One way to add new and more enjoyable activities to your daily life is to check your calendar for fun rather than productivity.
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In a society that values productivity, where busyness becomes a matter of pride and "grinding" a badge of honor, play is too often dismissed as a trifle rather than an essential part of a meaningful life.
In its science-backed guide "The Fun Habit: How Pursuing Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life”, organizational psychologist and behavioristMike'a Ruckerashares evidence of the physical and psychological benefits of prioritizing pleasure.
Organizational psychologist and behaviorist Mike Rucker argues that play is not "extra" but "an act of radical self-care."
One element of our well-being depends on fun, entertainment and relaxation, Rucker argues. His book explains how intentionally increasing the number of joyful moments can improve the situationhealth,relationship- and evenefficiency— and offers practical tips, tools and tactics to boost your everyday play.
Entertainment is not an "add-on," Rucker insists. "It's an act of radical self-care."
This conversation has been edited and shortened for clarity.
Rucker's "The Fun Habit" offers practical tips and tools to encourage daily play.
CNN: What's fun? How is it different from happiness?
Mike Rucker:Happinessis results oriented. Too often, instead of consciously enjoying what life has to offer, we use our energy to discover why we are or aren't happy. We can get stuck thinking about the discrepancy between where we think we are and what happiness should look like.
Fun is less about "thinking" and more about "doing". It is provable, visible, real and within our reach. Are you attracted to something, do you enjoy an activity and do you engage in it? It's so much fun. Available to anyone at almost any time, play offers a direct neurological pathway to improving our well-being.
It doesn't even have to be something wacky. Quiet, low-stimulation activities that promote balance and renewal—like gardening, meditation, or reading—are considered fun.
CNN: How does cultivating a gaming habit affect our lives?
Rucker:Too often we view our lives through the lens of productivity, instead of focusing on what would be invigorating or enjoyable.
The habit of playing is associated with greater productivity and a meaningful life. Question: "How can I enjoy?" it helps us recognize the elements we can manipulate, including our environment, the people we associate with, and the activities we engage in. It helps if we ask ourselves, "Are there ways to redesign these elements for more enjoyment?"
Developing a playful mindset can shift the balance of our experiences toward more good than bad. Laughter and good mood reduce anxiety, reduce stress, improve self-esteem and increase motivation. A play-centered structure can also help us learn to enjoy the game, even when things don't go our way.
Quiet, intimate activities like gardening that provide balance and renewal are considered fun and can lead to a more productive and meaningful life.
CNN: What practical steps can we take to have more fun?
Rucker:The first step toward adding new, fun activities to your daily life is to check your calendar for fun, not productivity. Thanks to this, you will discover hidden opportunities to increase pleasure, even without spending time on tasks.
For a week, you can try recording your activities every hour. You candownload my free time trackerPlease help. Then describe how you spend your time using my simple four quadrantsPLAY as a model, which represents activities on the axis of pleasure and effort. Activities that are easy and very enjoyable fall into the upper left "pleasant" quadrant. Although the time spent here is often considered frivolous,testsit tells us that these activities create a sense that our lives are valuable and fulfilled.
Research shows that people who consciously set aside time for play tend to be more productive.
CNN: Is the goal to spend your whole life in the "pleasure" quadrant?
Rucker:No way. A full life includes ups and downs, joys, pains and boredom. The toxic positivity reflected in the "good vibes only" and "no bad days" messages expressed by some members of the happiness-industry complex reflects a problematic emotional inflexibility. Unlike happiness, play can coincide with different emotional states, and even completely transcend them.
CNN: Now that we've figured out how we spend our time, how do we tip the scales toward entertainment?
Rucker:Activity tracking can help us exercise our free will and have more time to play. Since it's human nature to quickly fill any space we create, I suggest we come up with something I call afunny file— a solid list of interesting activities you'd like to include in your day. Making a list helps satisfy our curiosity and gives us a source to draw from. Once you have a long list, categorize it and then filter it down to a short list of 8 to 15 possible options. Brainit works wellwith so many choices.
CNN: Why is it so important to prioritize those activities in our lives that are already denied?
Rucker:Fun is the antidote to life's slings and arrows. An enrichment tool and a vent for life's hardships, fun keeps us sane. It also helps us make better use of the total time we have.Studiessuggest that people who arepurposefulabout making time for play, restoration and fun things, they are the most productive people. Besides, people who don't play look for bad formsescapist.
Let's say you think you're a con artist and you work 60 hours a week, producing one unit of product per hour. Contrast that with people having a good time - based on which we knowscienceare more productive. In fact, they can produce more units of output per hour of work.
Even beyond quantity, we see the most of itinnovative and creative workit comes from those who protect their leisure. Playtime unleashes the ability to think non-linearly.
CNN: Who can find time to play?
Rucker:As with most things, privilege opens the door to fun. The ability to trade time for money, while effective, is rooted in privilege. speak,time usage datashows that even the most time-poor people have periods during the day when they have some control over what they do. If you are creative, there are many ways to maximize your time without spending money.
Grouping activities can be one way to increase efficiency. For example, a doctor I worked with loved to draw, but found it difficult to fit it into her schedule until she started drawing and later responding to patients. Working with community members can also help. Swapping child custody can free up parents for a cheaper date. Online resources offer great opportunities for free courses with like-minded people.
CNN: How much time should we spend playing each day?
Rucker: Testshe suggests two hours a day as "Goldilocks' place" for entertainment. In a society that demands so many hours of work and ignores the importance of play, that can seem like a lot. If this seems too difficult, start by spending one to three hours a week testing some of the items on your playlist. Don't think you have a 14-hour mandate right away. Even slow growth will show you the benefits of this new habit. Once people realize that having fun actually makes them more productive, this approach will become an easier sell.
CNN: How does journaling help you form a fun habit? What specific practices help the most?
Rucker:Diaries help us store memories and process our experiences. Entries that focus on enjoyment or reminiscence amplify the power of the fun you've already had because you can relive it. The key is to include memorable details of the experience you describe. Why was it fun? How did you feel? What about the memory that lights you up? Include sensory details and, if possible, an anchoring artifact—for example, a photo, song lyrics, or video clip. Anchors can help recall information by restoring information encoded in our brain.
Remember that a journal does not necessarily have to be kept on paper and pen. A notebook, a container for memories, all these things can be of great help. No matter how you catalog, these memories can lure you back to what you enjoyed in the past.
By focusing our attention on the good times we've had—and could relive—reminiscence raises our awareness that we have more freedom of choice and autonomy to influence how we move through time than we sometimes realize. Research shows thisdocumentationand activating positive memories have long-term benefits and may even helpsuppress depression. In addition, funny memories help us build resources that provide emotional resilience in less pleasant times.
The game allows you to deal with the pain of life, and sometimes even transcend it, thanks to a more complete experience of life's gifts.
Jessica DuLongis a resident of Brooklyn, New Yorknovinar, književni suradnik, pisac i autor Seawall Survivors: Stories from the 9/11 Boat Lift i My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work That Built America.