“Man consists of two parts, mind and body, only the body has more fun”. Woody Allen
What does ‘fun’ mean to you? For many of us it is a reward for working hard or a way of releasing stress, often involving a delay in gratification. We have different words for it though how many of us have enough fun?
When asked on a training course recently what my key values were in life, fun came up on my top ten. I then had to question whether I was really living this value in my everyday life. There were moments in my personal life and in my work where I allowed myself to be playful and spontaneous, though on further reflection, I realised I don't give myself enough opportunity to have fun, and limit my enjoyment in the process.
A lot of us can allow either our limited conditioning, circumstances (lack of money, poor family/personal relationships) or bad habits restrict our sense of fun. We might tell ourselves that we need to get the chores done or write that report first and result in rationing our fun to special occasions like a big night out or a birthday party. Sometimes being an adult and ‘responsible’ in our work and relationships means we can constrain that emotional, child part of us that also needs nurturing. Often how we learn to have fun or play is taught at a very young age and if it was encouraged or inhibited can create our rules on fun in later life. Though as Katherine Hepburn said: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
Tips for allowing more fun:
1. Define for yourself what “playing” and "fun" mean to you. Make a list of all the fun things you used to do as a child and compare it to the things you do now. Are there any you could bring into your life now? How do you have fun now and what is it about those things that is important to you? Are you able to have fun with friends and family and not on your own or vice versa? Learn to redefine what fun means to you and allow yourself to move the goalposts if necessary.
2. Write down all your excuses for not having fun or ‘fun blockers’. Start with writing at the top of the page: ‘I choose to allow myself to have fun, but..’, then spend a few minutes writing a list of bullet points of things that come to mind. It might also bring up unconscious beliefs that you weren’t aware of such as ‘mum will disapprove’, or ‘I feel guilty’. Once you’ve done it work on challenging them- how helpful or valid are they for you in your life at present?
3. Model people who are good at having fun. Ask them ‘how do they do that?’- what are their beliefs or attitudes around play and fun and how can you learn from them? Observe children and how they allow themselves to be spontaneous and playful- they are our greatest teachers for having fun.
4. Allow yourself to experiment with different ways of having fun. Make a list of different fun activities (including things you’ve never done before) such as trying rock climbing, painting or going to the cinema. Don’t edit yourself based on them being childish or a ‘waste of time’- be prepared to let go of old modes of thinking and behaving. Action at least one thing on your list a week and don’t restrict yourself to weekends or when you have ‘deserved’ it- just do it!
5. Do something new or different each day and break your routine habits. For instance, trying a new filling in your sandwich, walking a different way to work or visiting an art gallery in your lunchtime. Reflect at the end of your day on how much fun you have had- what could you have done differently that would have enhanced your day?
6. Discover what makes you laugh. The therapeutic benefits of laughter are proven though how many of us laugh every day? Try watching one funny film or comedy a week, go to a comedy club or look up funny sites on the internet. If you are finding it difficult, think about things that have made you laugh in the past or a humourous story and remember why you found it funny.
7. Finally, be alert for any opportunities to have fun through the day on your own and with others. Affirm to yourself regularly you’re right to have fun and be aware of your inner critic blocking or sabotaging you. Stretching yourself a little each day eventually expands your comfort zone of fun. And remember, as Dr Seuss said, “fun is good.”