I went out for a quick dinner with my girlfriends before the sun set.

I arrived home three hours later, in darkness. Boy, did that go fast.

It’s easy to feel like your life is on fast forward, especially when you’re having fun,  and now researchers know why.

When we are in what the Bigwigs call “high approach motivation” — meaning we feel like we want to go out and accomplish something — we also have a tighter focus and sharper memory. When we are in this state — which excitement and desire can bring on — we are able to shut out irrelevant thoughts and feelings and give greater attention to the moment.

During dinner with the girls we were talking about fun and interesting things. I was engaged in the conversation and also receiving helpful input and support. That inspired me, got me excited, and the evening slipped by.

When we are engaged in the pursuit of something important and meaningful — a la connection, in my case — time really does seem to pass more quickly. This perception, say psychological scientists Philip Gable and Bryan Pool, of the University of Alabama, who investigated the phenomena, may help us persevere to achieve greater goals. And, help us hone our focus long enough to satisfy our basic survival needs for things like food, water, companionship.

Thing is, many of us get so caught up in the day-to-day routine that we spend much of our time feeling stuck in a rut. Ever been in a meeting that seemed to take for-ev-er, though it only lasted 30 minutes? Yes, when you are feeling caught, blocked, unmotivated, time seems to drag. The secret then is to move closer to the elusive state of flow where time flies. You can do this by having more fun and adding more meaning to your life.

A playful spirit adds meaning

A playful spirit is the cornerstone of creativity, joy, and spirituality. It is the way we learn and grow and connect with others. It’s also how we become more efficient and productive problem-solvers. With a little fun in your life, things become easier to manage. But, as grown-ups we aren’t good about making time to play. Sitting zonked out in front of the television after the kids are in bed and the dishes are done is not the kind of fun I’m talking about — though I’ve gotten very good at it.

I’m talking about consciously bringing things into your life that fill you with energy and curiosity. I’m talking about trying something new or mixing up the same ol’ routine a bit so that it feels more engaging. It isn’t hard to do. If you commit to trying these tips for the next three weeks, you will feel better about your life. Seriously.

Five ways to have more fun

1. Create something every day. It doesn’t have to be a master work — it doesn’t even have to be good. Nobody needs to see it. But, when the kids aren’t looking pull out the Play-Doh and sculpt. Or try a new recipe or write a poem or song. Spend at least 10 minutes a day making something. Build a new garden display, learn to knit. Whatever. Just do it. We are innate creators and our spirit sings when we allow new ideas to spring forth. Make something.

2. Do something fun for others. Our playfulness emerges when we are giving to others because we feel good. And, it isn’t hard to find fun, inexpensive — even convenient ways of giving back.

For example, every couple of months, I offer my family a choice between a known dinner menu or  the, da da da daaa, Mystery Meal. The Mystery Meal is something that I guarantee they will like, but I NEVER tell what I’m cooking until it’s on the table. It’s a simple little thing, I mean I’m going to cook dinner anyhow, but we all have fun talking about what the menu might be. It feels like a game and it spices up the regular routine.

Or, sometimes I’ll pack a special lunch for my husband, with a note tucked inside. Or sneak a new pair of socks, or a hairband in my daughter’s drawer for her to find as she dresses for school. It doesn’t take much to turn around someone else’s day and when you find unique ways to do that, you’ll discover that you are also having more fun.

3. Do the unexpected. The other night we were all in a funk and snarking at each other and I decided that there would be no more talking. If you wanted to say something, you had to sing it. Pretty hard to be sassy when you’re belting out an aria about chicken. It changed the mood around here because it was FUN. Look for ways in your day that you can do something a little different, it makes life a little lighter and leaves space for our playful nature to show up.

4. Infuse fun into the moments of your life. Try new things. Find what works for you, what you’re passionate about, or what you enjoy doing and do it as often as you can. Schedule time in if you must, but practice playing enough that it becomes a habit and a lifestyle. If you love to read, set aside time just for that. Want some time to shoot hoops, put it in your calendar. Not sure what’s fun for you anymore?  Go looking. If you liked dance as a child, register for a class now and see if it’s still fun. If you once loved stamp collecting, or knitting, or baking — give it a shot now and see what sticks. Love gardening or visiting with friends, build it in to your week.

5. Go down the list. Time and money constraints and daily responsibilities can make it hard to do that really big stuff, like cruising the Caribbean, on a regular basis. But, it doesn’t mean it can’t ever happen. Make a bucket list — things big and little that you’d like to do before you die — and go after it. Want to take that cruise? Begin planning now and set a date for it in the future. Like to go to the Super Bowl, begin thinking about how to make that happen. If you want to learn a new language, find a class and register.

And, don’t be afraid to mention some of your bucket-list items to others. When people know what you’re working toward they can often help you make it happen. A few years ago, I mentioned to my family that I’d like to learn to play the ukulele. I got a red one (more awesome than you know) for Christmas and I’m taking lessons.

The point here is, it’s not enough to make a list — you’ve got to be willing to follow through on the things you put down. The novelty will be a fun addition to your life.

Portions of this post originally appeared on Imperfect Spirituality.

Photo by: Stock.xchng

About the Author

Polly Campbell

Polly Campbell speaks and writes about success, resilience, and personal development. She is the author of Imperfect Spirituality.

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