much any more.

I used to go out a lot! Steven and I would be out 3 or 4 times a week.

We’d go to bars, clubs, and just hang out. We’d flirt with cute girls, meet new people, and generally have a great time.

But my life doesn’t really revolve around meeting new people any more.

Right now, what I enjoy more than anything is building AI. Building new websites, creating new training programs, and sitting here writing these blog posts for you.

That’s right… I’m a pretty exciting guy to be around at the moment…

The reason I’m mentioning this is that last night, I remembered something very important:

If you understand the basic mechanisms of how to enjoy yourself, you can have fun in ANY situation.

That’s right, have fun in ANY situation. I didn’t really want to be at this party but I was able to have a great time, all because I took it back to the basics.

Would you like to know what they are so you can have fun in any situation?

Well, here we go…

How to have fun in any situation: 4 simple steps.

First of all, I need to qualify the word ‘fun’. Fun is such an ambiguous term. It’s like happiness. Everyone has their own interpretation of what ‘fun’ is so here’s how I’m going to define it.

When I say ‘have fun in any situation’, I’m not talking about laughing till tears roll down your face, I’m simply talking about enjoying yourself.

I’m talking about being able to do what you need to do to have a good time. That’s going to vary for just about every person, but whatever that is for you, this post will help you find it.

Step 1: Write out a list of everything that you enjoy doing

Writing down everything you do to have fun is a great place to start. You’re going to use this list to investigate the core elements of that which are responsible for your enjoyment so you can apply them to the rest of your life.

Go on, write it out.

Stop reading now, get out a piece of paper, and write down what you enjoy doing. If you don’t, you’re really not going to get much out of this post other than empty information.

If you write this list out, you’re going to start the process of being able to enjoy any situation.

Step 2: Find the core elements of your enjoyment

It’s time to go one step deeper. Here’s something that might surprise you.

You don’t get satisfaction from those activities.

Yes, I know. You think I’m wrong. That’s fine. Most people do when I tell them this. But that’s because you’ve only heard half the sentence.

You don’t enjoy those activities, you enjoy what those activities allow you to experience.

What I mean by this is that it’s not the specific movements or actions that you’re taking in the specific environment or conditions you’re taking them in, it’s the experience you have from taking those movements or actions that you enjoy.

I’ll use my own life as an example.

I play American Football. I love it. Why? Because I enjoy challenge and the feeling of self-determination that comes from overcoming a challenge and American Football is one place I can do this.

I love coaching. Why? Because I enjoy challenge and the feeling of self-determination that comes from overcoming a challenge and coaching is one place I can do this.

Can you see a pattern here?

Want to know something else? I enjoy myself in any situation where I can find a challenge and work to overcome it.

So, what is the core experience that you love? Have a look through the list you created of activities you love doing and think back to your peak moment of that activity. What was it about that moment that was so great? What did you experience in that peak moment?

Go through your entire list. See what you can find.

What experience do you enjoy and how do these activities allow you to enjoy it?

Step 3: Notice how your enjoyment of those activities changes as how you feel changes

If you’re anything like most people, there was probably more than one feeling you enjoy on your list. My list has two: connection and power.

What were yours?

The other thing you would have realised is that you probably don’t want to experience the same thing all the time.

I know that there are times when what I really crave is connection. I just want to feel like I’m totally and deeply connected with another person.

What’s the difference? How I feel.

If I feel energetic and confident, then I usually want to go on an adventure.

If I feel calm and confident, then I usually just want to sit and get through some work.

If I feel isolated then I usually want to connect with people.

If you feel powerless, I usually want to do something that allows me to feel in control.

How I feel determines what I want to experience.

Step 4: Apply these concepts to any situation

Knowing the underlying experience that you’re searching for and the mechanism that you can use to experience it is the fundamental basis of being able to enjoy yourself in any moment.

When you can do it, any situation becomes a place where you can enjoy yourself.

You can turn even the most mundane task into an enjoyable experience.

This is what I did at this party.

I turned up feeling confident and energetic. I knew that to enjoy myself, I’d need to find an activity that was challenging but also allowed me to express myself.

So, I started battling people on the dance floor. I had a blast!

Why? Was it because I was dancing? No. It was because I was challenging myself and other people and expressing myself. Dancing was simply the specific vehicle that allowed me to find the two conditions I needed.

If there was another activity that met these two criteria, I could have enjoyed myself there as well.

Interestingly, this desire to overcome challenges is the reason I don’t enjoy going out any more.

When I used to go out, it was all about doing things. That ‘doing’ was flirting and connecting with incredible women. My ideal night was to move around, talking to whoever I wanted till I found an attractive woman, and then I’d play with her.

We’d flirt, we’d play, we’d get real and connect.

The enjoyment of my night was based around ‘doing’ flirting and connection.

I have a girlfriend now. That kind of action is not on the cards any more. I choose not to do that so if I’m going to enjoy myself, I need to find things to do.

There’s only so much I can ‘do’ at a bar or a party before I get over it and want to get back to writing books.

The reason that so many people struggle to enjoy themselves is that they’re trying to fit in and do what everyone else is doing and hope that will be rewarding.

For most guys, they think they need to stand around in the social group that they turned up in and talk about what everyone else is talking about.

To be honest, unless the conversation was about website optimisation and conversion rates (ie. A conversation that could help me be better at doing things), then I’m not going to be interested.

If you do what everyone else is doing, you’re only going to enjoy yourself as long as you enjoy what everyone else is doing. If you don’t enjoy what they’re doing, then you’re not going to enjoy yourself.

So, that’s how you enjoy yourself in any situation.

You find the underlying experience that you’re chasing, find your mechanism that will allow you to experience it, and then apply that to the situation.

When you can do this, even the most mundane activities can be truly rewarding.

So, what experience is enjoyable for you?

What mechanism allows you to experience it?

And how can you apply that to different areas of your life that currently aren’t enjoyable?

Share your answers below.


July 24, 2018

Why You Should Make Fun a Priority in Life

“Wanna get a manicure?” my co-worker Kat whispered over our cubicle divider, eyeing my chipped white polish. It was a quiet Tuesday morning at 10:15.

“Now?” I said, a little startled.

“Yes, now! No managers are here. Let’s go!”

And off we went, giggling, grabbing our sunglasses and cell phones—feeling like kids cutting class. What felt so thrilling about it? I can tell you it wasn’t the 35 minutes spent in the run-down salon beneath our office. It wasn’t the prospect of a fresh coat of polish (despite my need for one).

It was doing something unexpected, spontaneous, and even a tad daring. Just for the heck of it. You might not think that something as simple as getting a manicure during work is crazy fun. But the excitement generated by doing something unexpected, unanticipated, and light—whatever that might be for you—can really give you a boost.

For me, that manicure felt like a little bit of bliss during the typical tedium of a regular week at the office. And it only cost $11.

Where’d All the Fun Go?

Fun is not a word we hear celebrated a lot. Or if we do, it’s not really that much “fun” at all. It’s the “fun” team-building activities we do at a corporate event or the “fun” we have at a holiday party with people we don’t really know. It’s obligatory fun or an illusion of fun. Is it really so difficult just to have a good time?

As research professor Brené Brown, Ph.D., writes in her best-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection, “A critically important component of wholehearted living is play… Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest (but) spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”

Sure, we are all here to contribute, to infuse meaning and purpose into our lives. Hey, I’m a life coach and I teach my clients all about goal setting, gratitude journaling, visualizing, and taking action. But you know what? None if it matters unless you are enjoying your life.

Our obligations—professional meetings, workout classes, social dates, morning meditations (the list goes on)—do not have to feel so heavy and burdensome. But they do a lot of the time. Our rigid calendars and planning don’t always leave room for much spontaneity. Nor does our culture, which rewards productivity above all else. (Someone recently told me she felt guilty for taking a long walk with her dog to see the Central Park fall foliage. What?! Quick! Someone arrest this criminal enjoying the trees!)

I get that you are busy. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be productive or miss your deadlines for the sake of fun. But trying some of these random, fun ideas takes very little of your time and/or money. And you never know, it might just totally change your day or even your month. Really, what do you have to lose?

It’s the Little Things

  • Try a new workout. Ditch the Tuesday night indoor cycling class that you attend religously to sample a Krav Maga class.
  • Phone a friend. Call a positive pal to relive a funny memory. A 10-minute call with a good friend is like taking a vitamin for the soul. Do it while cruising Whole Foods or waiting for your prescription at Walgreens. Easy!
  • Get a little weird. One of my old co-workers used to do an Egyptian-style walk past the conference room while I was on the phone. I had to suppress my laughter every time. I still always break out into a smile thinking about it.
  • Take a walk. Just get up. Start walking. End up somewhere new. You will find your way home, I promise. Walk without a destination. Be alert and open, and you might find something awesome you’ve never noticed before.
  • Go to Burger King. Order a pepperoni pizza. Act serious while doing it.
  • Just dance. Dance in your own living room. Put on your favorite Spotify playlist and just shimmy around for a few minutes. Busting a move has been shown to give you a huge boost in mood and even help relieve anxiety and depression.
  • Do something creative. Without a goal in mind. Paint something. Sing loudly as you make your coffee. Flip open a cookbook and cook whatever appears on the page you land on. Try any of the ideas from our weeklong creativity challenge.
  • FaceTime a friend—while wearing a face mask. Pretend you are oblivious to the mask.
  • Book tickets for something you’ve been meaning to. A weekend getaway with your best friend. A Broadway show. A concert. The anticipation is as fun as the event itself.
  • Go “shopping.” Go into a store you have never shopped in, and try something on that you would never wear.
  • See how many grapes can fit in your mouth. Make a $5 bet with someone over it.
  • Walk into a movie theater. Purchase a ticket to whatever is playing next.
  • Wear something you have never worn—like a bow tie or cocktail dress—just to pick up your dry cleaning.

There are a million things that you can do that are harmless and fun. Even brainstorming fun stuff is fun! Take it from Brown: “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.”

It’s true. Some of the happiest relationships I know exist between people who are successful and poised most of the time, but who act “weird” and “strange” in private, laughing at their secret goofiness.

Having fun is up to you. It’s free and healthy and important. What are we all on this planet for if not to enjoy the ride? It’s safe to have fun. Now go do something unproductive! All you have to remember? Enjoy every second of it.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!

Fun — it can often seem quite elusive. After getting work done, maintaining our most important relationships, managing our finances and our household, and keeping up with the daily responsibilities of being an adult, fun can often seem like the dangling carrot that we never reach.

Fun is whatever you want it to be: recreation, relaxation, adventure. Simply put, fun is doing something for no other reason except it brings you joy.

Fun can feel indulgent, as though it is something we must earn. But it is essential to life, and without it, we can easily feel caught up in an unhealthy cycle of constantly working and crashing.

If you had to name one thing you have done this week simply because it brings you joy, what would it be?

For me, it’s hiking. Hiking is my happy place. Getting lost in the woods, smelling the trees, adventuring down an unknown path, and seeing what’s around the next corner. It fills me up, and makes me feel more alive.

My husband and I have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew when we go hiking, and our “quick jaunt” usually turns into a three-hour adventure that leaves us wondering how we got that far, and how we made it back in one piece. But that’s what we love most about it.

Hiking takes some work and planning. With two kids, we can’t make a split decision and hop in the car. We have to plan ahead, make sure we have everything we need, and leave at just the right time of day to work around meals.

Sometimes it feels like work to have fun — but even so, we know it will always be worth it.

Here are a few tips that help simplify the process of having fun, give you more space to be spontaneous, and help you make amazing memories.

1. Forget about the stuff.

If we were to heed the message of lifestyle or outdoor magazines, we would be convinced we can’t have fun until we have the perfectly curated list of items loaded up in the back of our all-terrain vehicles. But the last thing we need is one more obstacle to enjoying ourselves.

Some outdoor activities require a limited amount of gear to. But you never need as many recreational items as you might believe. Minimize the amount of stuff you need, and you are much more likely to go for it. Keep your “fun stash” handy, or even leave it in the back of the car so you can use it on short notice.

Less stuff = more spontaneity.

2. Focus on what you need.

With so many options for recreation, the task of deciding alone can be daunting. Do you hop a plane and spend a few days in a fancy hotel, or throw some camping gear in the car and hit the road to the local state park? In this case, it is helpful to focus on what you need right now.

Have you been busy and need some quiet and restful fun? Do you need a little pampering? Or are you feeling restless, like taking on a challenge and doing something a little crazy? Take your fun temperature and plan accordingly.

3. Make time.

This may be the most important aspect — fun and recreation isn’t just going to automatically happen when you finish doing everything else. If you want it, you have to make time for it. Grab your calendar and mark it down.

Secure the time, and make it sacred. Make sure nothing can throw off your plans. Once it’s set in stone, whether it’s a Friday afternoon swim or a weekend trip in six months from now, you will experience joy just looking forward to it.

4. Set realistic expectations.

Just because you are making time for fun, doesn’t mean you won’t run into any snags along the way. Traffic, delays, relationship tension or miscommunications can quickly change the experience. Just because things don’t go perfectly isn’t a reason to feel that all of it was pointless.

Expect a few bumps along the way, and take them in stride. Making time for fun shouldn’t be an escape from real life, but a way to make space for what matters.

5. Be present.

Once the fun has begun, be all there. Shut off your phone, close your laptop and engage by living in the moment — whatever it takes to actually be where you are. It can be so easy to check out, scan social media, and instantly feel envious of what someone else is experiencing.

Don’t let distraction and comparison steal the joy you are having in your moment of fun. Be all there, take a deep breath, love the ones your with, and practice gratitude for the time and space you have made for this experience.

Having fun shouldn’t be work. Here’s to simplifying the process so we can be more spontaneous, and do what makes us feel alive!

Work can be fun, though often it isn’t, and that goes for both team members and their managers. How can you have fun at work and be productive? Jennifer Bridges, PMP, shows you and gives practical examples.

Here’s a screenshot of the whiteboard for your reference.

In Review – How to Have Fun at Work While Staying Productive

It might be expected to hear team members complain that work is no longer fun, but Jennifer said that she’s heard the same complaint from managers.

Before she discussed how to keep work fun, Jennifer explored what we mean when we say fun. Usually, that’s an activity that brings pleasure, amusement and enjoyment. People tend to like music, food and activities, so these are some of the avenues that lead to fun.

When it comes to productivity, what we mean is achieving or producing a significant amount of work. People tend to love tips, tools, techniques, motivations and inspiration to help them do this.

Jennifer used these definitions and the ways people usually achieve them to come up with 10 examples of how to have fun at work.

Related: 10 Super Fun Team Bonding Games

Ways to Have Fun at Work

  1. You can have a pizza party or some kind of social gathering around food. It’s a great way to break down barriers and change the atmosphere on the job, while noshing on something everyone likes. You can include different groups from work, who don’t usually congregate, so they can get to know one another.
  2. Have a three-minute dance-off, like Dancing with the Stars, only the celebrities are team members and managers. They can pick their favorite songs, which will make them happy, and cut a rug. It’s a fine method to break up the tedium of the day in a way that’s sure to put smiles on people’s faces.
  3. Progressive lunch is when people share culinary tastes of their culture. It not only offers a peek into the person behind the worker, but exposes the whole office to a wide array of new dishes. From the exotic to the mundane, everyone loves to eat.
  4. Exchanging meeting gifts is a fun way to add a little levity to the work environment. Have people bring personalized gifts for one another, nothing expensive, with an emphasis on silly. People get to know one another, show appreciation and have a sense of play about it.
  5. Lunch outings are a nice way to change the atmosphere, especially if it’s getting stressful. Find neighborhood restaurants that are more than a place to get a quick bite and have personality. Maybe they have live music or fun activities. Break bread and the tension, so you can return to the office refreshed and ready to work.
  6. Fun contests will shake off the cobwebs of a dull day. You’re always in some sort of competition at work, so find a type of contest that is in good fun and healthy. Maybe a sports rivalry or fantasy football competition. Team building activities are great examples of being fun and productive.
  7. Dressing up is a fun way to add a little silliness to the office. Halloween is an obvious time to get creative with costumes, but you can also pick Fridays or certain holidays to get people playing around with their wardrobe.
  8. Listening to a podcast can offer insight, motivate and add a dose of humor to the office. It’s also a collective activity as opposed to everyone bent over their desks with earbuds listening to their own tunes.
  9. Jennifer wrote a book about archetypes called Optimizing Your Thinking, in which she describes eight types of people. There are those who are always happy and smiling, others who are seeing disaster around each corner. Figure out what type you are and who other team members and managers are like, then you can have fun with it. Wear name tags or something to make light of the personality quirks.
  10. Having a guest speaker is like a podcast in real-time. Like the podcast, you can find people who can add humor to your day or maybe inspire and motivate you on the job. Everyone can pool their ideas and work together to figure out who to invite.

Pro-Tip: More systemically, the way to be happy at work is to find meaning in what you do. It helps to build community at work, which the above suggestions will do, but also take responsibility for what you do. These all add up to a happier work environment for everyone.

Thanks for watching!


Today, we’re talking about how to have fun at work while staying productive. And believe it or not, I get this question from not only team members, but managers.

So let’s talk about fun. So fun is something or someone that brings pleasure, amusement, enjoyment, and people enjoy music, food, and activities.

When we talk about being productive, we’re looking at achieving and producing a significant amount of work, and people love tips, techniques, motivations, and inspirations to help get this done.

So I’m gonna provide just a few examples of things that I’ve personally used for myself and my teams to have fun and actually be productive too.

So first of all, a pizza party. Does it have to be a pizza party? No, it doesn’t have to be a pizza party. But we used pizza, and we included different groups and different stakeholders so that they could take time while eating to talk more and get to know one another. And through that, people found commonalities among each other, and through that just began to talk and have fun.

Number two, three minute dance-offs. I love this one. This is one of my favorite ones. So within a group or a team that we’re working with, when your favorite song comes on, you just crank it up. You declare it a dance-off, and everybody gets to listen to that tune.

It reminds me, just a few years ago, when the song “Happy” came out. We loved that. That song just went off all the time. But it was fun. It gave us just like one song to listen to, just to get up out of our chairs and move around, and to have fun and to be happy.

So number three, progressive lunches. We did this quite a bit, because we had people from different cultures, from different countries, and we were able to bring a dish to represent the culture.

Meeting gifts. Well, what does that mean? Meeting gifts – well, bringing a fun gift personalized for each person on the team.

One time I went to the Dollar Store and just got gifts that were representative of the personalities on my team. For instance, there was a software developer on my team, Wayne, and when he got stressed, he loved to play golf. So I got him a little golfing set at the Dollar Store. It was just, literally, $1.

Also, Katherine on our team, she was always late. So I found a big foam clock that was really big that we could put on her desk as a reminder.

And then, there was also one of my stakeholders, Bill, who no matter what was going on, he just always wanted to stand up and say something in the meeting, so I got him a little, cute microphone that he could use during the meetings.

So that just makes it fun. Again, it’s representative to people’s personalities just to recognize them and have fun.

Number five, lunch outings. You can go to a place with good music or fun activities.

Also, fun contests. Instigate some kinda healthy competition. Here in the States, we have different sports teams. So sometimes we have little sports rivalries between…There are different points of the year where different teams are, like, highly competitive, and we’d make fun with that.

Number seven, dress up. Plan times during the year to dress up. Here, sometimes, again in the States, we have Halloween. We also dress up for the holidays, and that’s fun for people to do. Sometimes people have this infamous, the ugly holiday sweater that people have fun with.

Any kind of video and audio podcast. Again, people love motivations and inspirations. So you can listen to those that either humor, maybe inspire, or motivate.

And then also, there were arch types. I personally wrote this book called “Optimize Your Thinking.” It was on eight arch types. So just two of them as an example was Dr. Disaster and Susie Sunshine.

So we took time to learn about these arch types, which ones reflected us and which one reflected the other team members. And we just really had fun with those because we had little magnets we could put on our computers in our office, and we would make reference to that and have fun with it.

And then also, you can invite in guest speakers, someone who can, again, humor, inspire, or motivate the team.

So these are some of the things that I’ve personally used with my teams. And if you need additional resources or ideas on how to have fun at work and still remain productive, then visit our website at ProjectManager.com.


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