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The Healing Value of Fun

by David Spero, RN

Enjoyable exercise. If people treated exercise as an opportunity to take pleasure in their bodies, play games, and try new activities, they would do a lot more of it. The attitude “No pain, no gain” usually leads within a few months to “no exercise.” So consider finding physical activities that you actually enjoy. You may be able to trick yourself into exercising, the way Alfred does.

New experiences. Most people tend to be scared of trying new things, because they are afraid they won’t be good at them. But when you try something just for the fun of it, it doesn’t matter how proficient you are. In fact, doing things you’re not good at can be a major source of enjoyment for many people. And new experiences are good for you. They make life seem more interesting and self-care more worthwhile.

Barriers to fun
If having fun is so, well, fun, why don’t adults do it more often? Many adults have learned that grownups don’t play. Having fun doesn’t clean the house, and it doesn’t pay the bills. Taking time for pleasurable activities may make us feel guilty or lazy. Maybe as children we never knew any adults who had fun, so we have no role models for light-hearted activity.

If you have difficulty loosening up for these or other reasons, you can overcome those barriers with an attitude adjustment. If you habitually think, “I’ve got so much to do and so little time,” try substituting a new thought, such as, “I’ve got time for the things that are important, and having some fun is important, too.” If doing something unproductive makes you think you’re lazy, consider it this way: “I do as much as I can, and that is all anyone can do.” Finally, think of having fun as part of your self-care, as valuable to your well-being as blood glucose monitoring.

Many adults are embarrassed to be caught having fun. We think people will laugh at us if we do something silly or if we’re not good at an activity, and we’re afraid that being laughed at will hurt. Perhaps we are perfectionists whose self-concept depends on being very good at everything we do. These attitudes can be a major source of stress that affects many parts of our life. If we are constantly judging our performance in life, we will find it next to impossible to let go and enjoy ourselves. Taking a chance and trying something new may be a healing experience, showing us that we don’t need to take ourselves so seriously, and that the sky will not fall if we make a mistake. Having someone we trust try an activity with us can give us more courage to take that risk.

Maybe it’s simply been a while since you did anything just for yourself, and you think you don’t know of any fun activities or where to find them. If this is your barrier to fun, seek out and spend time with humorous, active, friendly people who seem to enjoy themselves and know creative ways to have fun. Scan the papers for clubs, groups, and events that sound interesting to you. Zero in on the sounds of laughter and play — at a party, in the park, or even at the office — and become part of that world.

Making fun a way of life
Fun is really all around us; we just have to be open to it. Here are some ways to stimulate your fun-sensors and become more of a “player.”

Child’s play. Children are the grand masters of fun. They can spend hours blowing bubbles, rolling down a grassy hill, or playing a silly game. Interacting with children — or just watching them play — can scrape the rust off our fun circuits. If you have young relatives or neighbors, visit with them. Their parents will probably appreciate your help with supervising. If you don’t have children in your own family or social circle, stroll past the playground and just observe (from a respectful distance), or volunteer at a local school or day-care center.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

 

 

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