How to become a person who just goes out and does things?
June 21, 2021 9:35 AM   Subscribe

You: a person who goes out and does things, just because. Things like hiking, going to the farmer's market, casual day trips to nearby places, checking out local events, etc. Nothing in particular really, just things outside the house. What does your thought process and mindset look like? How do you decide when to go out and what things to do? How do you keep track of what events are going on in your locale so you remember to go to them? How do you trick yourself into going places when you are feeling ho-hum about it?

Theoretically, I like to go out and do things! I usually have a good time and I have marginally more energy and happiness when I go out and do things. I will go to things if directly invited or if I have an appointment.

But if I am left to my own devices, I tend NOT to proactively go out and do things. I would like to try to address this now that things are starting to open up a little more.

Here are my primary obstacles:
-Executive dysfunction: it can sometimes take a lot of time and effort to get ready to go places, particularly if the place I am going involves special equipment or preparation (ex: hiking, picnic, etc.). It is easier to just say "forget it, it's not worth it" and not go anywhere.

-Pressure for it to be "worth it": Probably tied in with the executive dysfunction, but if I think "Hey, it might be fun to have a picnic!" my brain immediately starts listing out allllllll of the things I'd need to do in order to have a picnic and then usually lands on "wow, that sounds like a lot of time and work, better just not do it". Even if I suspect it will be fun, it is not usually fun ENOUGH to combat the inertia.

-Paralyzed by indecision: If I could be doing ANYTHING at a given time, I tend to let myself be overwhelmed by the variety of options available to me and then just...not do anything.

-Too goal-oriented?: I often struggle to do things "just because." Ex: if I'm taking a walk, it's usually because I need to go somewhere. If I don't have a specific place in mind to walk to and for a specific purpose, I tend not to go on walks at all. For similar reasons, I don't often make spontaneous stops if I am already out for something else, even I have a good opportunity to do so. (ex: picking up pastries from a bakery on my way back from the gym.)

-Anxiety about driving/parking in new places or where I already know parking will be difficult: self-explanatory, I think

-Feeling guilty about leaving my dogs at home alone: I already leave them at home during the day when I go to work. They are a little too unpredictable to just tag along for many non-dog-centric activities, which also adds some low-level anxiety.

Even when I am at home, I can't always talk myself into doing things around the house, which is perhaps a related issue, but not the star of my question.

So tell me your tips and tricks, people who go out and do things. Also, especially if you also struggle to get out and go do things, I'd welcome any advice on how to overcome some of these obstacles so I can try to go out and do things with considerably less effort than it currently takes me.
posted by helloimjennsco to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (43 answers total) 121 users marked this as a favorite
I also struggle to go out and do things! And to have executive function, and with a brain that sometimes tells me I should worry about shit and Internet more instead of going out and doing things.

One of the best things I have learned to do is just to go outside to walk, every day. It can be just around the block, if in a city, or a bit up and down the road, if in the country - just a little something. I sometimes pair this with listening to a podcast, or calling a friend or family member, but walking and looking/listening/breathing deeply is one of my favorite enjoyments. It helps me practice the non-goal-oriented skill, it sharpens my powers of observation and appreciation, and I almost always have a good smile-exchange with someone. If your dogs are predictable enough for a walk, it could be something you bring them along for, too!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: For similar reasons, I don't often make spontaneous stops if I am already out for something else, even I have a good opportunity to do so.

For these sorts of things, I'll keep a sort of list in the back of my head of places I might stop by if I'm near. It's not a to-do list (scary!) but a "if I feel like it" list, which helps. The next time I'm near by one of those places, I'll think oh, I was thinking about stopping in there and then I might actually do it. I star places on Google Maps for my "if I ever get my act together to be in that area, maybe I'll check that out" list.

As for walks: I'm also a destination walker. But during the lockdown I ended up just giving myself a goal of getting out of the damn house (even if just to walk around the block) every day, or at least most days. The goal became leaving the house at all, rather than doing anything in particular, and I could more or less stick to that at least while the weather was good.

The other way I manage to Get Out And Do Things is to have a hobby which has meetups and events that I can just plan to go to, and maybe tack on something else while I'm there.

Arranging with a friend to do something is also a good strategy- if you plan well ahead, it can help me avoid decision paralysis (I already made the decision!)
posted by BungaDunga at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

I guess all of my ideas are around making things less spontaneous, even if they're the same things. Rather than trying to actually do things spontaneously, coming up with ways to make them less spontaneous- at least vaguely planned- can be quite helpful.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:56 AM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm only going to address hiking, because that is one of the things I do regularly.

Know where the potential hiking areas are where you live. Get a map if necessary. Pick a specific day to go hiking - I go on Sundays. Pick the place where you're going to go a few days ahead of time. Pack your bag (food, water) the night before. When you write it out like this, it seems like a lot to do, but this preparation isn't much, especially if you stretch it out like this. It really helps you to avoid indecision and to be ready when the actual time to "just go out" comes. Which brings me to the real important point... go early. I find that you can get just about anywhere in a reasonable amount of time on a Sunday morning, and parking isn't an issue.
posted by spudsilo at 9:57 AM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

I add plans, even if they're tentative, to my work calendar, so that I can't forget about them. This really helps with the reminder/accountability piece.
posted by toastedcheese at 9:58 AM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Living like this is my lifestyle. I would describe my personality as "wanting to know things" and that has always motivated me. As a teenager I'd hear about a warehouse where bands come and I would just feel compelled to go and see inside. I drive past a park I've never noticed before or a shop that looks like it has interesting things inside and I just make a plan to find out what it is. Sometimes I look at a map after I get home to try to figure out the name of something I passed. So I do have a lot of curiosity.

How I get the ideas of what to do: I receive lots of mailing lists from museums and cultural listings. I read local news sources. Thus I hear about all the things: events, new bakery, 20-park hike challenge, etc.

How I keep track: I have a to-do list that is nothing but options. It's a list of general ideas like "beach" "bike ride" and "Home Depot" and specific-date-time things like Thursday night concert at the historical society.

How I decide and prioritize: Some events are only on a certain day, or they happen often but are only FREE on a particular day, so I prioritize that. I read the list every few days and try to notice associations, like the bakery and Home Depot are in the same neighborhood, so that makes sense. What day? How about the day before I am going to my friend's house, so I can pick up something cool at the bakery to bring. Or, let's say I try to hike one evening a week, so what's the best day weather-wise to do that?

For complicated prep like hiking and beach, picnics, or a class, I do gather the items the day before and have them ready to go so that leaving the house is frictionless. When I come back home I put everything away in its place so I am good to go for the next time.

I guess I do tend to have "goals" like wanting to be active at least once a week and go to a cultural event at least once a month and do a household repair or project at least every two weeks, and this background rate of activity helps me choose what to do so that I keep a nice variety going.
posted by xo at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2021 [34 favorites]

I follow a lot of local groups and organizations on social media who host regular events. These are things like farmers markets who have live music occasionally or libraries with talks or readings. I scroll a few times per day and when I see an event coming up that looks like it might be soft or interesting I click "interested" and then also add it to my google calendar. Facebook recommends a lot of things to me and while only a very small percentage are things I'd be likely to do, I find that it's worth the scrolling in order to learn about just those few events.

For activities like hiking and kayaking, I follow a lot of meetup groups in my local area and some groups that are an hour or two away. I get anxiety but also a little thrill about getting outside of my comfort zone, but for me it almost always pays off when I just go for it. The groups outside of the local area have been cool for discovering new places.
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2021

1) You don't have to go out and do things every day or even every weekend. It's perfectly fine to stay at home and just do whatever chores you need to do and relax.

2) If there is an event you want to do, plan it at least a week in advance. Give yourself time to prepare - if there's an outdoor concert you want to attend, decide what you want to bring (folder chairs/food/insect repellant) before the day so you have time to buy the insect repellant and make the food. I find preparing for an event beforehand makes means I'm more likely to go ahead and attend because I've already put work into it.

3) Your town likely has an online calendar for any town sponsored events. Get on the mailing list for local institutions like museums or organizations. See what your library has to offer. Take a look at it every month and decide which ones you'd like to see and put them into your calendar. Invite a friend along. Knowing that I've made plans with someone makes it more likely for me to go because I hate canceling on people without a good reason.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 10:05 AM on June 21, 2021

I plan ahead. I know that, for me, a Saturday spent doing stuff around town is more fulfilling than one spent sitting around the house, so I will think about things I might want to do leading up to the weekend. Looking up cool places to visit, researching equipment for more specialized activities, thinking about errands I need to run, etc. If I don't wake up with any plans on Saturday, I am probably not going leave the house. Not everyone is spontaneous enough to decide to go on a hike and then do the hike in the same day, no need to force it.
posted by TurnKey at 10:05 AM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

seconding having friends who will help you plan. you don't have to overthink things as much, or worry about having forgotten something, if there are five people on the outing with you.
posted by eustatic at 10:06 AM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think there's a bit of a dichotomy here.

On one hand, you want to do things.

On the other hand, you want to be spontaneous .

Being spontaneous is a lifestyle. That means, not making many plans, but having lots of options at the ready. Like, each little burden you take on, dogs, houses, family, engagements, hobbies with a schedule, they all take away from possibilities from being spontaneous. The less things depending on you, and the less your schedule is full, the more you can, buy a flight to peru tomorrow without worrying about 100 things.

Doing things is different. Doing things is all about planning. What do you want to do? What barriers are in between you and it? What goals do you want to achieve? How can you fill your schedule with things you want to do, to not waste any time?

You can change your life to be more spontaneous, or you can plan and fill your life with things you want to do. I'm not sure which angle you'd prefer. Some kind of balance is needed. But, you can always take your existing life, plan some big things you want to do, but also make plans for things to help you be spontaneous. For instance, having a dog walker ready to check on your dogs if you decide to go out after work. Or watch your dogs if you are out of town.

But, more than anything else, I'd caution you about comparing yourself to others, especially via Social Media. It's so easy to compare your boring, everyday life to someone else's highlight reel. That instagrammer who went to the farmers market could have had a stressed out day, rushing from here to there, just to get a lousy scone and drizzle chocolate over it, then not even eat it because it was just -for the shoot-. Live your life - and if that just means walking your dog around the block once a day, there's nothing wrong with that!
posted by bbqturtle at 10:16 AM on June 21, 2021 [24 favorites]

As a timid introvert who overthinks everything, recognizing that I'm much less likely to regret doing the wrong thing than I am to regret not doing a thing has been really useful. Given a choice between bored and scared, scared is always the right choice for me. Introducing a random element feels really silly, but it can work.

Edit: Also, finding things that don't require driving is really nice. It makes everything easier. Even if it's a long hike to the bus stop.
posted by eotvos at 10:17 AM on June 21, 2021 [20 favorites]

Best answer: The same "one weird trick" that works to get better at anything else works here too: Practice.

What I like about framing this as a skill or set of skills is that it means there is nothing wrong with you. This is just a set of skills you're not very good at and it's going to take time and practice to get better. You're not really looking for "good" just "progress". It also means you're going to try some thing and fail. Failing is good! That's how you learn what doesn't work and get closer to something that works better (again, not even "good" just "better"). And it's not really a process that has an end.

-Executive dysfunction: I focus on packing light. I bring a lot of stuff "just in case" but the thing I'm bringing it for is pretty unlikely and a lot of times I'm going somewhere where I'll be able to solve that problem some other way if it comes up. I remind myself that I'm not leaving civilization. I can run to a Target or drug store if I: Need snacks, drinks, a shirt, Tylenol, etc. Then if I get back from something, take a look at what I actually used. Note that for next time I get ready for a similar event.

As for how to remember what and when, google calendar. If it's on my calendar, I'm there, if it's not it may as well not exist.

-Pressure for it to be "worth it": What worked for me is just trying to short-circuit this line of thinking. "Whatever, it doesn't matter, I'm going to go and it'll be a blast." then try to work on something, anything, else. Practice practice practice. Also, remember how you're better at packing light now? That means it's less effort to get ready too.

-Paralyzed by indecision: Make a decision and stick with it. If you have to, put a calendar reminder at some point to check in and decide if you want to change your plans some reasonable amount of time out from the event(s).

-Too goal-oriented?: This one is actually kind of easy. Your goal is just to GO to stuff! Again, practice helps. The more you go, the better you get at going.

-Anxiety about driving/parking in new places or where I already know parking will be difficult: As you develop these skills you'll gain confidence that should help with this A LOT. And every time you go to something and are able to deal with the anxiety (and you're going to fail sometimes, that's okay!) will make it a little easier to deal with next time.

-Feeling guilty about leaving my dogs at home alone: So...good news and bad news. A dog's primary sense is it's sense of smell and their source of "truth" about reality. But it screws with their perception of time so that they pretty much only know "short time" and "long time". Anything more than about 30 minutes is "a long time" and it doesn't much matter if it's a few hours or a few days or even a few years. In the dog's mind it's all about the same. So your dogs feel about the same as a normal work day and it doesn't particularly stress them out. The good news is that they consider things that smell like their people as extension of their people. So you're kinda still present for them if your scent is still around and they don't get too stressed out about chilling at home surrounded by stuff that smells like you.
posted by VTX at 10:19 AM on June 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I struggle with this a LOT and have been thinking about writing a similar question for awhile now, so thank you for asking this. I'm a lot better than I used to be but it's still a constant challenge.

I totally feel you on parking. Why is this SO anxiety-producing? I feel even dumber about being so stressed by it because it's been an issue time that I can easily recall in my forty years on earth? And it cost me twenty bucks because the only spot available was in an "event parking" ramp and I was mad about it for a day but then basically forgot all about it until just now? That is not a good use of my precious headspace! :) I check in with people I know who've been there before to get insight about the parking situation, I leave extra time to find spots, I even sometimes call ahead to ask because not having that looming uncertainty contaminating my nice drive is completely worthwhile. If none of these are available, I might even listen to a breathing or meditation exercise on the way there so I'm not tensing up about something that is almost certainly not going to be an issue in the first place and even if it is, it's likely not going to ruin my experience of the larger event.

Re: outings being "worth it" or going off perfectly, I think this is largely because I already don't go out and do things as much as I'd like, so when I do try to something, it becomes imbued with a lot of self-induced pressure to go REALLY well (hence all the planning and stressing that then drains all the fun and anticipation out of it). The more I make myself go out, the less this starts to matter (and each outing is a learning opportunity of what to do/bring/anticipate/plan for next time so that subsequent outings go even better!). It's like a muscle that needs to be worked and gets progressively stronger.

Re: indecision paralysis: Yes. I get this too. I keep a list so I'm not trying to think of something to do on the fly (which is when I start to fret about how all these fun outings keep passing me by while I sit at home refreshing the Facebook events tab and trying to make a decision) and I keep it VERY SHORT. At the beginning of summer, I took a few notecards and I wrote a few ideas with the point of the exercise being: "If I'm sitting here on Labor Day looking back at my summer, what would I have done that made it feel super enjoyable and worthwhile?" I broke them up by categories like "when I'm already out running around", "weekday evening", "a whole weekend day free", "good to do with kids" and so on. Each one has maybe 1-3 things on it at most and that's my summer "bucket list." Of course I'm free to substitute things that come up spontaneously but having the things I want to do already fresh in my mind feels really critical to actually executing, and if I actually do all the things on the list, THEN I add more. Breaking this up into even tinier chunks of time really helps with the event overwhelm too. Like, let's look just at the next week rather than trying to anticipate and plan the entire summer without knowing how my schedule or family obligations or energy levels are actually going to unfold in real-time.

Also I have to be brutally honest with myself about what I actually want to do and what is fun for me and not falling to the "should" factor or being overly influenced by social media. Like if a picnic is on my list because it theoretically sounds like cheap, easy, good old-fashioned summer fun but the weekends keep going by and I still haven't been on a picnic, did I really want to do it in the first place? I think most people do generally go after the things they genuinely love or want to do without (too much) handwringing or overthinking, and if something keeps not happening for whatever reason, that's worth examining too.
posted by anderjen at 10:38 AM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You've gotten so much great advice above and you're super self-aware. My big tip is simply to start small. I am very active and do a lot but since COVID I've been spending more time at home and it's lovely. Nothing wrong with not wanting to do a ton of stuff because life is quite exhausting even without a global pandemic!

By starting small, I mean make one or two goals per weekend: one activity and one back-up. And be gentle on yourself if you sleep in or decide you'd rather watch Netflix at home. I think making plans to do it with a friend are good! I also think giving yourself enough time to get ready is also good: I can get up and out the door to work in 30 minutes but on the weekends, I like a few hours to wake up, drink coffee, cuddle with my cats, etc. I don't make plans with others before 1pm or I get up early, then come home for a nap. I plan a quiet evening in on Friday to relax from the week and recharge.

Finally, I'd also remember that sometimes just getting there is enough for now. You plan a hike but end up just sitting under a tree and reading near the trailhead: totally fine. You get to the farmer's market 10 minutes before closing: hey, that's a start and there are good deals! You plan for a day out and about but end up drinking an iced lavender latte for 30 minutes and head home: you still did something!!

Random but related: I have a little zine on solo hiking so if you send me your address via MeMail, I'd be happy to snail mail you a copy.
posted by smorgasbord at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I cruise around Google Maps and click on anything vaguely interesting, then make a list of what I'd like to go see. I also use travel guides to my city. Then I determine how to get there and the window I want to go, then I determine where a "place of safety" is nearby.

The place of safety is a place where I know I already like it and that they have a bathroom, so for example Target, a park, or a cafe I like. So if the event or place sucks or is overwhelming, I can salvage the outing. I have found that not doing this makes it much less likely that I'll go back out again, since I don't really like unfamiliar places until they become somewhat familiar. I use the place of safety as a way to positively reinforce leaving the house.

Eliminating time pressure also helps-- I don't drive as a habit and thus don't have parking issues, and I live in a place where I can get a Lyft if i miss the bus. I usually choose things where there's no need to be on time, or a place where I can be hella early and have it not matter (another vote for nearby cafe.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:42 AM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm a lot like you and I also just do not do things if I think back and realize every other time I have done X I have not enjoyed it because of all the heavy lifting involved. Your first step is probably just acceptance that if you remember something being a lot of investment for not much payback in nice feelings, then you're right, it's not worth doing and you don't have to do it.

Now what you can think about is how to have nice experiences that aren't too much work. How can you reduce the amount of work involved in setting up a picnic, going hiking, etc.

When it comes to doing stuff around the house I have also come to an acceptance. I made a deal with myself that when I see something that needs doing, and I'm not in the middle of doing something else, and I have enough energy, then I just do it then and there. By making this deal and following through, then during those times when I'm missing one of those factors (i see something that needs doing, but I'm in the middle of doing something else, and/or I don't have the energy) then I can honestly say I'm not doing that right now, because I trust myself that I'll get to it if I can, and if I can't, I'll have to figure something else out.
posted by bleep at 10:45 AM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Oh, this is me (pre-COVID, pre-pregnancy).

1. I live in a city and take the (reasonably well-functioning) bus. There, parking solved. If street parking is unavailable often, petition the city to charge more for parking, because free($) parking is underpriced and thus never free (to park in) and clearly has a cost of deterring social activity.

2. Bag is always packed. I am a woman -- my husband is constantly forgetting which pants his wallet is in, etc. -- this is never my problem. Wallet (bus pass), water, headphones, sunglasses, office badge (in case it's convenient to drop in), and now, car keys -- it's all there in my giant purse.

3. Positive feedback? I once went to a kombucha / kefir water tasting. It was so great! So many nice-tasting things and easy interactions.

4. Practice? I was very single and very bored for a long time. I still do not understand how my classmates always felt so 'busy' because in college; I was always scraping the alt-weekly and campus paper for random things to show up to. If I could get one person to go with me, they usually enjoyed it, and if not, I still had fun or learned something.

5. No way to fail: so this is kind of the flip-side of my solo-adventuring ability -- I absolutely crumple if I have to arrange an activity for other people. But if it's just myself, as others have said -- if you get to the trailhead and say 'nah,' that's ok! If there's other people expecting to go on a hike, then I get into all kinds of panic. I think I lack the checklist you have of "social expectations of a picnic" and that's what makes it easy for me to have one myself and hard to have one with other people. Maybe the more productive thing is to have two lists.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:49 AM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Excellent advice from everyone so far. Just popping in to share how I have made outings like hikes and picnics easier for me.

So what's great about outings that require specialized things is that you generally don't need those things for other activities. You can store the things in a way that makes it easier for you to use them for your desired outings.

The basic formula is:
bag of specialized stuff + food and/or water = outing.

Find a basket or bag that's a good size for your picnic stuff. Put a clean picnic blanket/sheet in the bottom. Grab a few napkins, a bag for trash, bug spray and hand sanitizer. Add those to the bag. You now have a picnic kit and all you have to do is stash it somewhere. When you want to picnic, grab your bag and stick your food in it and hit the road. Change the blanket/sheet when necessary if it gets grody.

The same idea works for hiking. Get a backpack and toss your hiking shoes (in a plastic bag because shoes are gross) into it. Add bug spray and a granola bar. Throw some first aid stuff and a flashlight in there too. When you want to hike, grab your backpack and stick a bottle of water in it and hit the road.

Also, I worry about leaving my dog alone too. The thing is, my dog just wants me to be happy. He does not want me to be worried. I'm positive your dog feels the same way about you.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 10:54 AM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

When I've been inside for too many days (weeks, during the pandemic times), I'll talk myself into at least putting on my sneakers. I'll tell myself that I don't have to go anywhere, just put on my sneakers, and if I don't feel like going anywhere after that, I can just keep them on for five minutes in the house and then take them off again.

Quite often for me, the first step in getting out is the hardest. So once I've sat down and put the sneakers on, then I might as well go out the door. It is almost silly, how many times I can trick myself into going just from that one thing.
posted by xingcat at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I try to take advantage of brief periods of being in the mood to get something on the calendar, and make enough of a commitment to it such that I'm unlikely to talk myself out of it.

Not exactly a day-to-day example, but I was recently looking at going on a guided hike in Alaska. Guided, because it removed most of the logistics and uncertainty around being prepared enough. I was sitting on it, going around in circles of "maybe the bugs will suck", "what if I don't like the other people there", etc. Then got excited enough one day and just sent through the booking form and deposit. Once that stake was in the ground, everything else happens a lot easier.

Getting other people in on it works for me too. Instead of trying to choose and plan a hike to perfection first, and then ask someone else along, just send them a note asking if they want to go for a hike on x day! Maybe they'll have some good ideas, or know about the parking, or whatever. And if the weather sucks on day x, you can go do something else: a museum, a new brunch spot, etc.

Basically, whenever you're in "I like the idea of doing a thing" mindset, take some kind of first step immediately, that will help to get you through subsequent periods of "meh" or self doubt.
posted by Jobst at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Live some place that's always sunny. Then putting on a billion layers of clothes just to get out the door isn't a barrier to doing things away from home.
posted by aniola at 11:28 AM on June 21, 2021

Best answer: Wal-Mart means signs of civilization. There are very few things I cannot buy in there if I really need them, so camping near a Wal-Mart is essential for me.
This is wagon wheel camping -- start from a basecamp (the parking lot) and venture out from there. It can be urban camping, too.

Save money on the Four Necessities of Vacation Travel: food and water, clothing and other activity-centered stuff, someplace to sleep and relax between activities, transportation. The rest of the budget can be spent on Fun.

Make a Meals Anywhere Kit. Get a small backpack, waist pack, or something easy to lug around for hours.
Add as needed: bottled water, snacks that don't need refrigeration (sandwiches, fruit, etc.), a tiny pocket knife for oranges and stubborn bags, a spoon and fork, a screw-lid container for leftovers, some paper towels and Wet Wipes for clean up, Ziploc bags, and a trash bag.
Keep the meals kit in the vehicle or by the door, ready to go. Or make two, one for the home and one in the vehicle.
Throw out the trash frequently. Refill as needed. Take out what you have not been using (just-in-case stuff).

Make a Hiking Kit. Keep a pair of jogging sneakers and several pairs of wool socks in a small pack in the vehicle, ready to go at any likely hiking spot. I add a wide-brimmed hat, a bandana, sunglasses, a walking stick, a light rain jacket (a hooded fleece jacket in cold weather), and a bottle carrier and bottled water. It's that time of the year when I need to replace the sunscreen and bug spray.
I keep many of the same articles in the closet by the front door, ready to go.

At this point I've got half of the Four Necessities covered. Now all I need is transportation and someplace to relax.
I have slept in my vehicle on long road trips. I park overnight at Wal-Mart Supercenters and 24-hour McDonalds (pre-Covid).
I have my cell phone and charger with me, I may have a book to read, I may bring some crochet.
I may grab something to drink and just watch the traffic go by.

if I need a goal -- where is the Wal-Mart? Where is someplace to get a meal?
Now from there -- where is a walking trail? What are some of the interesting places I can poke around in nearby?
Urban trails can be city trails, through businesses and neighborhoods. Neighborhood parks and activity centers are a good start.
posted by TrishaU at 11:48 AM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I can't just go see things either. But you could harness the goal orientation by finding one that meets your desire to get out more. Hike all the peaks over x height. Train for a triathlon. Learn some fancy quilting technique that's going to require you to go get in-person lessons and find a special craft store. Have chickens to lay your own eggs which would require trips to hardware stores to build a coop and to a farm to get the chicks or whatever. Then your destinations get chosen by the goal, not at random, and the trips have some sense of urgency.
posted by slidell at 12:19 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Goals : I am slowly working on going to all of the state/county parks that have hiking trails near me. I scope out the parking and maps on Google ahead of time, so I'm well-prepared. I go, walk down the trail until I feel done, and then come back. Most of the time these are planned, sometimes not. Picnics can be very simple - cheese, crackers, maybe a piece of fruit, some napkins and a bottle of water fit nicely in a tote bag, and dont need any utensils. Or, go to a sandwich shop and bring that to eat outside.

Sometimes, if I'm bored I'll get in the car and just start driving without a destination in mind. If I pass by somewhere that sounds good to go, I'll stop in. Id there's no parking, I keep going to the next stop that looks interesting, or I've always wanted to go to, etc.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 12:21 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm similar, especially on needing a purpose. So I give myself one! I'll go for a walk down a specific road to see where it goes and if it has any shortcuts that may help later, or hike a specific trail in my quest to hike all of the trails in my town (we have a trail system throughout the town). To be clear, I hike maybe 3-4 times a year, but that's often how I get myself to do it. I will also set goals. For example, there is a mountain about a mile or two behind my house. Change in elevation between my house and the summit is around 2300 feet. I have an on-going goal of eventually hiking from my house to the summit. Every time I go, I get a little further, so I accomplished something. In front of the mountain are some historical sites from the 1800s, and I may hike to those sites giving me something to do at my destination / a reason to be there.

As far as executive decision, maybe stick to things that don't need (as much of) it at first? Why go on a picnic when you know all the preparation will cause you to abandon the plan as "not worth it" when you could just hike to the same spot with little to no preparation? In a similar way, instead of going somewhere a bit away from your home, why not start with right outside your door? Obviously none of us know anything about where you are or what your town's layout is like, but if your road or a nearby road goes for many miles, how far down have you gone before? I used to do a lot of that. I lived in the Los Angeles area where roads can go for tens of miles, through quite a few towns. I would leave my apartment, walk two blocks to a major road, and then go either east or west and just see where it takes me. As to it having a purpose, I was exploring nearby towns and learning more about where I live (in LA, it's near impossible to know everything about where you live, there is just so much, so you can keep doing this for years). A couple towns over there was a university campus near that road, so sometimes I would go to the campus to give me a destination. This activity could easily take up an entire day, leave around 8-9 AM and get back sometime in the mid to late afternoon. And it was a ton of walking/exercise.

I think a bit of it is identifying the obstacles and finding smaller steps that don't have those obstacles, such as hiking has less executive decision than a picnic. If you still can't get yourself to go and do things, identify the (new) obstacles and work on addressing those. But just take baby steps - walk every day to the end of the block until that's fairly natural and normal, then maybe walk a mile every day. I think a lot of it will be getting used to doing something, anything, and then building on it.
posted by Meldanthral at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

So I think people struggle with this a lot, I sure do as someone with ADHD. #1 on my list is have an accountability buddy even if I'm not actually doing it with someone. #2 is have actual financial or set plans (even with myself). Like an alarm set or often before the pandemic, I'd buy a movie ticket and then welp, time to go to the movies.

Also I had to learn to not shame myself if I was just hanging out. I like hanging out by myself! I would feel lazy, stupid, bad, etc. which only made me less likely to do anything.

I still often forget that I planned on doing something and mostly spent a week off work recently just kinda hanging out instead of doing tons of stuff... but that's fine! I had fun! Not beating myself up is really important to the process.

Oh, also smaller steps helps. I might just get in my car or put my shoes on. If things progress further, cool. For me, remembering is like 90% of the battle so I have to leave notes, reminders, accountability, etc.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:02 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

-Pressure for it to be "worth it": Probably tied in with the executive dysfunction, but if I think "Hey, it might be fun to have a picnic!" my brain immediately starts listing out allllllll of the things I'd need to do in order to have a picnic and then usually lands on "wow, that sounds like a lot of time and work, better just not do it". Even if I suspect it will be fun, it is not usually fun ENOUGH to combat the inertia.

Oh yeah, I experience this. I deal with this by deciding I want to do X, planning to do X on a certain day, setting alarms (day before, couple of hours before) to remind me to do X.

When the time comes, I often don't want to do X because it feels like too much work. So then I remind myself that I have the plan and should follow the plan because doing that usually works out. And I usually follow the plan and have a good time.

I also give myself an out: If I get to the place to do X (if it's an activity) or leave for my walk or whatever, I give myself permission to go home early if it doesn't work out.

In practice this means leaving a movie if I am not enjoying it. I love going to see films but it is a schlepp. Once I get there, they are almost always films I enjoy. (I'm talking about art house movies mostly.) But if they are not, I don't fall for the sunken-cost fallacy. It's always a good idea to go to a movie. If I don't enjoy it for some reason, then it's always a good idea to go home early.

That shift in my attitude means that I have seen many more films than I would have otherwise. You can do more if you want to, because I did. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a cheap bastard so my best motivator is to get subscription things where I HAVE to go do it to make it worth it. Every visit decreases the per use cost.

Symphony/opera - get the season pass for $$$$$, but then I go to every single show. And because I'm out doing it, I'll take myself to dinner beforehand, too. And since I'm getting dinner out anyway and it's an evening I've invested in, I may as well go someplace new.

Museums - get the membership, and then do a lot of visits to make it worth it. And since I've already made a trip downtown, I may as well go do a few things downtown while I'm here. Window shop, go get tea, go look at some architecture, etc.

Movies - I had Moviepass for a while before that went belly up, then I had the AMC A List. I'm already paying for it, so it only becomes less expensive the more movies I see. So I go see more movies! And even though it costs the same, I still prefer to see the earliest weekend showings of movies because I am a cranky old person at heart. And if I've got a movie at 11am, well heck, I might as well hit up a diner and get some breakfast that morning while I read. You gotta eat, after all.

All that said, my fave things to do are still just hang out at home with my dogs or take them on walks around the neighborhood.
posted by phunniemee at 2:16 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think you're like jumping way far ahead in what your purpose of the activity needs to be. You don't need to have to have some grand plan or whatever or completely change your personality, just try to leave the house more often. Keep it that simple. If you left the house to walk your dog in a different neighborhood than yours, tada! If you decided to go hiking but then got to the trailhead and panicked because parking was harder than you thought so you just decided to drive around before heading home, tada! If you just drove to the park and ate a sandwich in your car while thinking that you should probably be doing something more productive, tada! Goals Met!

I'm a black and white thinker so mine is "leave the house every day." But I mean baby steps and if you feel leaving the house to do anything (and leaving the house to leave the house also counts) like once a week is a big change for you, that's also cool. The fun part is that you're pushing your comfort zone so that's the only purpose you really need. Like, are there benefits to hiking and looking at art and meeting new people? Absolutely! Those are bonus's. Keep your goals and execution super basic and simple to circumvent overthinking it or feeling like you somehow managed to fail at Leaving the House (news flash- it's basically impossible to fail so it doesn't have to be a huge investment of anguish).

Having a car kit that's full of most of the things I need to at least not downright suffer while outdoors helps a lot. I hoard snacks and water so regardless of the activity I'm usually ok to hang out for a while. It might not be ideal and there's usually more prep I could be doing, but it's at least enough to keep me mostly comfortable with very little effort. There's also almost always a convenience store somewhere that can at least provide the basics if there's some weird emergency I might have forgotten existed.

I frequently have to chastise my inner Slump who would like to sit inside and eat candy for every meal and only watch trash TV and be generally rather lame. That kind of motivation might not work for you, but it is particularly effective for me because most of the time I kinda shrug and go "yeah, that is pretty lame" and head out the door. I like to think if I'd rather look back of the memory of even going to read historic plaques in an Arby's parking lot over sitting on the couch for the millionth rerun of murder shows, and the answer is almost always not watching murder porn. But sometimes it is and if that's the case hey there's always tomorrow.

It's pretty easy to get around the dog guilt. Dogs wear themselves out mentally and physically by sniffing and it's really great for them, so if you're feeling overly guilty that you can't do both just toss the dog in the car and drive to a different neighborhood than you usually walk around in. They'll think it's fantastic, it's really low investment for you, and it meets the goal of getting out and doing something new/spontaneous. I've found a lot of fun things I wanted to explore more later, including one of my new favorite restaurants, by walking the dog around.

The more you get out and do stuff the more stuff seems appealing, so like most things it's hardest to get started.
posted by shesaysgo at 3:12 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Summarizing what a few people have said above: what you are trying to do is develop a new habit.

There is a lot of evidence that it takes about 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. If that is your goal, than you need to devise a plan that puts you in that position every day if possible.

There's lots of good ideas above, so I won't repeat them, but after my Covid experience, which involved both breaking bad habits and creating new ones, I am a strong believer in that two month period. My only advice is to set modest goals for yourself in the first few weeks: go to store nearby that you've never entered and just walk around. It counts! Take your dogs out somewhere random, even if it's for a few minutes. It counts!

Like any other habit, some days will feel like a chore and you'll have to force yourself, but then some days it will feel like a breeze and you'll want to do more. Don't focus as much on the end goal, but instead on the process, and I suspect good things will happen.
posted by jeremias at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The reason why we do anything is because how we think it’ll make us feel. For you, going out more makes you feel happier and gives you a little bit more energy.

The reason why we avoid doing things is because there’s something we don’t want to feel. For you at present, the planning for going out creates feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, guilt, pressure and indecision. Sounds like the same dynamic applies to staying in and getting things done at home.

That is, you do not want to feel unpleasant emotions and so your brain is creating all sorts of resistance around that.

The solution is not tips to trick you into going out or doing chores. It could work, but it will feel like ass. You are also well past feeling “ho-hum” about it. You are in an active state of disagreement with yourself because you have conflicting, unproductive thoughts. This creates confusion about what you want to be doing and why, which leads to more overwhelm and anxiety.

The strategies you need are ones to manage your feelings about planning to do things (or actually doing things you don’t want to do, such as chores). Managing isn’t about suppressing or diminishing feeling, it’s about accepting. Feelings are tunnels, not caves.

You don’t want to do the planning because of how you think it will make you feel (anxious, overwhelmed, etc). But what if you thought differently about this? What if you focussed your attention on accepting the way you feel about this aspect rather than resisting it?

What’s the feeling that results from the thought, “My planning for this is already done; keys, wallet and good shoes are all I need.” Or the thought, “I am willing to do up to 30 minutes of planning because the benefit of going out is super important to me and I see the value of preparing for it.” Or the thought, “I’ll spend five minutes coming up with alternatives and I’ll choose the best one so I don’t feel guilty about the dogs.”

All of the above thoughts are working with you by including the reality of how you feel. And I bet that all of these thoughts produce feelings that are way better than the ones you’re currently having.

You want to get to a place where you’re noticing your thoughts. Then you’re actively choosing to tell yourself thoughts that err towards accepting reality rather than resisting it. The more accepting and empowering the thought, the better the feeling it will produce. Good feelings will result in taking the action you want.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:06 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm all of these things except the dogs. Here's a trick that I'm not sure has been mentioned:

Do repeats. Recognize that the first time will be hard, but subsequent times easier. The pandemic forced me to put my kid in the bike seat and ride to the park for a picnic, because there was literally nowhere else to go. So we did it over and over again. First time? Yikes, I had to learn how to ride a bike with a kid on the back. Figure out all the gear to bring and how to carry it while also managing the kid. Decide where to go that would have enough shade and not too many people around. Etc. But now that I know the routine, it's familiar and safe and on the regular menu. And now I'm a person who bikes to the park for picnics. How lovely!
posted by the_blizz at 6:13 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]

If you want to go on a picnic, but you don't want to worry about what to pack, just get take out. Go to a park with picnic tables. Then you don't have to worry about packing food or bringing something to sit on. I don't know your eating preferences, but all the fast food and fast-casual places have a wide range of food for whatever your dietary needs. There is no rule that a picnic needs to involve a packed meal in a picnic basket on a blanket on the ground.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 9:11 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is helpful, but my friends recognise me as someone who "does things". It was a skill I developed post divorce. I'm only answering part of your question because this is not at all spontaneous.

I make the process the point, and create rules. So-- I go out and do something once every weekend, no excuses. I plan ahead to make sure I have it to do. It may not be worth it, but that is not the point. Doing it is the point.

Over time, I've had so much fun doing these things because some of them are really random. I went to a lecture on urban foraging! I joined a board game Meet Up. Everyone was half my age, but it was fun! Now it is more "natural" for me to do this. It may work for you.
posted by frumiousb at 11:28 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

I recognise all those obstacles! Even though I don't have trouble with them to the same extent, I have two things to add to the heaps of good advice already provided:

- The thing I struggle with most is packing. I don't know why, but just figuring out what to take on an outing/trip and more importantly, being sure I've got everything, is exceedingly difficult. My solution for this is to make packing lists, and make them digitally. That way, whenever you want to go on a hike, you just find the list from your previous hike, make some small additions to those, and get packing without worrying or thinking too much. If you find you have forgotten something, just add it to the list when you get back. This way, your lists will improve over time. After a while you'll have an appropriate list to work with for any type of outing (hike/picnic/warm weather holiday/weekend trip, etc.).

- Trick yourself. Rather than making the big decision to go out, trick yourself into taking small steps. It is silly, but works for me. For example, you can tell yourself "I'm not committing to going on the hike, but I am going to at least check the weather/figure out if I have suitable shoes/find a backpack". Then, after some of the preparation is done, I find myself thinking "I'm already half-prepared by now, might as well go out and actually do the thing".
posted by snusmumrik at 2:03 AM on June 22, 2021

Best answer: I keep coming back to what you said about not wanting to take a walk unless there was a reason. That may be something to play with - giving yourself a reason, even if it's a silly one.

One obvious thing would be to do self-guided walking tours of your city. These are a little different from hikes - you don't need special equipment, usually, since you'd just be walking in your city. And if they are self-guided, then you don't need to worry about being at a specific place on a specific time at a specific date - you can just roll up at the start whenever. And if the route suggested has a stop included on the route that you know you'd be bored with, you can skip it; and if another one of the stops really gets you excited, then you can stay as long as you like without having to leave with the rest of the group. Lots of times these self-guided tours also point out bits of the city you may never have noticed before, or take you to areas you haven't explored very frequently. I found one such route in PIttsburgh here and another one here.

Another option - I am trying to remember the name of the book, but I have a book that has a lot of kind of goofy walking/travel suggestions that might suit. For instance - one of them suggests taking a walk but making only left turns when you reach an intersection. Another one suggests getting a big map of your city, finding the part of the city that corresponds with square K2 on the map, and then going to that part of the city and seeing what's there. (They specified K2 as a bit of a riff on the mountain K-2.) But silly things like that could be your "purpose" as well - like, you're going to count how many blue things you see, or you're going to find out whether you could potentially get everything you need in a given day within only a five-block radius of your house. Things like that.

And a lot of these "urban walks" don't need special equipment - they may only call for a wallet and maybe a notebook and camera - so you can have a "go bag" packed and ready on standby at all times, so that when it's the weekend and you are trying to summon yourself to head out, all you would need to do is get dressed and put on shoes, and then the bag is already packed and off you'd go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on June 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I knew I was asking the right group. Excellent advice all around! Thank you so much!
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2021

Oh, another good couple of "silly purpose" walk ideas:

* Pick a public transit thing - bus, light rail, subway, your call - and pick one of the lines on it, and ride it all the way to the end of the line. Then get out and look around and see what's there. If all that's there is, like, the bus terminal and a handful of used auto dealerships, then you can just get back on the next bus back, and you're only out the cost of the bus ticket. But if you ride the subway to the very end of the line, you may discover that "the very end of the line" for that particular subway may put you by an enormous park or a bustling Italian neighborhood with six different fresh pasta stores or a historic landmark of some kind, and that'll be something to explore.

* This is a good one that would take up a whole day. If there is a really long, straight road that crosses your entire city, or even just a big chunk of it, try taking the bus or subway or what have you as close as you can get to one end of that road, and then walk all the way to the other end. For instance - here in New York, you can follow Broadway all the way from the southern tip of Manhattan all the way across Manhattan Island, across the river and up through the Bronx, and even north outside the city and up into Westchester. And one day when I was really bored, I took the subway to a spot as far north as I could get on Broadway (I ended up in the Bronx), got out, and started following Broadway south. It took me about six or seven hours, and I stopped a couple times for snacks and stopped in a museum on the way that I never knew existed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have some social anxiety/ phobia that is a roadblock to just going to that museum, show, park. It helps if I put it in my calendar, check the opening times, parking, and other details (thank you, Web), get myself ready the evening before, making sure clothes are ready, breakfast available, etc. Still, some mornings, the calendar pings to remind me I want to go on an outing, and I sometimes bail. 15 months of Staying In has made this much worse. Practice is correct. Schedule easy outings. Reward yourself; take a selfie and when you get home save it and title it Went hiking at Place, felt great or any way you can reinforce the good feelings.

Just before lockdown, I started going to a local-ish bar that is chill, sitting at the bar with a book, getting a beer and a starter. That weird feeling of woman alone at a bar started going away, then, Pandemic. Will take some work to get back there.
posted by theora55 at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

(omg r u me?!)
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2021

I am not perfect at this, but I do have a strategy: just remove the excuses.

Recognise that mostly what you need to make a thing work is minimal, and if you cock up you can solve by buying things on the way if you absolutely have to or simply doing without (you'll still enjoy yourself, I promise). Picnic = lunch in the park = pop into Safeway and grab a sandwich or salad for $6 as you go. Hiking = wandering around outside = put on a pair of shoes you won't regret and probably the only thing you will want is a bottle of water. Yes, there are more efficient ways to do this, but first do it and then work on what makes it efficient afterward - don't make it a requirement.

Right now in the car I have a full water bottle (yes, it's been there too long and tastes flat, but it works), a beat up hoodie, a thin waterproof jacket and some sun cream, and that solves for most things. If you're more of a transit user, then pack a backpack for the same purpose and leave it by the door. Bonus extras are nibbles (a chocolate bar covers for medium sized walks; trail mix is also good), a cheap fleece blanket (IKEA ftw but goodwill usually has stuff), and a pastime for watching the world go by (a book if you're so inclined, but Kindle has me covered). I keep wondering about adding headphones.

Don't fret the details; learn them through experimentation. If you use anything or you missed something, fix it when you get back and it's fresh in your mind. If you think 'but I need X and Y and Z' then consider if you need it, or if you just want it - if you want it, it can wait.

And life is easier if you can make sure if you have cheap subs for whatever in place, so you don't have to hunt things down - for the headphones, for instance, that cheap pair of earphones you acquired when you last flew. Yeah, you can find the good pair, but you can also leave immediately without bothering.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 6:47 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

How do you trick yourself into going places when you are feeling ho-hum about it?

Sometimes I tell myself that I don't have to actually park and go into the thing, I'm just going to put on appropriate clothes for it and drive around near the thing.

You would probably need to let go of the pressure for the thing to be "worth it" for this to work for you though. If you feel that it would be better in some way (for your mental health or more exercise or you have a goal to make friends) to go out to places, realize that reaching your goal might mean you have to take actions that don't seem "worth it" in the short run in order to work towards your goal. Not so different than many other goals in that regard.
posted by yohko at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

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