How to Create Your Own ‘Fun Habit’ and Why It’s Important (Dr. Michael Rucker, author and positive psychologist)

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Dr. Michael Rucker Humans Outside

So you’ve got an outdoor habit, but are you actually making time for fun? If having fun is a priority, how do you make time to actually make it happen? How can you organize your life around creating space for it?

Dr. Michael Rucker’s new book, The Fun Habit, lays out the reasons we should make fun a priority, how to make it happen and what happens when you do. And in this episode of Humans Outside he helps us mix an outdoor habit with a fun habit to get the most out of our time.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:41] Dr. Michael Rucker’s favorite outdoor space

[4:17] How Mike takes his own fun habit outside

[8:20] The difference between “happiness” and “fun”

[10:42] The role of intentionality

[20:16] What is the SAVOR model?

[25:57] Why is reminiscing important?

[27:42] A digression into fun types one, two and three

[30:37] Awe and “the mystery”

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz, and here at Humans Outside we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded. As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide.

After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single. No matter what to explore, how nature can change my life.

Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

When I started my daily outdoor habit in 2017, spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every day, regardless of whatever fine weather Alaska chooses to throw at me. Fun was not my focus. I wanted to see what getting outside was like and what it could do for me. And if it was fun, well, that’s just one of the benefit.

Since then, however, I’ve flipped some of these benefits on their heads. For example, if heading outside can help me be happier, how about a slightly different question? How could I have more happiness through heading outside?

No matter what habit you’re trying to build, you need to focus on intentionality, disrupting your regular pattern and inserting a new pattern. Rather than focus on building a habit broadly or on getting outside specifically, today’s expert focuses on his work on that idea of fun. How can we build more fun into our lives? It’s a question he answers in his new book, the Fun Habit, and it’s a question that he’s gonna help us explore today. Dr. Mike Rucker is a positive psychologist, speaker, entrepreneur, and author, and today he’s gonna walk us through building more fun into our lives.

Mike, welcome to Humans Outside.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Thank you so much for having me. It’s the pleasure.

Amy Bushatz: Well, I’m really excited to talk to you. I, as I mentioned before we started recording, loved your book. Really enjoyed reading it. Read it at a time that I was having some fun by, by reading and by being at a cabin in the woods with just my family.

So it’s been great for me and I hope others have a chance to pick it up. We start our episodes by imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space. So I was hoping that you could describe where we might be with you today, were we with you somewhere you love outside?

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, so we moved to North Carolina from San Francisco.

So I’m just so grateful because we live in a rural area and actually, you know, I mentioned it in the book, but you know, for reasons that were likely long covid, I did get in a state of poor mental health and realize, , you know, due to just serendipity I live in an area where I essentially can go on a hike right outside of my house, which is so foreign to me because we were raising our kids in San Francisco.

So I live in a beautiful rural area of North Carolina with a ton of trees, ton of deer some interesting critters that sometimes scare me , like coyotes. I was woken up to just this amazing sort of serenade of howling. And I was like, what the hell is this ? You know? But uh, yeah, so that’s where I’m at.

And then, you know, I mentioned this in the book, but uh, the one mental picture that I can just not get outta my head cuz there was no other context is obviously in Antarctica, just that, you know, the blue ice. I know that’s a quick, you know, digression, but with regards to like my ultimate nature spot, I’ll just never forget that because I can’t compare that to anything else that I’ve ever experienced in life.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

We’re going to hear a lot about fun and making it a habit today with you. But before we do that, can you maybe talk to us about how spending time outside fits into your own personal fun habit? And I wanna add, it’s, you don’t have to be someone who considers yourself outdoorsy to have an outdoor factor of a fun habit.

So talk to us a little bit about that.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, I think I mean, you know, this is pretty pedestrian with regards to you know, my swim lane, but I, I think it’s clear, you know, you can just google APA Nature benefits and it’s clear that connecting to this thing that we call life through the biological aspect of nature, has all of these added benefits.

So I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a nature person, but I do make sure that I’m mindful of getting outdoors because, you know, this is a, a little bit in the weeds but it just allows you to sort of understand that a lot of what you deal with is by your own design or by human design. And once you connect to the greater outdoors, it makes you, you know, not in, in a negative way, but it makes you feel smaller.

And once you feel smaller, you know, or if you wanna look at it in more positive light, that you’re connected to something much bigger than yourself, your problems in the moment seem a lot smaller. And so that’s where I find it, you know, really in a positive light because once I do connect and just sort of immerse myself in the wonder that is nature and makes me realize that the, the big problems I had in my office are a lot smaller than I was making ’em out to be.

Amy Bushatz: That’s absolutely true for me, I notice that it’s a change of perspective in terms of context, right? Like the, in the context of even just taking a walk outside of my house, it gives me a space to have perspective on what it was I was dealing inside my house.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, and I think I meant this is a little bit more prescriptive, and certainly I’m not a content expert in clinical psychology, but I think it’s a great, there’s this mode of mindfulness that can help calm you down where you essentially identify five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things that you can smell, and in your office or any sort of area where you habituate your behavior, that just becomes sort of a boring practice. And in nature there’s always this element of variability. And then I think once you open yourself up to it, you can really start to explore how just amazing nature is. And this is coming from a guy where that’s not my vibe, right? And that, and so, you know, I spent my life making money in front of a computer for the most part first as a digital marketer and now essentially for my day job in the digital health arena. And so, you know, as simple as just watching a snail move across the ground, I think once you start to experience just how. amazing nature is you can start to unpack that, yeah. That you’re sort of, you know, the micro world that you live in isn’t as important as you made it out to be. And then you can go back to that world and realize that you have a little bit more control over that domain than you thought because you are kind of inventing it as you go along.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. When I do that mindfulness practice in my office, I’m just end it deeply annoyed, two things you can smell. Well, this just smells terrible. What is that? You know? And it does not make me happy. So, so I try not to do that.

When I started my outdoor habit though, one of the things I wondered was specifically whether going outside could make me happier. It was like an experiment, right? Like, okay, I’m gonna. And we’re gonna see what happens.

Maybe one of the things that will happen if these studies are correct is that I will be happier, even though I’m not even sure what that means. And looking back, of course, I can say a hundred percent, that did happen. I was happier, but I and and am happier. But I never really thought about whether being outside can make more life more fun.

Like I stopped at just the word happiness and you note in your book that fun and happiness are two different things. So I’m hoping you can tell us what is the difference between those two things?

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, so quite simply, happiness is an act of evaluation, right? I meant, at least the way we’ve described it construct is fun, right? We need to assign meaning to words from a linguistic standpoint where we can have conversations. Right? And another, again, not to get too deep in the weeds, but another thing that’s made up, right? Like we made up language. So, you know, I know as a matter of process, we do need to have these definitions, but happiness, you know, you don’t need to prescribe to my definition, but I need to give you one so we can move on, right?

And in psychology, we kind of boil it down to this thing called subjective wellbeing, and essentially it is an act in introspection, right? Like on these sort of qualitative measures. How am I feeling? Right? You’re almost forced into using some sort of measuring stick. It could either be prescribed to you or you know, you comparing even in our conversation you’re saying, I’m happier now than I was before.

Fun as the way that I’ve described it, it’s really just engaging in pleasurable acts, right? In geek speak, we call that anything on the positive side of valence, and that is in your moment, you know where your feet are, are you enjoying what you’re doing? And so the prescription becomes how do you bias yourself towards doing those things?

You have done an amazing practice of already doing it because you’ve made a deliberate choice to engage in an activity that you. But unfortunately so many of us haven’t. Right. And so even just reclaiming, you know, a few hours out of your week to do something that you like becomes extremely important, especially for folks that are sort of in this so-called sandwich generation, where we have concerns for raising our kids and we also have concerns for our aging parents.

Amy Bushatz: So what you’re talking about is intentionality.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Exactly.

Amy Bushatz: And we talk about intentionality here quite a bit because of course when you decide to build habit, you’re being intentional. When you decide to go outside every day, you’re being intentional. What you do there, eventually, at least has to become intentional or you’re going to find that you’re feel like you’re in a rut, so on and so forth.

Can you talk a little bit more about intentionality and the role that plays for you and the people you work with in developing a fun habit, in developing a habit, in doing things that make you happy in the moment?

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, and it’s really interesting, right? I think, you know, as trying to become a subject expert here, I’m realizing. Well, I’ll share a quick story. So originally the book subtitle had deliberate in the title. And you know, I am going through a publisher and they’re like, deliberate really isn’t resonating with folks. I think, you know, people get hung up on the fact that that to live a life that is meaningful to you does require you to be a little bit premeditated because unfortunately, as humans, we’re really good at developing heuristics and habituating behavior because that makes life easy, right? Like one of the un you know, inconvenient truths of adulthood is we do have an immense amount of information being thrown at us at all times, and especially if we’re caring for others, we sort of need to create a routine so we don’t lose our minds, right?

But unfortunately that’s been sort of over-prescribed and so figuring out where is it within that routine that I can create aspects of joy and delight for myself becomes extremely important. And so there’s a whole host of different resistance and each person has varying degrees of what that is, but for a lot of people it’s this sense of duty for living their lives that gets in the way.

And so what I think is an interesting to juxtapose leisure time and having fun and enjoying some time for yourself that isn’t quote unquote work related is in the same way that we had to course correct sleep in the nineties. Remember it, you know, the folks like GaryVee and others were really like, oh, you know, if you wanna hustle and become a hardcore entrepreneur, what that means is you put the kids to sleep and then you work from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM.

We just know now through a whole host of empirical research that’s a recipe for disaster. So much so that you don’t see, you know, to Gary’s credit, he’s totally walked that back and you don’t hear anyone saying, you know that a, a life well lived is a sleep deprived life. Right?

Amy Bushatz: No.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Now there’s clear emerging research that’s suggesting the same thing goes with leisure and enjoying time, you know, for yourself that if you’re not taking time off the table to really do things that light you up for ins, you know, for instance, for what you’re doing, you know, being outside. For others, that might be writing poetry, for others that may be connecting to friends, or they just don’t let that happen anymore because they feel like, you know, they’re too busy to do it or whatever.

When you’re not doing those things, at least for a subset of, you know, your 168 hours, I, I’d like that frame. I know you’ve had Laura [Vanderkam] on, but a lot of folks use it because it’s easy to get your head around it. What we now know is you’re not showing up as the best version of yourself and generally all the things that you were hoping to do anyways from the sense of duty and guilt, you’re not, you’re not doing well. And so not only, you know, are you not enjoying life, but you’re actually not fulfilling this sort of false promise you had in the first place. Right? It’s very paradoxical in that matter. So a first step is to sort of actualize that and figure out how do you create that space.

You know, I, I know your backstory. For you it was like, let’s do something quite radical and move to an area where, you know, by forcing factor we’re gonna do this thing. For some others, it might be taking baby steps into just reclaiming a, a couple hours, you know, figuring out what are those pockets where you’re really not just spending your time in a meaningful way? Because one thing that I’m now making really clear, cuz I realized it was getting lost in translation, is that we don’t start by adding more stuff to your already busy schedule. Right? Like the fun habit isn’t about saying, oh, okay, I don’t have enough fun in my life.

How do I you know, stack things on tight, on top of an already busy schedule. It’s really by identifying that probably you’re spending, you know, if, if you believe Cassie Holme’s work out of UCLA at least two hours of your day, a lot, that sounds really provocative to a lot of people. So, but I meant, you know, sometimes data does tell us truthful things we don’t want to hear.

Whether that’s two hours a day or even just two hours a week, where can you figure out, you know, where you’re likely just kind of passing time by and gernally, you know, for many of us, not all of us, but many of us, it’s, you know, things like doom scrolling, friendships of convenience, being so tired when we get home because we don’t have good guardrails that we just plop down on the couch and really watch anything. Cuz I don’t villainize, watching TV that you enjoy. If two weeks from now I can ask you, was the show great and you tell me in rich detail like, oh yeah. You know, I used to watch Lost in that fashion cause I love philosophy and they did a good job. So I don’t think that that was time, not spent well. But you know, you’re watching three hours of cooking shows and you don’t even like cooking like that’s a problem.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Correct. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, Uh, two things. First of all, you’ve mentioned now two podcast guests we’ve had over three episodes, so everyone else, I wanna make sure you know, I’m linking those in the show notes for you so that if you wanna hear more from those individuals, you can go back.

One of them is Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours. She’s been on our show twice talking about that work and also her more recent work, Tranquility by Tuesday. And then Mike, you just mentioned Dr. Cassie Holmes, who we had on

Dr. Mike Rucker: Oh, amazing.

Amy Bushatz: In the beginning of season six. Yes. And to talk about her book. And it’s so interesting that you mentioned that because I was just about to bring her up, and exactly what you said. That, that she talks about this idea of figuring out how you spend your time right now. And perhaps you’re not spending it in a way that makes you happier it’s just going because you’re so tired and so overwhelmed that you’re doom, you know, the doom scrolling you just mentioned, man, is that real? I don’t know that I spend two hours a day doing that.

Again, that’s a very, that seems like a really shocking detail. Right. But I definitely have fallen into the habit of scrolling through Instagram reels. The other thing I find that I doom scroll tell me if you’ve heard it this before. I love my job, the end. Okay. But I doom scroll linkedIn posts. I like scroll through job openings for which I am in absolutely no way qualified nor interested in.

I mean like, it’s not even like, oh, I wish I could do that. I don’t. I just am like, oh, look what they’re offering people who have this skill. I don’t have, like. I don’t know why I do this, but I do. And I’ve realized that recently when I looked at my data for like my screen time data, you know, X amount of time on LinkedIn, oh my God, how is that even possible?

I don’t even like LinkedIn.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah. I found that with a couple things. So I think for each one of us it’s different. The commonality is to remember that these things are so smart and they’re designed by amazing people. You know, behavioral scientists like myself that know what is that variable reward that will get you back.

So again, I know people don’t like the word deliberate, but if you do enjoy that, then great. But give yourself some rails because they’re meant to, you know, it’s called the attention economy for a reason, and that’s because the rig to steal your attention. . So don’t let it, you know, it’s a cliche, but if you’re serving the tool, that’s a problem.

These are tools that are meant to serve you once it, you know, flips in the other direction you need to course correct that. I was gonna admit to my own you know, it, it, it’s really precarious cuz it’s not necessarily on social media, but Google News has gotten so great now that I open it up and I’m like, oh yeah, I need to learn about this

No, I don’t, you know, it’s like, it’s a shiny nickel, but I’m like, you know, some like crazy piece of neuroscience that has nothing, you know, they just know that that’s what, what the hook is. Like, oh, okay, yeah, I need to learn the newest thing about dopamine. Like, you know, and so that, that’s one. And then again, going back, luckily, and to their credit, both Google and Apple will expose it to you, again, you have to be deliberate about going and, and checking how you’re using it. But I was like, I’m spending three hours a week on Candy Crush? I had just kind of let it consume, you know, like, and those things are nefarious, right? I, I, I’m here one preaching the gospel, and I, and then all of a sudden I’m like, oh the game’s engineered to be kind of interesting, but it’s not fun. I couldn’t tell you, you know, like

Amy Bushatz: No. And because you’re spending your time on that, you’re not spending your time doing something that you do think is fun.

Dr. Mike Rucker: That’s absolutely right.

Amy Bushatz: It’s just the time’s just gone.

humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started. Cool and exclusive challenge swag, including a finisher medal and decal is waiting for you. All you need to do is visit Don’t get left out. Go to humans \ to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

So in your book you talk about something called The SAVOR Model, and of course SAVOR is an acronym. Can you tell us what the SAVOR Model is and why it’s important?

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, so it’s essentially allowing me to create a toolbox of some of the more interesting aspects of social science that I found, because I think there are so many books about happiness that, you know, have a clinical psychology slant. Really a lot of great ones.

But I think what I did well was pull from other disciplines and say, Hey, there’s a lot of tools out there that are helpful. And so we’ve already kind of touched on the first one, it’s story editing, which is just an academic term for reframing. You know, if you have villainized fun and you believe that it’s this whimsical act that can’t be something that contributes to your betterment, I make a strong case that it is.

And so that’s kind of the first step, right? Let’s realign the fact that fun is actually something that can be extremely beneficial. Your own wellbeing and then, you know, if you get into the later chapters, you know, for the ones around you and also for the greater good.

The second one is activity bundling, which is kind of lower hanging fruit. It’s essentially if, if there’s things that you don’t enjoy doing or things that you do enjoy doing, how can you add elements to it to kind of increase the fun? And those things aren’t to en over-engineer your life. Or I used the word optimized. I’ve completely removed that because optimizing anything is a great formula for burnout, right?

But I think there’s some low level strategies to, you know, like daily chores, just adding something like an amazing podcast like Humans Outside can make those things more fun for you. And so there’s some low hanging strategies there. Variable. Little Hedonics talks a little bit about Cassie’s work and, and then her colleague Jordan Etkin out of Duke. And that’s this idea that for most of us having a variety of things to enjoy, so, you know, making life more of a tapestry than habituated behavior becomes extremely important. And so the geek side of that is that, especially as we get older, we tend to store common memories as one thing. And so when we look back at lives that have been overly habituated, we tend not to be satisfied with it cuz we’re like, oh, I, I just did the thing.

And unfortunately, the way our memories work, similar to how you wouldn’t keep a thousand copies of the same magazine that’s what our brains do, right? They throw out the other 999 that are essentially the same thing. And so really having broad, interesting activities in your memory to relish is what builds resilience. And so, That’s where the V comes in.

Options is really when we are able to premeditate things that we enjoy, they tend to happen more. And so there’s some simple strategies of how do we create more options in our lives? So we’re like, well, I don’t know what to do. Okay, well, we can solve that problem fairly easily.

And then R stands for reminiscing, which is an act of savoring that allows you to really expand the power of all of these new fun habits that you have, because being a little bit mindful of that, and it doesn’t matter what the cadence is, again, that’s where a lot of these sort of interventions go wrong, right? You’ve gotta be grateful for three things a day. Well do I, because when that motivation doesn’t hit, it can often lead to guilt, right? And or just

Amy Bushatz: Right.

Dr. Mike Rucker: You know, not creating something that becomes helpful for you, but by being a little bit deliberate about how you reminiscent these things, a couple things happen.

One, we know our brains aren’t cause and effect machines anymore, that we tend to be predictive, right? We tend to predict what is the next thing that’s gonna happen next, and when we know we have agency and autonomy and control over our lives and that we can create joy, we tend to now sort of able to steer in that direction, right?

Where exactly what’s happened to you, you now, happiness isn’t necessarily this evaluation, it’s just a byproduct of the fact that you’re really living the life that you wanna live. And so that’s why it becomes an important kind of, you know, end part of the SAVOR system because now you’ve created this kind of feedback loop and instead of having to think about things, you’re just kind of doing them.

And that’s where, that’s where life gets really amazing, where you don’t even need to think about, am I happy? You’re just living a joyful life.

Amy Bushatz: Right. I think all of those things in your acronym are really important to building any sort of fun habit and specifically to building a habit that takes you outside.

And I encourage everyone to just really dive into all of them in the book, because we cannot possibly dive into all of them here. But I wanna go back specifically to reminiscing, and here’s why.

One of the challenges of going outside consistently every day is that every now and then, it’s not gonna be that fun. It’s, it’s gonna be uncomfortable because the weather, amazingly, it’s not in your control. This is annoying to me on many levels. OK, It’s like snowing a foot today for the second. I mean, we have had so many snow days at the time that you and I are recording this. You, I mean, this is Alaska, right? We should expect this, but it snows typically a little bit for a long time. Not so much one, two feet at once over a week over and over again. And so my kids if anyone can hear them in the background, are on remote learning day four. Big fun. Okay. In moments like this, going outside may not be that pleasant. But. I know because I’ve done it over and over again and reminisced about all those times, that when I go, I will have fun and I will be happy.

It might be type two fun where, where it’s fun in retrospect. And it may not feel very good in the moment, but I know that reminiscing for me is helpful. Is this something you hear from other people? Does that fit what you’re talking about with reminiscing?

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah, I think there’s a few things to unpack there, right?

So one, those are the things that allow you to contrast the experiences and understand that it is something that’s really near and dear to your heart. Right? So this comes from Barbara Frederickson, but we want to broaden and build, you know, this breadth of emotion and, and a breadth of the way that we experience the world.

So those bad days make the good days even better, right? But another key component is where other people get hung up on this word deliberate. And again, it’s interesting they took outta the subtitle, but is that, I’m not saying don’t be spontaneous. I mean, you know it cuz you read the book, but you know, you create these moments and interesting things are gonna happen.

But especially with families. Like when it starts to pour on them and they have to run back to the car and like, you know, that social connection of being able to rely on each other and then laugh at, you know, the, the atrocity at the end. Like those are the things, and again, I like REI’s kind of frame of type two fun. For me I call it life in the living quadrant, but that type of edge work, whatever it is for you, like looking back at that, knowing that you survived can be some of the funnest moments. Right. I will say that I don’t quite understand type three fun because when you say, you know that

Amy Bushatz: Not fun

Dr. Mike Rucker: it’s never been fun at all, then why are we putting, you know, but yeah,

Amy Bushatz: Not actually fun. Yeah. Type three fun, I think is something that happens when you are aiming for type two fun and miss the mark.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah. That, that’s, I like your definition because I, I’m like, why are we putting fun, like, wouldn’t it just be like not fun, like type one fun, type two fun, and then not fun, you know? Right.

Amy Bushatz: So just for people who don’t know, type one fun is something that’s like objectively fun, like you’re on a roller coaster, you’re having a great time. Big smiles. Everyone’s delighted Disneyland. Top type one fun for most people. Type two fun; something that you may not truly enjoy in the moment, but man, you really enjoy it in retrospect, like you mentioned, running to the car, everybody’s soaking wet. Wow, that was amazing. What a fun memory. Type three fun, fake news. Not actually fun.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Well, and so both are important, right? I again, for whatever reason I wasn’t made aware of that until I’d already written the manuscript. And so I think serendipitously, I, I gave them different terms. But this work comes from Dan Gilbert and Matt Killingsworth at at Matt’s, not with Harvard anymore, I think it was his doctoral work.

But essentially he saw that Type one fun, to have that integrated, you know, throughout your life, which you’re doing naturally. So you’re an amazing example of this, I know you’re referenced in a ton of different books, so you might be in my next one as an example, but you know, we undervalue it. So this work, it goes back to Timothy Wilson from University of Virginia, but for whatever reason, we think it’s the, the reasons are grounded in evolution.

We have a bias to not. um, prioritize fond memories because we were kind of, you know, it was better for us when dinosaurs were chasing us to always kind of be in, in this low level of fear, right? Like we needed to know what was gonna harm us. And so, but what we do know now is in modern society where there is, there’s still obviously risk, but not as much as there was, is that when we are living joyfully, by doing activities that we want to. That’s when we are the happiest. And again, it’s not an active evaluation or like, I, I wish I was somewhere else. It’s that, that understanding that we’re living the life that we wanna live. And so those things, like walking your dog, playing with your kids, having coffee with your best friend, we undervalue those things.

But it’s clear that the people that do those things, Are the ones that are the happiest and so , but I make an argument, especially, you know, I aspire to moments that transcend me to something that’s, you know, a little bit bigger than I am. And those really only seem to come about when we are either in, whether you want to call it type two fun or things in living quadrant when we’re really doing that type of edge work that is like, wait, you know, why am I here? Not simple pleasures but things that do kind of push us a little bit.

Amy Bushatz: Well, I think what you’re describing is the feeling of awe, and that can happen in the context of feeling your, like the, how your place is in the world. So maybe like, in the Grand Canyon. Right. I dare somebody to go to the Grand Canyon and not feel what I would describe as a sense of awe.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: it can also come through those simple moments that you’re describing and, and how you define this in your book is of course, as the quote unquote the mystery. So can you describe what is the mystery and maybe give us a little bit more of how you experience that and how other people can find that.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Yeah. So for me, this was more organic, right? Where I kind of leap frog the literature. My understanding is there’s two amazing books about awe coming out around the same time as my book. So like I, I certainly went into the literature about what wonder and awe is, but for me, I had built a lot of my models.

Around emotion, right? And so emotion is kind of captured between, we call it valence, but you know, are you in a pleasurable state or are you not? Right? Like, so a non pleasurable state would be something like boredom, frustration, anger, a positive state. You know, it would be something like calm, elation, you know, just so that people kind of understand the spectrum.

And then what you know, makes fun kind of interesting for any of us is the state of arousal. Right? To answer your question, I think there is this sweet spot where we kind of just move out, having to even ask ourselves whether it’s pleasurable or not, right? When you’re in a true state, again, what I kind of call the mystery. You know, just being one with whatever it is.

So it doesn’t necessarily have to be nature, you know, for a musician it could be that connection to their instrument. You know, for a dancer it could be the connection to their craft. For someone who has a religious slant, it could be just so immersed in the understanding that there is something bigger than ourselves.

You, you don’t need to think. It doesn’t matter how you feel, right? You’re just kind of in this place of mystery where I I, I’m guessing it’s what Eckhart Tolle was talking about in The Now where you just don’t need to make sense of it. Meaning making, adding your human context to what this special thing is, doesn’t matter anymore. And when you can get there, it’s amazing. And it transcends flow. Like I know, you know, some other folks talk about fun and rightfully try to couple it with flow, but awe and wonder kind of transcends that too, because you don’t need a sense of mastery, right? I think once you have to understand your own individual skill to get there, again, you’re adding your own man-made meaning to it.

It. It’s like you don’t need to, you’re just so immersed in this, you know, encoding the incoming information. Again, like my Antarctica experience where I’m like, I can’t think right now because everything that’s there is bigger than me and I don’t need, yeah, I don’t need to add my own context to it. I just need to immerse myself in this beautiful thing.

Amy Bushatz: I am thinking of times that I have felt this. Many of them are outside, right? Many of them are. I, there’s one time that I’m standing on this mountain peak on this hike that I didn’t really wanna go on and just, in that moment that you’re describing. There’s another time, not that long ago, that I stumbled upon a community piano, placed on a patio outside in my little town, and I sat down and I pulled up some sheet music that I used to love on my phone and sat there and played, and it was like, it was like I was in one of those cartoon moments where like, Disney captures so well of this sort of like hazy, world slowing down. Or even I’m thinking of times just like watching my kids have their own fun. Right. That’s outside necessarily. Yeah. Yeah. But like you’re, you’re having this transcendent almost moment where you’re like, this is why I’m in this moment and I don’t need to think about it.

This is, this is everything right now. And those moments are something that I think a lot of people chase, but what you are talking about is building a lifestyle around giving yourself the space and, and almost permission, I think is part of the SAVOR model to have those experiences more often.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Absolutely. No, I think, you know, It was funny. I played with putting it in the book, or, or, or not, but you know, at the end I’d essentially say, if you want a twist of fate, start twisting. Right. I meant, you, you create these opportunities, to some degree, life is full of variable moments. Right. And so I, I believe that the world is full of bad and full of good.

I meant there’s an abundance of both. But you can live in a life where you steer your ship towards the good, right? And so by creating opportunities for this to happen, and as weird and paradoxical as it sounds, because it does require you to be a little bit premeditated and deliberate, by design, you’re gonna have more opportunities for these things to happen.

And just so many of us don’t do that, right? Like, yeah. If, if, if you’re stuck in your house, the opportunity to see something majestic in nature is just not there.

Amy Bushatz: Right, right. Mike, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside Today. Tell people where they can find your book.

Dr. Mike Rucker: So the books available everywhere. Wherever you enjoy books, I meant obviously you can get it the easy way, Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. But you know, if you support your local bookstore, that’d be great, too. And if you’re interested in any of the science, I write about it freely on my blog as well. So, you know, you can find a, a lot of stuff there too, which is

Amy Bushatz: Mike, thanks so much.

Dr. Mike Rucker: Thank you for having me. This was a pleasure.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leading a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.


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