Catherine Price: Serious About Fun

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Don’t Waste Your Life. Savor Every Moment. Live in the Present. 

Culture has a lot of prescriptions for how to live a good life. But what if we don’t know where to start? Writer and researcher Catherine Price started to notice how much time she was spending on her phone and how the habit was sucking joy from her life. Instead, she wanted to learn how to have fun again. What is fun? How do you have it? Can you become a more fun person? Catherine debunks the myths around what it means to have fun—especially when we think we’re too tired, too careworn, or too old—and gives us a little homework to start today.

In this conversation, Kate and Catherine discuss:

  • How to break up with your phone (and why we turn to our phones in the first place)
  • How to create more opportunities for fun in the midst of regular days and too-full lives
  • The simple practice Catherine uses to bring more joy to her days

 

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Watch clips from this conversation, read the full transcript, and access discussion questions by clicking here.

Follow Kate on InstagramFacebook, or X (formerly known as Twitter)—@katecbowler.

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Catherine Price, Kate Bowler

Kate Bowler  00:09

I’m Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens. Our culture has a lot of prescriptions on how to live a good life. And you’ve probably heard them or maybe sat down before, like don’t waste your life, savor every moment, just live in the present. Pretty much everything you can find inside the tin foil of dark chocolates, which I also really enjoy. But I just always want to add like a little asterix to these well worn platitudes. Because they do say something mostly true, don’t they? That there is a way of living with intention that might remind us to search for beauty and joy in the middle of the ordinary and boring, and sometimes very painful moments too. But what if we don’t know where to start? Award winning science journalist Catherine Price started to notice how much time she was spending on her phone. And that’s very familiar to my heart, and really how that habit was taking from her instead of adding to the richness of her life. So instead of reaching for her phone, she decided she wanted to learn how to have fun again. She writes about this in her book, The Power of five and I got to sit down with her to ask her well, where do we even begin if we want to scroll less, and have a little more fun instead. Catherine debunks the myths around what it means to have more fun, especially when we think that we’re too tired to careworn, too old. And she gives us a little homework that we might want to start today. You are going to love this one. It’s fun, you know, it’s where it is.

 

Kate Bowler  03:44

Hey, thanks so much for doing this.

 

Catherine Price  03:45

Thank you for having me.

 

Kate Bowler  03:47

Tell me about your awakening where you’re like, well, I could live my life kind of on autopilot, maybe forever.

 

Catherine Price  03:55

Basically, in around 2016, when my daughter was about a year old, maybe even less than a year old. I had these moments when I would be up late at night feeding her and would notice that she was looking at me and then I was looking down at my phone. And I have a background in mindfulness and as I said, I am kind of like, existentially consumed so I saw that and I was like, This is not how I want to be living my life and it’s not the image I want my daughter to have of a human relationship. And I have a background as a science journalist so I also was aware that you know, baby’s eyes only focus 10 or 12 inches in front of their faces, which is thought to be specifically so they can bond with their caregiver. So I also freaked out on the level of what am I doing to my daughter’s perception of her ability to bond with me as a parent. So I freaked out on a number of levels, which is also a theme in my life and and I also really like to try to turn my personal issues into professional projects whenever possible. And I realized that I had that feeling. Yeah, right so I was like, well, what I’m not the only person struggling with this, but that was 2016 so there were some books that talked about the potential problems of excess screentime or the the, you know, addictive design, frankly, of these apps, but there wasn’t a plan to help solve the problem so that’s what led me to write how to break up with your phone, and then.

 

Kate Bowler  05:14

And how to break up with your phone is a very fun. Like, if you can describe it intervention is fun. But that book felt to me I saw it on the shelf, and I felt accused by it.

 

Catherine Price  05:28

Oh, good this was my intention.

 

Kate Bowler  05:29

Because I think one of the first pages is like, check your whatever and just see, you know, take a guess on how many hours you might spend on your actually spend on your phone. Deal. It was like, eight, eight, it was just a wild number.

 

Catherine Price  05:45

Yeah, well, you’re not alone so that’s the that’s the heartening part. But then it’s also super depressing, because you’re not alone.

 

Kate Bowler  05:51

Yeah, I think what’s so nice about that tone is so many of us don’t realize how much are is so radically shifted how we know how to pay attention that we can’t tell them we’ve fallen into like a tar pit. And I think especially when we haven’t got something big going on our life, or we’re toggling constantly between all sorts of responsibilities. People with high stress, emotional or otherwise lives, can probably find themselves sucked into every spare moment in between into this device, which is designed to suck in every and then maybe not feel the sort of like aliveness that they’re looking for?

 

Catherine Price  06:35

Well, I think it’s interesting to kind of reflect on why we reach for our phones. So I came up with this exercise that helps me and might help other people called www and it’s short for what for why now and what else? And so the idea is that if you notice that you’re reaching for your phone, and actually recommend people put a rubber band or a hairdryer on their phone, so there’s some prompt that makes you actually notice you picked up your phone because it’s so often on autopilot. But you ask yourself, like, what for what was the purpose? So did you actually have a real purpose? Were you specifically looking for something or trying to communicate with someone most of the time, we probably won’t really be one. And then you ask yourself, well, why now? And so maybe there is like a time sensitive reason but most often, it’s an emotional reason. It’s going to what you’re saying so it’s like, okay, well, am I feeling kind of lonely? Or am I trying to I feel a little anxious like, for example, are you at a conference or a festival where there’s all these people and you don’t know what to say, and so you just reach for your phone almost as a security blanket or like a worry stone kind of thing.

 

Kate Bowler  07:27

I had this very weird moment where I was almost, I don’t want to say murdered, but like capsized by like a giant. I’m only thinking of a funny word, sea flap flap? […]

 

Catherine Price  07:40

[…] was like, really.

 

Kate Bowler  07:43

Really terrifyingly large Stingray, and almost capsized and I’m still in the middle of like, a bay just having recently evaded this, this horrifying feeling of like, oh my gosh, am I gonna go into the water with this Stingray? And then I found myself five minutes later, just like scrolling I read I looked over at my old man, friend, and I was like, I’m so sorry I just had to check something. He’s like, no, you’re self soothing.

 

Catherine Price  08:10

Oh, that’s so funny. Yeah, like, that’s exactly what I’m doing. So you had to put a rubber band around your phone, or you can just bring along your old man friend to have be like, no, you’re emotionally compensating for something right now.

 

Kate Bowler  08:19

You felt terrified about this stingray.

 

Catherine Price  08:21

Exactly Instagram […]

 

Kate Bowler  08:22

Important to you that you check to see.

 

Catherine Price  08:24

Yeah, train us doing, exactly.

 

Kate Bowler  08:26

Exactly.

 

Catherine Price  08:27

So yeah, so there’s normally an emotional component to that. Then the next step is ask yourself like what else? So what for? Why now? What else? Like what else could you do either to get that same reward? So is there another way you could have self soothe? Like, maybe give your old man friend a hug or something? I don’t know.

 

Kate Bowler  08:40

Or across kayaks.

 

Catherine Price  08:43

Across exactly. Or, you know, could you have actually done nothing? So I’ve actually had a number of times where I’ve been in like a rideshare or whatever and I’m looking out the window this has happened twice. And the person is actually asked me if I’m okay, because I’m just looking out the window.

 

Kate Bowler  08:59

They’re like, are you here? It’s like a psychotic episode, just to not be part of the attention economy.

 

Catherine Price  09:06

Exactly I’m like, no, I’m fine I’m just a cloud.

 

Kate Bowler  09:09

Are you okay?  Are you okay? Am I taking you? That is so funny.

 

Catherine Price  09:14

Yeah.

 

Kate Bowler  09:14

I’m just looking at scenery. I’m just noticing details of the life that we are living.

 

Catherine Price  09:20

Exactly, so and then you might you know, at the end of that process, I always like to say you might also decide you actually do want to be looking at your phone in that moment and that’s fine. So like, you don’t want to beat yourself up over that, it’s just making sure that it’s intentional. So but I do think that that process is a way to kind of make sure that you’re not just getting sucked into your phone and then not either appreciating what’s around you or dealing with what’s around you or what’s happening because it is I think we do use our phones as drugs. If you think about like what a drug is for it’s often to alleviate suffering in some way, or to take away pain. And we do that all the time with our phones.

 

Kate Bowler  09:57

Because I normally assume I’m incredibly busy, because the feeling is that I’m doing all these things. But I think one of the fears I have is that if I was less busy, I would have to create the possibility of doing other things that are that aren’t work. And not just like, email, but laundry or, you know, just I would find other little, being useful things to do, I would wash more dishes, I would come up with a new project that does not bring me joy, and you have like a very Najee, like, attitude about, hey, if we decided that we were going to clear out a little space, we might find that there could be a little more possibility.

 

Catherine Price  10:43

To not just do laundry.

 

Kate Bowler  10:46

To be to be fun.

 

Catherine Price  10:48

Yes, well, I think that we need to just speak a bit about our busyness, we just do make ourselves so busy so a lot of us do have legitimate things we need to get done, whether it’s for work or family or just self care. So I don’t I don’t want to and obviously a lot of your listeners, I mean, we are caring for other people, so those are big responsibilities that come with a lot of emotions with them. But we also do fabricate busyness, I think sometimes to kind of cover up an emptiness maybe we feel inside for ourselves. And almost again is like an anxiety management thing was kind of interesting, because it makes you anxious to be so busy, but we keep ourselves really busy. And we totally will just try to find other tasks to do if you take other things away. It’s like whack a mole of like little tasks. So for me, what happened is that my husband and I were doing this practice, which I really recommend people try of taking a digital Sabbath. So on Friday night to Saturday night, we were taking breaks from all technology. And that process is really interesting. If when you first turn everything off, you kind of freak out because your brain is so used to these little dopamine hits, that suddenly my brain is like you need to buy everything on Amazon and you have all these things on your to do list. You have all these emails, you need to answer how can you possibly turn off your phone. And so I tried to cope with that by just writing them down on a piece of paper. And you know, we lit a candle, we tried to make a ritual out of it, which I think is also really nice it’s like creating a emotional boundary in terms of time, and intentionality. But then my experience, and then the experience I’ve heard from so many other people is by Saturday, you kind of feel like oh, actually, time is slowing down. You know, because you we dissociate on screens, it actually really does make our perception of time speed up. So time slows down and there’s just all these opportunities in this sense of calm that comes from not being on call all the time to our devices. So that’s really nice. So we were doing this digital Sabbath, and I was sitting on the couch in our living room and our daughter was napping, she was probably like one and then my husband was out. And I was thinking to myself, I’m supposed to be so happy as a new parent to have this like hour to do anything with. And instead I was like I don’t actually know what to do because normally I would just look at whatever was on my phone. So I actually had a freakout in that moment. But that also inspired me to ask myself this question that I’ve been asking people who helped me with how to break with your phone. And that was what something you say you want to do but you suppose we don’t have time for because I realized.

 

Kate Bowler  13:02

It’s something you say you want to do.

 

Catherine Price  13:05

But suppose we don’t have time for.

 

Kate Bowler  13:06

Definitely are pretty sure that you don’t  have time for it. When you’ve asked people that what kind of answers do they give you?

 

Catherine Price  13:14

Well, it’s a lot of things that people used to really enjoy, like hobbies they really used to enjoy. But it really speaks to the fact that we we keep ourselves so busy, we think we don’t have time for these things but then if you add up the hours that you spend on your phone, and of course some of that time is like useful or necessary or enjoyable. So I’m not saying that downtime is all bad but there’s certainly times when you’re just Mindlessly scrolling that isn’t time well spent so.

 

Kate Bowler  13:38

You describe all the the like fake the proxies, for fun, all the fake fun, we think we’re having fun, but these are not high quality experiences.

 

Catherine Price  13:47

Exactly so there’s a lot of stuff that’s designed to make us feel I mean, just give us quick hits of pleasure in the form of kind of these jolts of dopamine. But that doesn’t ultimately leave us feeling fulfilled kind of like the junk food of fun so.

 

Kate Bowler  14:00

We give some examples of.

 

Catherine Price  14:01

Sure I’m gonna live biggest one is mindlessly scrolling through social media. So if you’re like, okay, I’ve got a little, you know, 20 minutes before bedtime? And what could I do? I mean, often that case, you’re also pretty tired, right? So you’re not gonna like, that’s when you shouldn’t decide, like, I’m gonna learn a new language like, you know, from like, 9:45 to 10. But a lot of times people will like scroll through social media, and then they feel kind of just, like, exhausted or they just mess up their sleep, or people will watch TV or Netflix or whatever, beyond the point of enjoyment. So you know, a certain amount is, is fine. And if you really love the show, that’s great. But if you end up just letting things play on autoplay, because you’re too tired to even find the remote control, and it’s all, you know, programmed to just autoplay, like that’s anything that makes you feel gross after you do it. But that’s for leisure. That’s probably fake fun. So the answer that I had to the question of what do I supposedly not have time for my answer was learning the guitar because I played piano for my whole life. And my grandmother gave me money for a guitar in college and it was really close to her, but I’ve never learned to play it really. And so that inspired me to sign up for a guitar class. And long story short, when I was in this class, I just was having this feeling of energy and just feeling alive and this joyfulness and this feeling of letting go. And I got really interested in what that feeling was. And then I had one of those, like, stupid revelations were like, what is this feeling? Like totally intellectualizing it. And then I was like, oh, I’m having fun.

 

Kate Bowler  15:27

Wait a minute sneaking feeling.

 

Catherine Price  15:30

Yeah, there’s a word that describes this. And just as you know, I got interested in writing how to pick up your phone, because I was trying to solve my own problem with my own phone. I was like, oh, I want to have more fun, this feeling that feels really good. I want to try to figure out what it is what research has been done on it, and how you can have more of it. So that led me to write the power of fun. But I ended up concluding that you know, what I think of as true fun is totally different from that fake fun, that kind of junk food of fun that we get when we engage in things like Mindlessly scrolling through social media.

 

Kate Bowler  16:01

We’ll be right back.

 

Kate Bowler  16:14

I like the moral seriousness with which you take fun because I do feel convinced that especially when we get too much into like a pattern of just surviving and just getting through the day, I’m just checking off all the boxes, even if in seasons that’s entirely what’s necessary. It really is like watching your life turn to greyscale, and I’ve seen a lot of people and sometimes it happens in seasons like grief and and then you hear absolute and then I love hearing stories about how they got out of it like how they sort of started painting in the colors of their life. And sometimes it’s like man makes birdhouse, man decides I could make another birdhouse.

 

Catherine Price  19:54

Right, and decides to make many birdhouses, right.

 

Kate Bowler  19:57

But like slowly along the way it starts to figure out afeeling that you’re describing and sort of really thinking about your argument about what if we were like putting aside the, if the fake fund makes us feel not satisfied, not quite, doesn’t have like, an aliveness and a satisfaction maybe makes us feel a little bit depleted or miss them like, then what are some descriptors for fun? Because I do think that if people have had a hard time, they might not even know what to look for if you’re like, because you’re you because you’re not saying like, well just go have fun. You’re like, no, no, it’s actually kind of hard to figure out like the worst advice ever feels like.

 

Catherine Price  20:37

Right.

 

Kate Bowler  20:37

So how does it feel? Do you think?

 

Catherine Price  20:39

Well, I think it’s important to define it, right so I created a survey for people on my mailing list and asked people to send in stories of past fun moments that stood out to them as having been quote, so fun, because they didn’t really have a better way of describing how fun so fun. The soul was capitalized in the Google Form. And I ended up with 1000s of these stories and through the process of this survey asked people to share these stories, which as a side note, this was happening. The first summer of lockdown for the pandemics was a really interesting time.

 

Kate Bowler  21:07

It’s a very unfun time.

 

Catherine Price  21:08

It was not the funnest time, yeah.

 

Kate Bowler  21:11

Historians will say. It was not a bad time on this type of mass death was.

 

Catherine Price  21:16

Not a fun and like not being able to see anybody so it was like, totally isolated, like sending out Google Forms but anyway, in my Google Form, I was like, tell me about, you know, the stories of past fun. And then tell me what you think your definition of fun is. And then several pages in, I was like, okay, here’s my proposed definition, like, what do you think? And my proposed definition, which people did agree with, which was really cool was that true fun, as I think of it happens when we have a confluence of three states, and those are playfulness, connection, and flow. And so adults tend to really react strongly to playfulness, especially adults who have got serious careers, like emotionally heavy careers. So I want to stress it doesn’t mean that you have to play games. Like I’m not saying go out and play charades or do something like that. It doesn’t even necessarily mean silliness.

 

Kate Bowler  21:57

Hopscotch, for everyone.

 

Catherine Price  21:58

For everyone exxactly. It means just having a light hearted attitude and being able to find things to laugh about, and not taking yourself too seriously. So that to me, is very different from like, forcing people to play, you know, Jenga or something. And then connection, it was really interesting, because even though some people did describe stories, where they were alone, and they had fun, most of the stories had another person in them, sometimes dogs, but mostly people. And I also asked people did anything about the stories you just told me surprise you. That I don’t even know why I asked that question. But it was really interesting, because a number of people said something along the lines of like, I’m an introvert. But all the stories I just told you how to other people in them, so it made me think it’s not so much about whether introverts like people or not, it’s more just like, what kind of interaction are you going to find fun in a bigger group or a smaller group. And then flow is the state when you’re totally engaged in presence so the, I don’t know, we think of it as being in the zone. So like an athlete playing a game, a musician playing music, those are examples but even when you’re engrossed in a conversation or work project, but the big thing about flow is you have to be completely present and actively engaged. So it’s destroyed by distraction and it’s not the same as the zoned out feeling you get when you lose track of time, because you’ve been watching a TV show for like seven hours, it’s really active so each of those are great on their own but that center of the Venn diagram is what I think of as fun. And so the thing I really love about that is going back to what you were asking, is that I think we tend to think about fun as something that happens separately from quote, real life or like our normal life or takes a lot of money, or you need to have a lot of time. But if you think about it, instead, as being the feeling that comes from these three states, the playfulness, the connection and flow, you can start to realize that you’re probably already having fun little moments of fun, like little like a passing interaction with someone on the street. Maybe that was a moment of fun. And then you can also use that as a way to engineer more fun by just trying to figure out are there any ways I can build more playfulness or connection or flow into my life? Any of those is going to be great. And then if all three happened at once, you will actually experience fun.

 

Kate Bowler  23:50

Yeah, you asked like a little diagnostic kind of questionnaire, like trying to think of the last couple times that you had fun. And I really I think that’s such a great exercise. I, I did it I did your did your inventory, and my husband did it. And he’s very introverted and so he he also had the argument before where he was like, well, I just would prefer to be by myself. And then when he did his, like, one or so questions, one of them was like one of the, nicknamed the last three times you really really felt like, connected, playful and in that kind of flow place. And for him, it was the last time he played pickleball.

 

Catherine Price  24:33

Pickleball is a huge thing. It really just didn’t.

 

Kate Bowler  24:37

Even have to be friend friends, you know. And that was really encouraging for him equals your broken was like, I think I might be kind of good at having fun.

 

Catherine Price  24:45

Oh, my God.

 

Kate Bowler  24:45

I was like, wow.

 

Catherine Price  24:46

That makes me very happy, surprising and exciting.

 

Kate Bowler  24:48

I had a harder time because I couldn’t, I love people. But I couldn’t exactly figure out something that I hadn’t also just made into gave a project immediately or because it is hard to have the like. So the ones I came up with were last week I got to be in I got to officiate somebody’s wedding. She’s actually a past podcast guest.

 

Catherine Price  25:12

Oh my God.

 

Kate Bowler  25:12

Later on just at any time, but.

 

Catherine Price  25:16

That’s really good to know.

 

Kate Bowler  25:17

Yeah, I mean, I strongly encourage you to stay in the minutes you have, but also, just like any other rituals that come up.

 

Catherine Price  25:25

Bell renewal.

 

Kate Bowler  25:27

I just sent a weird email in here.

 

Catherine Price  25:30

You may not remember me, but I really like to be part of your future and.

 

Kate Bowler  25:32

But she’s great Christy Watson, she’s just she’s a nurse and amazing person. But her wedding was so ridiculous. And I thought I’ll just be so nervous I’ve never officiated a wedding. There’s a lot of people here, it was an England I don’t think I’m good with formal people to be honest. Like, not exactly my strong suit. But it went from, like the surreal pneus of watching to people be so in love that it creates these ripple effects, everywhere. And then meeting their amazing friends who were all ridiculous, and fantastic. And then the dancing, and like, a lot of intergenerational dancing. I find when like the unlikely people come out on the dance floor, and they’re just gonna get it done, it slays me and so I’m not a great dancer, but I find I’m like crying I’m laughing so hard because I also just really liked when someone attempts a joke dancing based on 1980s hip hop. So oh, my gosh, yeah, I was like, done and then I when I looked at my watch, I was like, Oh, I gotta get on a plane in a couple hours, and I was like, Oh, fun. And the last time was because I was like, well, crap, that was amazing and I can’t replicate that. I can’t be like Tuesday time to do another vowel. But I was hanging out with my best friend’s two little kids and we were in the pool and making up and it just kind of slowly became like, we’re throwing a ball. Now we’re pretending every throw has to have a different Taylor Swift song. Wait, now we’re adding a dance. And then it was like, an hour and a half later. And I was like, yeah. Weird playfulness, just messing around. Somebody else, their energy and then kind of just sort of not feeling quite so uptight about like, when are we getting out of the pool? Has everyone eaten? That kind of feeling.

 

Catherine Price  27:21

Yeah, that feeling of freedom. I mean, also, that story exemplifies how you don’t need to spend money to have fun and you don’t need to go anywhere, because you just hit a ball. I mean, you literally and metaphorically, you had a ball shaped balls are very fun, which sounds weird to say but it’s like I actually put that in my book because I had a really fun time that that pandemic summer, actually, in an pool outside like just trying to catch balls, like, well, we jumped off the diving board, you know, that’s a quick tip to fun is do stuff with with balls. But I’m actually I’m juggling balls in my bag here, right now.

 

Kate Bowler  27:54

Exhibit A, exhibit.

 

Catherine Price  27:55

A exactly, yes. But um, but no, I think that. Well, first of all, hearing you talk about fun, it’s very energizing to me. And I think that’s one of the beautiful things about fun is just hearing other people talk about fun, is delightful. And energizing. You lit up when you were talking about it. And actually when I asked my daughter when she was about five, I asked her I don’t know why I asked her this. But I said what color do you think fun would be the choose sunshine? That was like, oh, my God is like, Oh, it is give me a tissue but I think it’s so true. So I would say that if any listeners like trying to figure out like when trying to figure that figure out what was fun. I mean, laughter is a great sign that you’re having fun, but also if you just feel like a sunshiny kind of energy but it doesn’t always happen have to happen in situations you might think of as being fun, like a wedding dance party, or even just playing in the pool. Like you could make arguments that those sound kind of like fun things but if you’re interviewing someone for your podcast, like I would think there’s moments of like, I mean, right now I’m having fun, right? Like to when you’re laughing with someone having an engaged conversation, but you’re also doing your work. Yeah, you know, so that can happen there. I also want to emphasize that fun is a feeling and it’s not an activity, which is something I think we get wrong about it all the time, because we typically think that like if you if you ask someone what’s fun, a lot of time, they’ll give you a list of activities, they find fun and Pickleball is often one of those activities. But anyway, you know, I’m sure even your husband would say like some pickleball games are more fun than others, even though it’s the exact same game. It’s like equally kind of absurd each time, right? It is the pickleball. But like there’s or if you like, another thing like dancing, right? There’s some weddings, where it’s like really fun to dance and other ones where you’re like, well, that was okay, but it felt a little forced. So I really like to emphasize that because it kind of takes the pressure off people from trying to shoehorn in more activities to their schedule, and recognize that no, no, no, you’re just trying to find put yourself in more situations where you’re likely to have this feeling. And I think there’s two ways to do it one way you can kind of like engineer that by actually figuring out the things that are likely to lead to that feeling and then making time for them. And then the other way is to kind of deliberately try to make space in your life for more serendipity because you also have a serendipitous aspect of fun where you can’t always predict it.

 

Kate Bowler  29:56

Yeah, just happens to have been to me a fair bit in the hospital when I’m like just supposed to be having the worst day ever, even like the last time I got bloodwork I don’t know what started it but we started going on about like somebody’s somebody always has a crazy cousin. And like, he just he will it became like a really insanely elaborate him pretending to be his cousin asking me for money. And it was with a phlebotomist. I was playing with a football, was like switching between accents. I couldn’t stop laughing as it was just I loved. I love knowing that somewhere out there, someone’s always really annoyed at someone in their extended family.

 

Catherine Price  30:40

Right but yeah, what I think about that is I remember a story a friend of mine told me about her own experience with fun, her father had had a stroke, and she really close with her father. And he was his face was paralyzed, and I think part of his body as well. But she was telling me the story about visiting him in the hospital, and about how she was trying to help them eat, and you know, half of his face to pluralize so the food is kind of dribbling out of his face, and he could still move his eyes some and it was like, obviously awful and sad. But they made eye contact and kind of had this moment of recognizing how absurd this was. And they both started laughing, we were pretty much just he could like they had this moment. And she herself said she was like, it sounds like such a strange example. But that moment was a moment of fun with my father, like we connected with who he actually was, you know, before the stroke. And so I guess I just point that out that even in terrible moments there, you can, it doesn’t need to be like, again, silly, or it doesn’t need to be. Yeah, all pickleball, just any moment when you’re really, really connected with someone, and you just share a smile. You know, when you’re both totally present, I would count that as a moment of fun. And I think that speaks to how healing it can be. And, you know, I think we write off fun as frivolous, which I think is really important to challenge as a notion. Because in reality, I mean, fun is energizing as we were just talking about, that it also does all sorts of like wonderful things in terms of uniting us, like really feeling connected to another person. And then you see them as a person instead of as, you know, a political party or race or whatever might divide you, you actually are humans together and like that’s so amazing. And I also think it’s interesting because we’re so obsessed with happiness as a culture, right? And that first of all, so a morphus Like what is happiness? But what I started to realize in the stories people give me about fun is that every moment in which we have fun is a moment in micro moment of happiness. And so for me personally, I was like, Oh, well maybe that means instead of trying to be happy, whatever that means, if I can just try to have more fun and by that I mean focus on playfulness, connection and flow I’ll be happier without having to torture myself over this state.

 

Kate Bowler  32:38

Yes, this pretend equilibrium that proves that we achieved the bonus level of.

 

Catherine Price  32:43

Excatly.

 

Kate Bowler  32:44

Being a person.

 

Catherine Price  32:45

Yeah.

 

Kate Bowler  32:54

We’ll be right back

 

Kate Bowler  35:08

Sounds like a really, I just really liked what you just said about if you’re not just stuck on this, like happiness paradigm that we’re supposed to that the best part of the the ideal goal is to crowd every single emotion into only one quadrant. Like contentedness, and a plastic smile. But that, like if we introduce more deliberate space for fun that there can be more of a dynamic relationship in our lives between like, okay, now I’m doing the hard thing. And in the heart thing, I can notice the moments that are lovely and hilarious, but mostly hard. Because I think just finding reasons to be joyful in that way is it I think it is hard, especially when you like, you settle into the idea that like, I’m just not the kind of person who does that. And I’ve wonder if maybe we could go over a couple of those arguments, because I’m just thinking, if I don’t have a lot of fun in my life, then I might want to say like, well, that’s just not my personality. Catherine, you’re not just a person.

 

Catherine Price  36:17

And you’re a fun person.

 

Kate Bowler  36:18

And I’m not a fun person.

 

Catherine Price  36:19

I don’t always feel like a fun person. And one of the questions I asked people in the survey that I did actually was about fun people, quote, unquote, fun people and I said, described to me a couple of people who are fun people, quote, unquote, in your life, and then what makes them fun? Think we typically think about the fun people as being these extroverted kind of class clown types. Cody was a guy named Cody, hilarious, hilarious, Cody. That’s what they call him. But what was so interesting is there were some people like that, but a lot a lot of people described, quote, unquote, fun people, as being people who made you feel comfortable to be around, or who always made people feel included or comfortable in their presence, or people who themselves laughed easily. So they weren’t making the jokes, but they actually just laughed at stuff cute. And you know, it was stuff that introverts can do just as well as and maybe even better than extroverts in some ways. And I thought that was really interesting, because I think we need to challenge the notion of what a quote unquote fun person is, you can be fun in a number of ways. I’d say if there’s anything that prevents people from being a fun person, it’s like criticizing people or letting your own inner critic be really loud, or, you know, always saying no, we’re always trying to push back on people, instead of going with the flow like those will be fun killers. But the other thing I thought was interesting is that the descriptors of quote, fun people, none of them were like genetic, it was all behaviors that we all could adjust. So if you are someone who typically is really critical of other people, that’s something you can work on, you know, and you might be really surprised at how much better it feels and how much more positive energy and positive interactions you have if you don’t do that.

 

Kate Bowler  37:58

Yeah, I do feel very inspired when I see my nine year old son interact with the world because I know that you’re you’re not saying that. Playfulness is the same as the skills that every kid has. But beyond he’s so good and making everything fun. Like I was doing some weird physical therapy exercise for one of my many debilitating health problems. I’m like lying in this weird position. And he like, like, the way he walks like he’s got this like cute little jaunty walk. And he just like zips in the door, he like, takes out one of the physical therapy pillows, which has like a little roping slips around his back. Like he’s like a sad little orphan setting off from an abusive home, like a little stick over his shoulder. And he’s like, what’s our next adventure? And like, completely unprompted? But it’s such a nice, we started calling it noodling, but just like the feeling that we could try to start something, and then it could just sort of become something else. But then we would do it at the same time. Sometimes it starts as like drawing while listening to an audiobook about pirates, a lot of like piracy and a lot of theft on the high seas. And then maybe you become something else. And then it became like playing the Nintendo song and I’m Donkey Kong are now and then I’m just throwing stuff at him. Most of our time together ends with me, like aiming for his head, but there is he’s like.

 

Catherine Price  39:22

Hence the escape tendencies and who’s just like, I’ll just take this one physical therapy who was.

 

Kate Bowler  39:30

That lady,  I just, I don’t know, I think that he’s, he’s got this ability to stay in that stretchy Taffy place with time. Maybe because he doesn’t literally know what time it is.

 

Catherine Price  39:46

Time blindness can be very helpful when it comes to, to fun. But I think also kids are just less distracted. It’s one of the I mean, certainly their minds are more open and they’re more into imagination. Like I am not that kind of guy because I’ve got a whole other thing where it’s kind of like what are your fun factors? What are the characteristics of things that make things fun for you? And one of them is like imagination or you know, some just examples like, are the experiences that you find fun? And is there often an element of like physical activity involved or nature or music or imaginative play or games? You know, we’re like, what style of groups do you like you can kind of start to tease this out so you can better understand why certain things are not fun for you. And then also orchestrate more things that are fun for you so I’m really bad when shouldn’t say that’s very such self judgmental, but I do not enjoy imaginative play. Like I would appreciate, you know, your son doing that. But then the next step where I’m supposed to then be my, you know.

 

Kate Bowler  40:41

I’d be a monkey be a monkey.

 

Catherine Price  40:42

Oh my god. Oh, please don’t make me be a monkey like.

 

Kate Bowler  40:45

You’re not gonna like the second part of this podcast. It’s a really monkey, right over there.

 

Catherine Price  40:50

I’m getting out of here who asked me to be a monkey. But you know, my husband, on the other hand is the keys cut a whole persona called old timey Papa because we’ve got an eight year old and old Tommy Papa like he refers to cars as buffaloes. He’s like why man? So this buffalo dragons buffalo this accent is involved in and I’m actually doing a very good imitation of old timey Papa right now. And my daughter’s friends like they know about old timey Papa like, hey, request old timey Papa. And then I tried to play along just this week. My daughter’s friend goes in and no, you just act normal. He’s old timey pop, and I was like, okay. It was like that is my safer space anyway. What is my point here? Anyway, I think I think my point is like kids, the big thing about kids, I think, is that they’re not distracted, right? Like they actually are present and that’s amazing, because adults obviously have all these responsibilities that come in with adult life. But we also do have all of the distractions on our phones, I think we can do a lot to minimize those, but they’re present like they’re in flow, they’re able to drop into it so much more easily than we are. So you can definitely use that as an invitation to be like, okay, like, maybe, you know, maybe I’m not going to be old timey mama, but like, can I put the phone in the other room and be present with whatever my daughter is doing now and kind of follow her lead. So I think there’s a lot to be learned from kids. But I do want to stress that being playful doesn’t necessarily mean being, quote, childlike or childish, because that’s where I think a lot of adults, including myself are like, yeah.

 

Kate Bowler  42:16

Could you describe your I found it very helpful, because I have this. I’ve really struggled with what what am I supposed to do with my free time your question? Because I don’t have hobbies. And I don’t part is because I’ve always had all these, I have, like, I get repetitive stress injuries because I have a joint disorder so I can’t knit, I get like things I think I would really like doing I can’t do because I immediately get injured, which has been very annoying so I would start and stop a million hobbies. And then like, I can straight up have puzzling injuries, because I can’t lean over and I can’t make that twisty gesture with my hand too long. So I’m like, I’m a delicate little ecosystem. Then I started being like, well, then like, what am I gonna do about trying to be a well rounded person? So I was feeling honestly really discouraged about it, and I really liked your you have this like quadrant of how to think about when you’re getting into the Fun Zone. And when you’re getting into the like, pleasurable hobby zone. I wonder if you could, even though podcasts are notoriously visual medium.

 

Catherine Price  43:22

Yes, it’s very easy to describe a quadrate, exactly.

 

Kate Bowler  43:25

Could you paint that picture?

 

Catherine Price  43:27

Okay, I’m gonna use buckets. Buckets, guys okay so I actually think that, yeah, there’s three buckets, I kind of think of when I consider leisure activities. One is the fake fun, so that’s the stuff we talked about where it’s like the island mindlessly scrolling, kind of like the junk food of your leisure activity, you’re kind of feel compelled to do it, it’s very easy. Maybe it gives you a bit of pleasure when you’re in the midst of it, but then ultimately just kind of feel gross about yourself afterwards. So if self hatred is involved, you’re probably engaging in fake fun. And then you have the true fun on the other side, and the other bucket will say it’s like, yeah, the three buckets, the one on the other side. And the true fun is when you feel this like energizing life giving force. But that, again, can come from all sorts of different experiences. So it doesn’t have to be related to a particular activity, which is probably really helpful if you’re saying you’re like physically limited in some of the activities. And then I think there’s a third bucket that has just enjoyable activities. And that’s where you have some of them are quiet hobbies or like quiet gardening., exactly like gardening, reading.

 

Kate Bowler  44:26

Are those starters, I had to really hear about sourdough starters, most of the pandemic so.

 

Catherine Price  44:32

I just had a conversation about sourdough starters yesterday about how you can make them out of a grape slurry if you grind up grapes. So if you want to hear more about them, I can tell you more about them.

 

Kate Bowler  44:42

Today I hear about about[…] we’re going to move into the monkey time.

 

Catherine Price  44:48

That’s going to be my weapon back if you try that I’m going to tell you all about grape yeast.

 

Kate Bowler  44:53

Because I truly I’ve never not once done this on this podcast, but would you like could you make that homework because you just like just ascribe, someone’s will see that said they’re like, I want to have more fun. I want to figure out a fun magnet. Could you describe that as homework that.

 

Catherine Price  45:07

This is your homework?

 

Kate Bowler  45:08

Yeah.

 

Catherine Price  45:09

Yes, okay so start by putting your phone in another room, getting yourself a notebook or journal, spending 15 minutes or so writing about three to five experiences that stand out from your life as having been fun. Don’t worry about them being deep. And they don’t necessarily have to be like the most fun I know I said, so fun and my questionnaire, but doesn’t need to be that like set your bar low, just moments in which you think you had fun. Don’t worry if it’s hard at first, it probably will get easier as you get into it. And then once you’ve done that, you can look at your own stories and start to try to pull out themes. So you can either pull out these fun magnets so look, if there are particular people who consistently pop up settings that pop up activities that pop up, you can go a step further and think about what I think of as fun factors which are like, what are the characteristics here? And we were touching on this earlier? Like, are a lot of your memories in nature? Do a lot of them involve music? Do a lot of them involve? I don’t know yeah, again, competition or.

 

Kate Bowler  46:06

Yeah, not being real.

 

Catherine Price  46:08

Yeah, control not being in control spontaneity, like, tease that out. And I actually recommend doing this with a loved one, doing it with a friend or your partner or your kid even. Because it can be really interesting to just get a better sense of what brings fun to each person, because you’ll notice areas in which you overlap, and then areas in which you’re very different. And it’s helpful to do this exercise because then you can actually figure out how to use your limited leisure time and to brainstorm some new things you might want to try. And to also know when to give an important person in your life space, like my husband gets a lot of fun out of camping, which I don’t particularly love. And I love sitting in parking lots and playing music with my guitar friends. But anyway, that also recommend getting in the habit before bed if you’re the journaling type, to put your phone away, again, theme, put your phone away. And instead of mindlessly scrolling in those 15 minutes before bed, you can actually just jot down some moments from your day that stand out to you as having had any element of playfulness or connection or flow, anything. And then again, it does not need to be a big thing. And then circling you know, if they had all three, you probably had a moment of fun and I think it’s really important because our brains are naturally going to focus on all the negative things in life and all the things that provoke anxiety and fear because it’s a survival strategy of, you know, we have to be good at noticing threats. So it takes work to focus on the positive, it’s actually not Pollyanna ish at all. It’s really good for us and I think of it as like, noticing those little moments of fun is almost like collecting beads for a necklace. Because it can then look back at and kind of savor it’s a savoring practice that honestly of like savor each of those little memories. But I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t give them a name. And that relates to another practice I really love that I that I’ve already told you about it but the practice of noticing delights, where and this is from a book called The Book of delights, by Ross Gay, who I really hope to meet someday, because he seems like himself to be a delight. But the practice is just to make a point of going about your day and noticing things that spark a tiny bit of delight. And then ideally, when you notice this, you put a finger in the air and you say out loud delight. And I’ve personally found this practice so powerful, I had a bracelet made for myself that says delight. And it’s really wonderful, because then you can get the practice of sharing your delights with other people, either in person, or I actually do this via text message. I think it’s actually a good use of technology where I have to light text chains with all these friends. And every once in a while just get a picture from a friend and it says delight. And that actually does make me feel connected to them in a way that social media never would. And it inspires me to notice more delights. So going back to what you were saying about I mean way earlier in this conversation about just like how do you notice these things in life? How do you enjoy and savor your daily existence, I think delight is a really nice way to do that. That doesn’t feel as kind of heavy as, say, a traditional gratitude practice. And it doesn’t mean I really like the idea of it not having to be deep. You know, and it doesn’t I don’t know, like I’ve tried to do great, I wrote a guided gratitude journal. And I just feel like after a certain point, you’re like, I’m supposed to be grateful for the hot water in my shower. I’m supposed to be grateful I have food to eat on my table. And it comes with this kind of feeling that you can’t be kind of, you know, in a bad mood, with delight I just love like, it’s like that so funny squirrel like, yeah, I’d also say I have a free fun starter kit on my website so people in terms of homework. And it has some prompts people can follow.

 

Kate Bowler  49:19

So we’ll put that in the show notes.

 

Catherine Price  49:20

It’d be lovely.

 

Kate Bowler  49:21

You can go check that out. I really liked the idea of people being as serious about fun as you are. Catherine, you are a complete delight. Thank you so much for doing this with me.

 

Catherine Price  49:32

Thank you this this was I’m gonna put my finger in the air […].

 

Kate Bowler  49:46

What are the telltale signs that we’re not having fun? Might be when we find ourselves in a flat voice responding to a story with, that’s hilarious. Is it is it hilarious? Can we tell our faces now? But life is hard and it is hard. Almost all the time, we might feel like our little pilot light is dimming. And maybe we wonder if it might be snuffed out altogether. But it’s there, my dears, I swear it is. Our little pilot lights just might need a little more oxygen. So let’s bless that part of us that doesn’t just need to survive. We need to laugh and do something dumb and maybe push somebody else into the pool. Okay. So let’s bless that part of ourselves. Well has that are you feeling that pole that tug back toward a part of yourself so easily ignored? yourself at ease yourself in the flow? Find yourself at play. pain or boredom or business has sucked up all the energy. But wait, aren’t you more than a crisis firefighter? Blessed are you when you relax. When you feel young again, when you lay the stress down. Blessed are you when you remember that you used to be pretty good at guitar or piano or actually you’re a terrible singer. But wait, you’re going to reach for the showtunes. lesson are you who put the words fun in the calendar. Even when you have no idea what you might actually do. You are more than a list of things to do. People to love problems to survive. You are a big loud laugh or a quiet to study of wonder. Extroverted or introverted, splashy or contained. May the joy of fun be poured back into your roots. And may you watch yourself come back to life.

 

Kate Bowler  52:19

Hey, hons Advent start soon, if you can believe it. This is all the Christmas startup. So my team has been thinking about you and that really busy, intense, sometimes painful season, and put together a gorgeous Advent guide. And it is totally free and available. Now. You can use it with friends, you can use it by yourself. You can just use it to have a minute but you can access it at Kate bowler.com/advent If Christmas is your kind of thing. And now I just want to say thank you to all the people who make this work possible. Like are absolutely spectacular partners, the Lee endowment and the Duke Endowment. Thank you for their support of storytelling about faith and life and I love love love being able to work with them. Thank you also to my academic home Duke Divinity School and our new podcast network Lemonada where their slogan is when life gives you lemons, listen to Lemonada and a big shout out to my well perfect team. Jessica Ricci. Harriet Putman, Keith Weston, when Hank martham Brenda Thompson hope Anderson, Kristen Bowser, Jeb Burt and Catherine Smith. Thank you and hate. We love hearing from you. So leave us a voicemail and we might even be able to use it on the air. Call us at 919-322-8731 Okay, next week, I’m going to be speaking with Steph catchy doll. She is a man I’ve wanted to talk to her for a long time and this is a good one. She is a gorgeous writer and she has this happ salutely wild and amazing story about hope and miracles and love in the face of difficult circumstances. It is a that one’s a nail biter and in the meantime hey come find me online at Kate see bowler This is Everything Happens with me Kate Bowler.

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