Phil, a manager at a tech firm, prides himself on his commitment to his career. He counts rigorous self-discipline as one of his strengths, and expects the same of his subordinates, privately frowning on such "nonsense" in the workplace as birthday cakes and office parties. Phil goes on vacation once a year, only because it's mandatory. He always selects glamorous destinations because he works so hard and figures he deserves a rich reward. He travels with his camera, meticulously recording each brilliant sunset, gorgeous vista and tourist attraction so that he'll have an accurate log of all his experiences.
When his vacation ends and he returns to work, Phil reviews all his photos and is surprised that he can scarcely recall any sensation of all that "fun" he was supposedly having. He wonders why this is, and what he is missing. After some consideration, Phil realizes that he's been so busy attaining goals and meeting requirements, both in work and on vacation, that he has forgotten how to have fun. He wonders if he really knows what fun is.
The Benefits of Fun
Remember, fun is not something you look for outside yourself. It's something you own, embrace and develop within as you live life in the present moment. It's easy to think that fun and happiness are things you might wish would happen to you - things that come from a source outside you, such as a vacation or a new car - but that is a mistaken belief. You make the fun happen. It is totally up to you whether you enjoy life.
Fun is an attitude, a state of being; it's playfulness, enjoyment or amusement. Fun can inspire you, motivate you and empower you to change your attitude, reactions and perception of yourself. Fun and a sense of humor will propel you toward your goal more quickly and give you a sense of well-being along the way. If you're having fun, you're increasing your levels of "feel good" neurotransmitters in your brain - dopamine, serotonin, etc. When this happens, you empower yourself to feel better in general; you'll find it's much easier to be creative, energetic and empathic when you feel good.
Here are some tips to help you raise your fun quotient:
Develop Your Ability to "Be in the Moment." Allow your inner self to awaken and recognize the sheer beauty of being alive. Use gratitude to build your enthusiasm for life, and stay in that attitude as you approach any task, obstacle or occasion. Give yourself permission to wholeheartedly enjoy each moment without judging. Be playful - keep your knees loose, so to speak. Take a sip from the fountain of youth: having not yet been programmed to make a distinction between work and play, children are constantly exploring, discovering and enjoying the wonder of life. You can do the same, no matter what your chronological age may be. It's all in your perception.
Break Out of Your Routine and Jumpstart Your Sense of Fun. Shake things up. Try learning a new language, sport or game. Take an improv class to increase your spontaneity. Go to a movie you'd normally avoid seeing. Try a totally different route to or from work. At work, take mini-breaks in the routine: at intervals throughout your day, jump up from the desk, stretch and move around, even at the risk of feeling a little bit goofy. Visit an amusement park and ride the rollercoaster, Ferris wheel or carousel. At home, rearrange your furniture or try cooking a new and exotic recipe. Take a dance class. You'll find your fun quotient multiplies exponentially.
Build Your Fun Network. Find people you can have fun with, people you can be yourself with, people who can let go and try new activities, methods and techniques. When you find people who appreciate amusement, enjoyment and laughter, stay connected with them and look for more people to add to your "fun network." Solitude and isolation are sure ways to suppress and stifle your sense of fun, so make sure you broaden your scope of experience socially, and in real time, not in a digital sense. Yes, social media can be fun, interesting and helpful, but there's no substitute for real, live socializing. And the people in your network will support and energize your practice of having fun.
Celebrate Laughter. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? When was the last time you laughed so hard your sides hurt? Kick-start your laughter engine by visiting a comedy club, watching a funny movie or TV show or reading a humorous book. Be silly with someone you trust. Let your hair down, so to speak, and see how much healthier, more likeable and spontaneous you feel. Get into the fun of laughing at yourself, and always take the opportunity to laugh with others.
The Choice Is Yours
Take a lesson from Phil's story. It's easy to be so overcommitted to reaching your goals or meeting your expectations that you forget to have fun. Choose to laugh, feel good and amuse yourself and others - these are conscious actions, and skills that can be developed until they become second nature.
Having fun, laughing and feeling good will improve health and performance, accelerate learning and memory, increase confidence and empower you to accomplish even more than you dreamed possible. Those who live each moment with a sense of fun and humor find it easier to tolerate, accept and amuse others. Enhance all your relationships with your new attitude.
Remember to celebrate the present moment, enjoying each and every aspect of living, and fun will introduce you to yourself again and again.
Marti MacGibbon is a certified mental health professional, humorist, inspirational motivational speaker, veteran standup comic, author and member of the National Speakers Association. Her memoir, Never Give in to Fear, is available on http://www.amazon.com/ and through her website, http://www.nevergiveintofear.com/