10 Aggravating Things That Keep You From Playing

Bored stiff? Or bored silly?
Published on October 17, 2012 by Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D. in Play in Mind

We’re often faced with situations that bore us stiff and deprive us of play. Here’s my preliminary list of annoying situations—along with an array of antidotes.

1. The Halftime Show. If you’re a football fan and like me, you’ve been watching a Buffalo Bills’ game, you’re likely holding your head and moaning “aieeeee, aiieeeee!” Why not skip the recap, head outside, take a 20-minute walk, toss the Frisbee to the pooch, or go for a bike ride? Rake up a leaf pile for the kids to jump in. This will also keep you away from the barbeque cheese puffs.

2. The 10-minute News Cycle. News might be theater, of sorts, but it’s not the kind you’ll draw any enjoyment from. Sensationalized news cycles connive to push our fear buttons rather than light up our pleasure circuits. Typically, reporters begin with a story about flesh-eating bacteria or airborne Ebola, and then they escalate through reports of dire but remote events like planetary collision or the heat-death of the universe. To keep you watching through the commercials, however, the editors end with something upbeat—usually a story about puppies or triplets. Soon the screen returns to an expose about chemical warfare in the 22nd century. Instead, you’re better off putting 10 minutes into today’s crossword puzzle.

3. News Programs that Feature Quarrelsome Talking Heads. Yelling is compelling but unenlightening. Remember, too, that pundits such as these are paid to annoy you. The antidote: keep a stack of political satire on hand—left, center, or right, you’ll have no trouble matching books to your mood. Read Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, P.J. O’Rourke, Art Buchwald, or Jim Hightower. Or you might find solace in Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, George Orwell, S.J. Perelman, or Salman Rushdie.

4. Calls from Telemarketers. When the phone would ring and someone wanted to sell me aluminum siding for my brick house, I used to hand the receiver to my then three-year-old. Oh how she loved talking to friendly adults! Here are two playful strategies I use now that my grown daughter is no longer interested in talking to telemarketers either. Try repeating everything the voice on the other end says, and then explain that you’re in training for telemarketing. Or, begin softly to sing a round—“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”—and then ask the voice to join in on the second verse. I’ve found that “White Coral Bells” works well, too.

5. The Mall. Yes, granted, shopping can be fun as a problem-solving exercise and as an act of expiation. But the experience is front-loaded with anticipation and poorly balanced with fulfillment. (In that respect, it’s a little like gambling.) When you need to see and be seen out and about, avoid buyers’ remorse and try visiting a public gallery or museum instead. When you get there, wander purposely or aimlessly.

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Bored stiff? Or bored silly?
Published on October 17, 2012 by Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D. in Play in Mind

We’re often faced with situations that bore us stiff and deprive us of play. Here’s my preliminary list of annoying situations—along with an array of antidotes.

1. The Halftime Show. If you’re a football fan and like me, you’ve been watching a Buffalo Bills’ game, you’re likely holding your head and moaning “aieeeee, aiieeeee!” Why not skip the recap, head outside, take a 20-minute walk, toss the Frisbee to the pooch, or go for a bike ride? Rake up a leaf pile for the kids to jump in. This will also keep you away from the barbeque cheese puffs.

2. The 10-minute News Cycle. News might be theater, of sorts, but it’s not the kind you’ll draw any enjoyment from. Sensationalized news cycles connive to push our fear buttons rather than light up our pleasure circuits. Typically, reporters begin with a story about flesh-eating bacteria or airborne Ebola, and then they escalate through reports of dire but remote events like planetary collision or the heat-death of the universe. To keep you watching through the commercials, however, the editors end with something upbeat—usually a story about puppies or triplets. Soon the screen returns to an expose about chemical warfare in the 22nd century. Instead, you’re better off putting 10 minutes into today’s crossword puzzle.

3. News Programs that Feature Quarrelsome Talking Heads. Yelling is compelling but unenlightening. Remember, too, that pundits such as these are paid to annoy you. The antidote: keep a stack of political satire on hand—left, center, or right, you’ll have no trouble matching books to your mood. Read Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, P.J. O’Rourke, Art Buchwald, or Jim Hightower. Or you might find solace in Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, George Orwell, S.J. Perelman, or Salman Rushdie.

4. Calls from Telemarketers. When the phone would ring and someone wanted to sell me aluminum siding for my brick house, I used to hand the receiver to my then three-year-old. Oh how she loved talking to friendly adults! Here are two playful strategies I use now that my grown daughter is no longer interested in talking to telemarketers either. Try repeating everything the voice on the other end says, and then explain that you’re in training for telemarketing. Or, begin softly to sing a round—“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”—and then ask the voice to join in on the second verse. I’ve found that “White Coral Bells” works well, too.

5. The Mall. Yes, granted, shopping can be fun as a problem-solving exercise and as an act of expiation. But the experience is front-loaded with anticipation and poorly balanced with fulfillment. (In that respect, it’s a little like gambling.) When you need to see and be seen out and about, avoid buyers’ remorse and try visiting a public gallery or museum instead. When you get there, wander purposely or aimlessly.

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