Why You Should Make Fun a Priority in Life

“Wanna get a manicure?” my co-worker Kat whispered over our cubicle divider, eyeing my chipped white polish. It was a quiet Tuesday morning at 10:15.

“Now?” I said, a little startled.

“Yes, now! No managers are here. Let’s go!

And off we went, giggling, grabbing our sunglasses and cell phones—feeling like kids cutting class. What felt so thrilling about it? I can tell you it wasn’t the 35 minutes spent in the run-down salon beneath our office. It wasn’t the prospect of a fresh coat of polish (despite my need for one).

It was doing something unexpected, spontaneous, and even a tad daring. Just for the heck of it. You might not think that something as simple as getting a manicure during work is crazy fun. But the excitement generated by doing something unexpected, unanticipated, and light—whatever that might be for you—can really give you a boost.

For me, that manicure felt like a little bit of bliss during the typical tedium of a regular week at the office. And it only cost $11.

Where’d All the Fun Go?

Fun is not a word we hear celebrated a lot. Or if we do, it’s not really that much “fun“ at all. It’s the “fun“ team-building activities we do at a corporate event or the “fun” we have at a holiday party with people we don’t really know. It’s obligatory fun or an illusion of fun. Is it really so difficult just to have a good time?

As research professor Brené Brown, Ph.D., writes in her best-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection, “A critically important component of wholehearted living is play… Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest (but) spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”

Sure, we are all here to contribute, to infuse meaning and purpose into our lives. Hey, I’m a life coach and I teach my clients all about goal setting, gratitude journaling, visualizing, and taking action. But you know what? None if it matters unless you are enjoying your life.

Our obligations—professional meetings, workout classes, social dates, morning meditations (the list goes on)—do not have to feel so heavy and burdensome. But they do a lot of the time. Our rigid calendars and planning don’t always leave room for much spontaneity. Nor does our culture, which rewards productivity above all else. Someone recently told me she felt guilty for taking a long walk with her dog to see the Central Park fall foliage. As a business owner she should have been working… need I mention this woman is always working? Quick! Someone arrest this criminal enjoying the trees!

I get that you are busy. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be productive or miss your deadlines for the sake of fun. But trying some of these random, fun ideas takes very little of your time and/or money. And you never know, it might just totally change your day or even your month. Really, what do you have to lose?

It’s the Little Things

  • Try a new workout. Ditch the Tuesday night indoor cycling class that you attend religously to sample a Krav Maga class.
  • Phone a friend. Call a positive pal to relive a funny memory. A 10-minute call with a good friend is like taking a vitamin for the soul. Do it while cruising Whole Foods or waiting for your prescription at Walgreens. Easy!
  • Get a little weird. One of my old co-workers used to do an Egyptian-style walk past the conference room while I was on the phone. I had to suppress my laughter every time. I still always break out into a smile thinking about it.
  • Take a walk. Just get up. Start walking. End up somewhere new. You will find your way home, I promise. Walk without a destination. Be alert and open, and you might find something awesome you’ve never noticed before.
  • Go to Burger King. Order a pepperoni pizza. Act serious while doing it.
  • Just dance. Dance in your own living room. Put on your favorite Spotify playlist and just shimmy around for a few minutes. Busting a move has been shown to give you a huge boost in mood and even help relieve anxiety and depression.
  • Do something creative. Without a goal in mind. Paint something. Sing loudly as you make your coffee. Flip open a cookbook and cook whatever appears on the page you land on. Try any of the ideas from our weeklong creativity challenge.
  • Facetime a friend—while wearing a face mask. Pretend you are oblivious to the mask.
  • Book tickets for something you’ve been meaning to. A weekend getaway with your best friend. A Broadway show. A concert. The anticipation is as fun as the event itself.
  • Go “shopping.” Go into a store you have never shopped in, and try something on that you would never wear.
  • See how many grapes can fit in your mouth. Make a $5 bet with someone over it.
  • Walk into a movie theater. Purchase a ticket to whatever is playing next.
  • Wear something you have never worn—like a bow tie or cocktail dress—just to pick up your dry cleaning.

There are a million things that you can do that are harmless and fun. Even brainstorming fun stuff is fun! Take it from Brown: “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.”

It’s true. Some of the happiest relationships I know exist between people who are successful and poised most of the time, but who act “weird” and “strange” in private, laughing at their secret goofiness.

Having fun is up to you. It’s free and healthy and important. What are we all on this planet for if not to enjoy the ride? It’s safe to have fun. Now go do something unproductive! All you have to remember? Enjoy every second of it.

Source: greatist.com ~ By: Susie Moore

Laughter has Serious Happiness Benefits

“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh” – William James

Do we laugh enough or should we learn to laugh more? Joyful, good-natured, ‘mirthful’ laughter is a tonic for our body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Whether we use it as a distraction, to cheer ourselves up, or as a practice to energise and enthuse us, laughing impacts every part of us. In many ways it is the ultimate drug, with no harmful side-effects.

On a physical level, laughter stimulates our cardiovascular and pulmonary systems by giving our hearts and lungs a vigorous workout. It stimulates blood flow, oxygenates our blood and energises our whole physical system even if we’re hospitalised. The US doctor Patch Adams has been using it professionally for years.

Its endorphin-triggering effect makes laughter a strong painkiller for emotional and mental pain, as well as physical. It has been proven that higher levels of pain can be readily tolerated and the healing process is speeded up. Both the Norman Cousins experience, described in his classic best seller ‘Anatomy of an Illness’, and the current RX Laughter project with children in UCLA hospital in Los Angeles provide the evidence.

Psychologically, laughter is the antithesis of depression. If we’re feeling any anxiety, it is an excellent antidote. In fact, in 2002 in Austria Dr Koutek started using the sound of spontaneous group laughter as part of his treatment for patients with depression. In our Bristol laughter club there are countless examples of people whose lives have benefitted from the ‘lightness’ that laughter induces. People’s faces change, their body language and posture become more open and relaxed, their communication becomes more playful and spontaneous. Even the simple smiling exercise based on the 1988 F. Strack, L.L. Martin and S. Stepper’s pencil exercise produces lasting results. All you need do is smile genuinely three times a day for at least 10-15 seconds and some people find it transforms their lives.

Laughter and playfulness, in turn, unlock our natural creativity. “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation” said Plato. Creativity is an essential part of a fun-filled life and helps neuroplasticity, our brain’s learning ability, by strengthening mental flexibility and resilience. Because of this – as we see in Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology – optimism, positivity and happiness become learnable skills. In short, we learn to become happier.

On the self-development path, the practice of laughter is the practice of joyfulness. Ancient traditions as well as new ones encourage us to practice laughing – with a sense of willingness. What ancient traditions intuited and experienced, and neuroplasticity shows, is a practice is learning new skills until they become second nature. Current thinking is that it might be only 21 days, as in the Chopra 21-day meditation challenge. The key ingredients are single-mindedness, perseverance and tenacity to keep going until you become aware of the differences in your life. There are numerous recent psychological studies which show the beneficial impact of smiling especially when this is the genuine ‘Duchenne’ smile which uses the involuntary orbicularis oculi muscles. This genuine smile encourages an empathetic response and consequently stimulates sociability.

Top tips to laugh more:

  1. Look for laughter and laughter will find you. Look for as many opportunities to smile and laugh in your day, and importantly, communicate them. Not only will you feel better, you will also be encouraging a positive ripple in others too.
  2. If it will be funny later, it’s funny now. Often we look back and laugh at things. Can we laugh at them now instead?
  3. Start your day with a laugh. This is both a Zen and a Hawaiian practice. No matter what yesterday delivered, start today with a chuckle, a kinaesthetic version of a positive affirmation. Why? We get the endorphins. We may then feel more upbeat and better equipped for your day ahead. Its worth remembering, when we’re feeling really rough, that’s the time we need our endorphins most.
  4. Fake it till you make it. Feeling grumpy? Sluggish? Irritable? When you’re ready to change your mood, smile and laugh, even if you don’t yet feel like it. Your system will release endorphins anyway because it can’t tell the difference between the real joyful laugh and a fake one. The key is your willingness.

Source: actionforhappiness.org ~ Author: Joe Hoare