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Make it Fun

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A fascinating experiment was recently conducted in Sweden: they wanted to see if they could get people to do something they didn’t like to do by making it fun.

They observed a subway station where a huge majority of people took the escalator instead of the stairway that was directly beside it. I probably would too, wouldn’t you? They then transformed the stairway into a “piano keyboard” converting the stairs to black and white “keys:” the stairs even sounded like the keys of a piano when you stepped on them, and in the appropriate tones so you could literally play a tune if you stepped on the right keys (stairs) in the right order.

Guess what happened? About 66% more people chose the stairs than before the transformation! You can see a video of the experiment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw

This got me to thinking about the things in my life that I need to do but don’t/won’t because they are a drag. Let’s take exercising, for example. We live in the mountains of Southern California and I have a lovely walking route through the forest; it is about 1.75 miles and takes about 35 minutes or so. I try to go every morning but sometimes I just don’t feel like it, don’t want to take the time for the walk and shower… lots of excuses! But I know that I need to go: the result is stress from this conflict.

Putting this theory of fun to work, I decided to bring along my binoculars. There is always wildlife in the forest to look at, but the main attraction was the sweeping views I have of the valleys below from our elevation of 6,000 feet.

What fun I had! Now I bring my binoculars every time and I can’t wait to go.

Here are my questions for you to ask yourself: how much stress do you endure because of the things you need to do but just don’t like to do or want to do? What can you do to make those things fun?

The answer to these questions is different for everyone because fun is in the eye of the beholder, so think about YOU and what makes YOU happy and entertained. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
• Add some music, either out loud in the house or on your iPod
• Designate a favorite TV show to watch ONLY while you are on your exercise bike
• Put some educational programs on your iPod and learn something while you complete your chore.
• How about audio books? Maybe you can incorporate Harry Potter into your routine – there are seven books and they are so long you’ll be set for a very long time! In fact, by the time you are finished you will have forgotten the beginning and you can enjoy it all over again. Don’t want to buy audio books? You don’t have to: many public libraries will loan them.

Go ahead… I dare you to put some fun into an unpleasant task; and share your success stories in the comments!

This article is one in a series on coping strategies for patients and caregivers alike. For more thoughts on caregiving, coping strategies, reducing stress, and just plain fun subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at http://www.CaringAndCoping.com Need a speaker for an upcoming event? I have a program that will knock your socks off! Watch video clips at http://www.ThePPP.org/speaking/#handle

Add a Comment5 Comments

I love the trash can idea - that would be a laugh! Diane, I loved your example of 'do laundry, have fun'. :) I see what you mean though. Why not add a bit of fun into lots of activites.

At the moment to make brushing teeth fun for my children we play a little game of Statues as we go. They brush while I sing, then when I stop singing they freeze. It makes brushing teeth a little longer but it's more fun and the kids see it as something fun to do, not a chore.

I think we can apply having fun not just to exercise but other parts of our lives that are hard work. Thank you both for the inspiration!

October 29, 2009 - 4:13pm

My only problem with the stairwell-piano is that I would want to play on it for way too long! And when I had to tell someone at work why I was late, I'd have to say, "Because I was playing on the stairs in the subway!"

I just saw something on the news yesterday about a similar experiment with a trash can that made sounds when you threw something away. The sounds were what you'd hear if you dropped something down a veeerrryyy deep hole and then it hit at the bottom. Sort of like cartoon sounds when the Coyote constantly was thwarted by the Roadrunner and fell over the cliff again and again! That trash can took in 53% more trash than it had before!

This reminds me of something Tony Robbins says -- the quality of the answer depends ont he quality of the question you ask yourself. If you ask yourself, "How can I push myself to get my exercise done?" you will get one kind of answer. But if you ask yourself, "How can I make my exercise fun so I want to go?" you get an entirely different sort of answer. The binoculars is the perfect example!

Perhaps that needs to be note by all the items on our todo list:

-- Get groceries and have fun
-- Do laundry and have fun
-- Take a walk and have fun!

I'm loving this post. Thank you!

October 29, 2009 - 7:58am
Blogger (reply to Diane Porter)

I have used those trash cans and they always get a smile not only from me, but from those around me who hear it. The one I used, however, made chomping and swallowing sounds!

Great example of asking ourselves the right question; it's so true, isn't it?

October 29, 2009 - 8:09am

I loved that video too! What a wonderful idea to turn stairs into a piano. I showed it to my children this morning and they laughed and watched it 5 times! It appeals to children and the child within all of us. I agree - lets have fun with exercise! :)

October 27, 2009 - 3:52pm
Blogger (reply to Kellie - My Health Software)

Thank you for your comment - how exciting to know that my thoughts have reached Australia! After reading your profile it's no wonder you like the exercise example!!

October 29, 2009 - 8:10am
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