As I sat at the park today watching my kids play in the water it suddenly occurred to me how important it is to have fun. I saw a longstanding client today who after a year of battling with depression and suicidal thoughts finally came to the realization that she had been a contributor to her own misery. She discussed with me how her life had been so regimented that it became very difficult for her to function outside of that structure. Just recently she realized the importance of having fun. Once she allowed herself to deviate from her structure, it became liberating.
The question really is, why does it take adults so long to realize what children already know? As I watched my kids play I realized they don’t have to be taught how to have fun. They just naturally do it. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t burdened with life’s treacheries yet. Perhaps it’s because it comes to natural to them that they really don’t have to think about it.
But when a person is plagued with depression, anxiety, stress or trauma it consumes all that they think about and all that they know. The idea of having fun is no longer at the forefront of their mind, but it’s something that they have to dig deep for and try to discover again. When this becomes the case for a person and they’re unable to spontaneously have fun, they have to put some work into doing it. BUT it can be done!
The first step is to expose yourself to opportunities to be able to have fun. Today when I brought my kids to the splash park there were many other kids there. They ran right in, got involved, got wet right away and had fun. Usually we come and there are no kids here and I have to get up, try to get them involved, encourage them to get wet and then they kind of cry and complain. Today, they didn’t even think twice about it.
It also occurs to me that when I take my dog to the dog park the same phenomena happens. Even though my Golden Retriever is free to run wild, she chooses not to. Instead, she’ll sit by me and insist I pet her. She may sniff around a little bit, but that’s it. When there are other dogs she doesn’t need me anymore; she joins in with little regard for leaving my side.
So number one, put yourself in opportunities to have fun. Staying at home and doing nothing or refusing invitations gets you nowhere. If you don’t know where to go, look in your local paper for happening events or check out local festivals, concerts or lectures. Look for groups to join with a common interest. Meet up is a great place to search for people with common interests. Accept invitations to friends’ houses or out to lunch. You never know what positive feelings may arise and make it worth it.
Number two, find a buddy to go with you some place that you’ve never been, like a partner in crime. Having somebody to go with even if you don’t know them that well makes most of us feel less insecure about being there. Another reason to have fun is that it releases positive endorphins, natural chemicals in your brain that enhance moods.
So if you’re feeling stressed or uptight, what a great natural way to improve the way you feel. So often we’re so preoccupied with what we have to get done, house cleaning, chores, tasks, business, work, shuffling our children around, shuffling ourselves around that we really don’t take the time to have fun. But having fun can be a huge stress relief. It can actually make all of those other things go much more smoothly. It can reduce irritation and enhance mood. Plus the greatest benefit is that having fun is FUN!