When people are in pain, the last thing on their mind may be how to plan to do something enjoyable. They may withdraw from social events and reduce their level of activity. Some people stop being active simply because they fear it will cause more pain. Others want to save their energy for accomplishing what they think are their most important tasks.
Social withdrawal and inactivity can bring on feelings of sadness, frustration, and irritability. And when you are in pain, and also have these emotions, your pain can become worse. Therefore it is very important to break this cycle and become more active with things that you find enjoyable.
Researchers have found that pain actually decreases when people experience more positive emotions. Pleasant emotions come from doing activities that bring joy and pleasure. So, one way to feel more positive emotion is to engage in more pleasant activity.
Working more fun activities into your day can be good therapy. It may help you reduce negative thoughts and feelings, decrease your pain, and become more active. For some people, their work is fun. Other people find that becoming a volunteer, doing hobbies, involvement with music, sports, or art, helps them to find meaning and enjoyment. It all depends on what you find most pleasurable.
There are two steps to take as you consider adding more fun to your life: (1) think of enjoyable activities, and (2) schedule these activities into your week, just as you would schedule any other therapy.
Step 1: How to choose an activity
- Think of activities you enjoy.
- Consider which activities you can realistically do.
- Think of an enjoyable activity that you have not done in a while, but that you could try to do this week.
- Consider a different way to be involved in an enjoyable activity. For example, if you can’t roll a bowling ball any more, or your hands ache too much when you try to sew a quilt square, consider joining the activity just to be part of the group and join in the conversation.
Step 2: Schedule the activity
- Make a commitment to do the activity you select.
- Schedule it into your day or week.
- Do the activity for a reasonable amount of time. Don’t overdo it, but do it enough to enjoy.
- Start slow by scheduling one or two pleasant activities per week.
- Think of preparations you need to make ahead of time.
- Give yourself a push to follow through, even if you don’t feel like doing it.
- Pace yourself. Don’t do too much. Start slow, you can always increase your time and amount of activity.
Many people get the most pleasure from doing things with others. If you want to do activities with others, find the right people, those who will encourage and support you, without pressuring you. These are not your most overprotective friends and family members who worry a lot. Not only will you have more fun, but it will give you a chance to build your social support system.
Scheduling fun activities into your days can help you build up reserve of pleasurable emotions. These good feelings may reduce your negative thinking about pain, and even reduce your pain. This may help you stay active and engaged with the things in life that you enjoy. Remember, loss of enjoyment is one of the most powerful predictors of emotional distress, which can make pain worse.