Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From Work to Play

There are a lot of things in life that we have to do, and many of them aren't the most fun.  Some things are completely out of our control.  We may have health concerns that require us to do things in order to care for ourselves, or we may have family that needs taking care of.  Our job may not be something we enjoy, but might be necessary to put food on our table or keep a roof over our head. 

And even when it comes to the things we want to do or enjoy doing, there are often aspects or tasks that we know we need to do, but may not particularly want to do.  If we play a sport, we know that practice will make us better, but it might be tedious.  Or we may need to do strength training or cardio so we can perform better.  We may love our family, but that doesn't mean that we necessary like changing diapers or cleaning the house.  And sometimes, we are just tired or not really in the mood to do the things we might ordinarily enjoy, but we know we need to do them anyways.

When we aren't enjoying the task at hand, it often becomes so much worse than it actually is.  We begin to dread doing it before we even start, and we drag our heels or try to distract ourselves.  We may fuss and fight the whole way, making the actual process harder than it needs to be.

I have been doing a 30 day manifesting challenge with Connie Benedict, and the topic of the quality of our actions came up.  The idea being that if an action isn't fun, then it might be an indication that the result of that action might not be in our best interest.  I think that when we set an eye on a goal, we should feel excited and jazzed up about working on it.  Now this doesn't mean that every step along the way will be fun and amazing, but if every step feels horrible, then perhaps you might want to rethink your goal.

So what do you do when you know you need to do something, are absolutely excited about the end goal, but one or two steps along the way just aren't your thing?  I know from personal experience, the more I can make any action or experience fun, the easier it will be.  And often the more I will get out of it as well.

One of the easiest ways to find the fun is to try different ways of doing something.  I love yoga, but I have found that some yoga videos I really can't get into.  Other people make holding those hard poses much easier simply by their own energy and personality.  I also know that I really dislike cardio workouts, but I have found some (like zumba) that I can get into (because they incorporate dance).  Perhaps you want to get in more exercise, but hate working out.  You may decide to start playing a sport, or take your dog to the park for regular walks.  Finding the versions of an activity that I actually enjoy turns what was something I dreaded to something that I actually start to look forward to.

Of course some actions are harder to twist than others.  I go with my mother-in-law to her doctors appointments (because she can't drive the the further away ones, and likes to have someone with her so that there are two people listening to the doctors and so she doesn't forget to tell them things).  Doctors visits are really never fun, and she can be quite impatient (understandably so when the doctors keep her waiting way beyond her appointment time). 

What helps me with these times is changing my perspective.  I try to not think about it as doing her a favor so much as showing her I care.  I like my mother-in-law, and I enjoy spending time with her (under normal circumstances).  So I tend the conversations, and try to keep her talking about things that are interesting to her instead of dwelling on the appointment or the fact that we are still waiting.  By making my focus on her instead of me, I find the time more enjoyable and I am not thinking about what we are doing, simply spending time with her.

I also use the time to practice my own patience (which serves me well also with hubby, who has inherited his mother's impatience).  When I think about focusing on my own calm, the time becomes practice time for me, time to challenge myself at remaining calm and keeping my own inner peace, no matter what the people around me are doing (doubly important because I pick up on other's emotions, so twitchy people tend to make me twitchy unless I work at keeping my own tranquility).

I also think that changing perspective can be used to turn tedious tasks into games.  As I was thinking about this topic, I kept thinking about kids movies where chores are changed with a little imagination.  I've actually seen programs for adults that present things like health goals (working out, eating healthy, and doing other self-care actions) into a fantasy game (like you might play on the computer).  You designate each of the things you are doing as a complimentary action in the game. 

So, for example, if you are wanting to work out three times a week for a month, you may draw (or print out) twelve monsters, and post the sheet on your fridge.  Each time you work out, it is the equivalent of slaying one of your 'foes'.  And at the end, when they are all defeated (and you have done your twelve workouts that month), you celebrate the victory.  If you are on your own, this might mean giving yourself a reward (like many quest givers in games give you a reward for completing their task), like a new pair of workout clothes or a day at the spa.

You can incorporate this idea with visualization to make distasteful tasks something else as well.  If you have to spend time at work with someone you don't care for, try changing how you perceive them.  You might visualize that they are your best friend, or someone you don't know but would like to.  One thing that works for me is to start coming up with stories about someone.  If they are always grumpy, tell yourself the story about what makes them grumpy.  Make the stories a little crazy.  So maybe they woke up that morning and their cat had eaten holes in all their boxes of cereal, so the kitchen was covered with a mix of cereal pieces.  And all their socks had disappeared, so they had to go look for them, and they found them all stacked in a pile in the bathtub.

It sounds a little strange, and it is, but what it does is get your mind focused on something else, something that (hopefully) is more enjoyable, than the current situations.  I also like to use this kind of visualization technique for things like long plane rides or other periods of waiting.  I may not have control over when things happen, but I can choose to make the wait time something that I have fun with instead of just staring at my watch.

I also find that if I can change my environment, that will often help me find joy in routine things.  I am not someone who likes cleaning (at all!), but I have more fun with it now.  I have a bright shiny red broom (because I had the choice of a black one or this pretty shiny red one, and of course I picked the red one!), and I tied bells onto the end of the handle, so that every time I sweep, bells sound.  Sound is cleansing, and that was one reason why I did it, but listening to the bells jingle as I sweep just makes me smile.  It's silly, but it makes me want to sweep so I can make the bells ring.

Scent is another way to change your environment.  When I am working on lots of writing (like during November when I try for 2k words a day), I do my best to make sure my desk is as pleasant as possible.  I may light a scented candle, or use an oil diffuser, or just put on perfume.  I pick scents that are soothing or invigorating, depending on what I feel like I need that day.  Just stopping and taking a deep breath, brings up the emotions that are triggered by the scent I chose.  It takes me out of the moment I'm in and lets me refresh myself and get back to the thing I am working on.

I also find that joy carries over.  If I am doing something that I really am not enjoying, I may find myself at a point where I need to just walk away from it.  I often go outside and just bask in the sunlight and take in nature.  Deep breaths and just letting go of any tension or frustration until I feel energized and happy again.  Then, I find that when I go back inside and start working on whatever it is, I am revitalized and the work seems to go faster.

It is important to know what brings you joy too.  Music is a huge thing for me.  There is always music, and if I need to pump myself up, I can swap up a song to something that makes me want to dance and take a little dance break.  I love music when doing things that I enjoy but have tedious bits, like cooking.  I like to cook, but sometimes watching a pot or mixing dough can drag on (and make your arm tired too!)  If I have music playing, I can be singing and dancing along, and minding my cooking doesn't seem like a chore anymore.

It definitely takes trial and error, but there is a lot of value in learning how to turn ordinary tasks into something more fun.  When you start to pick up on how to apply the things you love to the things you need to do, you can create an enjoyable experience wherever you are and whatever you have to do.  So, whenever you are faced with a task that you aren't looking forward to, try to figure out a way to bring the fun into it.  You might be surprised at what you end up with!

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