"It is a happy talent to know how to play," Ralph Waldo Emerson once said.
He was exactly right. According to my master's research, playfulness isn't a trait -- it's a skill. But due to the ubiquity of technology (read: passive entertainment) and high-achieving childhoods, many young adults have yet to develop their leisure skills.
The fact that they're making less money and are more likely to have debt than ever doesn't help.
After all, we know that money makes it easier to be happy, and people with more money tend to be happier. It's common sense, isn't it? The more money you have, the less financial stress, and the more conveniences you can afford. Instead of spending Saturday morning cleaning your house, you can go abalone diving or something.
The good news is, your debt won't last forever. And, eventually, you're going to start making more money.
But in the meantime... how do you make sure you're living, and not just surviving?
I have a few suggestions. :)
1. Practice being mindful.
In Playfulness Isn't a Trait. It's a Skill. And If You're a Millennial, You Probably Never Learned to Play, I shared some of the science and psychology behind playfulness, as well as advice for becoming more playful. Mindfulness is one of the most important points.
To quote the post:
Playful people look at the world with big, excited eyes. They see things -- resources, people, opportunities, etc. -- that other people don't. Next time you're waiting for something -- a bus, a light to change, or just to get to the front of a line -- open your eyes.
Is there anything around you that you might like to play with now? Or something you might want to come back to later? Is there someone smiling at you? A cute puppy? A tree (or wall, or bridge, or rope, or person) you could climb? Is there something there that's funny? Is there a flyer for a meetup, a party, a club, or a dance lesson?
I have long since lost track of the good things that have happened to me because I am always looking for opportunities to play. Read more >
In just the last week, the time has flown! I've had so many unexpected mini-adventures -- in a large part because I am thoughtful and mindful about opportunities around me. Which is why pretty much all of the following things happened:
2. Tried Class Pass - 4 Classes for $4.
While mindlessly scrolling down my newsfeed one night, I saw this ad -- and I clicked it.
Yeah, $4 is more than $0... but it’s still pretty cheap. It's cheaper than a beer. It's cheaper than a latte. And I got so much more than a beer or latte's worth of entertainment out of it!
First, I signed up for two pole dancing classes. Which was so out of character. I’m definitely not sexy or raunchy or anything at all. As I told one of my friends before my first class, "If we were bras, you would be the add-two-cups Bombshell:
And I would be, like, the wireless t-shirt bra."
But whatever. I can step out of my comfort zone a little to try something new.
And I'm so glad. It ended up being super fun... and there wasn't, like, pressure to be sexy or anything. If all you want to do is learn cool tricks, that's all you have to do.
I also took a yoga class (I've been having trouble with my calf all summer, and I thought it would totally help!), and a standup paddle boarding class.
3. Climbed trees.
No, like seriously. I spent one afternoon hanging out with friends, under and in a tree. Conversation is free. Trees are free. It was super fun.
A couple of tips to enhance your adventure:
- Short shorts are adorable -- but if you find yourself in a position where you have to slide a little, the bark will scratch your skin.
- I wore shoes this time, but normally I don't. I prefer to be able to feel the tree, and feel like I have a better grip when I'm barefoot.
- If you're reaching up to a branch directly above you -- or if someone's climbing directly above you -- exercise caution when you look up! It sucks to get bark and dust in your eyes.
- Don't fall. (Don't worry -- you won't!)
4. Made music.
Granted, I already have a guitar, and if I didn't, buying one would cost money. But! Since I love making music and writing songs, it was an incredible investment for me. A nice instrument is going to cost a lot... but you can buy a basic, cheap, beginner guitar for as little as $30. Check these out:
41" Inch Full Size Sunburst Handcrafted Steel String Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar & DirectlyCheap(TM) Translucent Blue Medium Guitar Pick (PRO-1 Series), $59.95.
For the cost of a couple of drinks or movie tickets, you can have a musical instrument that you can play every night and take with you everywhere.
This is a good investment.
Because once you've paid the “startup cost,” it costs nothing. You can learn everything you need to know for free online. Try Youtube or Google. Next thing you know, you'll be jamming alone, rocking out with friends... and maybe even writing your own songs!
Here's one of mine. It's about boys. And basketball.
5. Played ball.
Sure, women rarely play ball sports after high school. But I do. Basketball is one of the best possible ways (for me) to spend my time. Having a gym membership or paying to use a gym is a good investment, because you can't put a price on your health or happiness.
But if you like sports, there are plenty of opportunities to play for free. Google or ask around about pickup frisbee, basketball, soccer, or volleyball games.
I’m passionate about writing. I love sharing my knowledge, my confidence, and my psychology research on TheHappyTalent.com. I love giving my thoughts and opinions about the books I’ve been reading (or listening to for free on Hoopla Digital!).
This week was especially productive, in terms of both how many posts I published… and how many panties I got all up in a bunch. Check it out — I did all this in one week:
Additionally, I published two new posts on my business website:
Technically, this was for work — I’ve grown my business to include students from around the world through content marketing. But I also had fun doing it. Because I love writing. Writing is fun.
The great thing about blogging is that, eventually, you’ll have an audience and you’ll start getting free products and experiences. I’ve enjoyed perks from surf camps and oxcart rides to books to Arduinos to sports gear.
In fact! I built my first ever electronics project last month -- a Mood Lamp! -- with a starter kit from Creation Crate. It was a super fun project, and I got to write code and build with this cool girl who lives next door!
Pretty cool, huh?
Keep it up, and you’ll start making a small (or large!) supplemental income. Even when I’m not blogging much because I’m swamped with work or traveling, I continue to make some passive income — which is awesome! More money is always better.
I love walking. And it’s kind of a magic miracle cure for sadness. Like, seriously, whether you’re depressed or you’ve recently had your heart broken… the moment you leave the house, you start feeling better. It’s just a matter of getting yourself out the door and noticing everyday miracles, from clouds and birds to old basketball hoops:
Learning about the plants, animals and clouds in my environment have made walks even more thrilling -- I love identifying new flowers or discovering a plum tree or an artichoke plant.
This kind of presence and mindfulness is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote, "Mindfulness and miracles can take my breath away!" in my song, Behind a Mercedes:
Plus, it’s a great way to make friends and acquaintances. Last week, I made a new friend while walking my dog around Lake Lagunita. This week, we went for a hike together, and he got to witness my dog murdering a small rodent:
It's the circle of life, man.
Later, we also went to the gym together.
That, apparently, is my "Tough Guy" face...
I also won a bet with him, about whether The Magicians is about college students or graduate students. So now he owes me 2,000 burritos. (He was pretty sure he was going to win... but then again, so was I.)
Yesterday, I met another new person while walking. We ended up talking for about an hour — mostly about crew, a sport we both did as undergrads. He’s cool enough that I’d like to hang again… but he hasn’t accepted my friend request yet, so we will see.
But even beyond the benefits I get from walking (exercise and new friends, mostly)… I just intrinsically love walking. I even wrote a blog post about it. See also: The Christmas Lights Are Down, But You Can Still Do Wind Chime Walks.
And! Ever since I got my FitBark (which has already helped me solve a crime), I’ve been more mindful of my dog’s physical activity, which helps me resist the human ’instinct for idleness”.
8. Made a bonfire.
One night on my way to the gym, I noticed some pallets by a dumpster. (#Mindfulness.) Then, at the gym, I noticed a guy who was wearing a t-shirt that said “Pura Vida” — which my shirt also said. I made a joke about how our shirts matched. Then we talked about the different places we’d visited on our respective trips to Costa Rica.
Soon after, the gym closed… and we decided to make a bonfire.
We each tracked down our weight lifting buddies, and the four of us headed to the dumpster to collect the pallets -- then off to the bonfire pit.
He happened to have two bottles of wine and a travel guitar in his car, and the four of us ended up having an unexpectedly awesome night.
When he dropped his shopping bag and one of the wine bottles broke... we made the best of the situation by (gently) slapping the bag.I am almost certain no broken class was consumed.
9. Went backpacking.
Backpacking, like music making, has some startup costs — you need to buy the gear you need. But once you have it, backpacking is free or cheap.I have gear -- so it's almost wasteful not to use it.
So I invited two friends up to the Emigrant Wilderness, and we did a 2-day, 1-night trip.
Wilderness permit was free. Gas was about $32, and we split it three ways.
So that was my week!
Now, along the same lines of being present and living mindfully is one of my favorite life hacks: Do What You Do When You Travel While You're At Home:
See, most people think that the voyage of discovery consists of finding new landscapes. When they travel, they open their eyes. When they're someplace familiar, they shut them, and the adventure stops.
But here's the truth, in the words of someone much wiser than I am:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust
Translation: Life is only an adventure if you make it one.
I've always been a playful person (it's true what they say: all of psychology research is really psychology me-search), so it's hard for me to understand why so many people will go abroad to have a wonderful adventure. They will put effort into seeing everything and meeting everyone. They'll spend time researching opportunities, sights and activities near them. They'll be spontaneous, excitable and down for anything...
And then come home, fall into a routine and tune out.
Why do a "boring" drive home... when you can literally stop and smell the flowers?
Don’t fall into the trap. Don't fall into a "boring" routine. Reframe the way you think about everyday tasks. That way, you will never need money to have fun.
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About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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