In times like this, it is hard to think about having fun. Fun is an essential aspect of our well-being, but similar to sleep (another critical component of well-being), we deprioritize its importance during times of stress. However, similar to sleep deprivation, when we deprive ourselves of fun, it can have ill-effects on our mental health.
For many, the most crucial step to having fun during a crisis is a mindset shift. There are things we can control and things we cannot. One of the things we have control over is how we spend our time as we are forced to shelter in place. The challenge is when our brains feel like there is a crisis, they go into fight or flight mode. Our minds want to escape from the discomfort, and being "busy" is a way of doing that. Unfortunately, we know from science, this form of escapism can quickly lead to burnout.
Enough of the lecture, how can you have fun? First, schedule it. Make it immutable by mandating your “fun” hours—dedicate time reserved for fun—whatever fun looks like for you. Take the step of putting this time on your calendar so that when it pops up, it is prioritized in a similar fashion to anything else you felt important enough to schedule.
If you have forgotten what fun looks like or find it hard to get creative given the circumstances, here are some suggests:
- With friends and/or family, pick your favorite movie and reenact it. Note, you don’t need to all be in the same location to do this. You can distribute different scenes to people sheltering in place at various locations. If someone in the group has any video editing skills have everyone record their scenes on their smartphones, so you have something fun to look back on when all this is over.
- Set up virtual playdates. Playdates are great for kids, but adults need social connection, too. There is a lot of great free tech for this from Google’s Hangouts Meet to Facebook’s Messenger Kids. The latter has been built specifically for kids and has special parental controls to keep kids safe.
- Take a virtual field trip. There are some amazing choices out there including this one here.
- Take a virtual tour of a Famous Museum here.
- Check out a fantastic at-home workout program like this one here.
- Join Michelle Obama at a virtual dance party here.
- Learn to doodle while being entertained from the talented Mo Willems. Click here.
- Pick your family’s favorite vessel (e.g., pirate ship, Millennium Falcon, etc.) and have your kids imagine they are living in it. Admit the journey will be long, but promise it will be full of adventure. For more fun, make sure to give each other appropriate names. There are a ton of themed name generators out there. Here is a simple one for pirates
- Explore indoor games for kids right here.
- When all else fails, tickle war!
These are just ten ideas to get you started, and now that we've made some suggestions, you likely have some great ideas of your own. Please leave your favorite(s) in the comments section below and help others share in the fun. In times like this, it’s extra-important to spread good cheer. We are all in this together, why not have a little fun along the way.
Mike Rucker, Ph.D., is Active’s Chief Digital Officer as well as the resident “fun” expert. By day, he strategizes innovation. By night, he is working on a book about the science of fun called The Fun Habit being released by Simon and Schuster in 2021.
He and his family are coping with being stuck inside by ridiculously recreating famous movie scenes, such as Risky Business, and Entrapment.