Life is so serious: everyone you know has so many problems. The world is in such a bad place. What can we do?
Of course, we do what we can to make things better. But one thing we can do to counterbalance all the suffering in the world is to have more fun.
Does that sound superficial? Do you hear a voice say, “How can you have fun when there is so much suffering around you, like the Ukraine, inflation, poverty and homelessness?” Well, strangely enough, having fun is a healthy protest against drowning in your problems.
I’m not saying to deny the difficulties of life. What I am advocating is to balance them out with having more fun. You’re not going to help the world’s suffering by suffering more yourself. It doesn’t work that way. Holding onto your sense of joy and playfulness actually helps when you’re “fighting the good fight” and working to right the wrongs of the world.
So, how can you have more fun? Here are some ideas:
- Pretend that you’re on vacation. Often, I’ll take a day (or part of a day) and pretend I’m on vacation. You know that “vacation” feeling: you can do whatever you want whenever you like. The other day I drove the back roads of east county and had lunch at a cool little restaurant in Pine Valley. I like to explore San Diego County on my “vacation” days. Once I booked a hotel in Chula Vista for a night. It was a Wednesday, but I was on “vacation”.
- Break your routine and do something different: have lunch foods for breakfast, do your gym routine in reverse, wear really nice clothes to a casual event…switch it up. This signals to our brain, “Hey, something’s different here” and that’s often a prelude to having fun.
- Do something that makes you laugh out loud: a movie, a YouTube video, TikTok dances, go to a comedy club, have lunch with a friend with a wonderfully wicked sense of humor.
- Be silly. For those of you who are terribly serious, this may seem impossible. But, give it a try. My favorite definition of silly is: playfully lighthearted. That sums it up nicely. Be playful, be light about things. Try seeing things as you would have when you were five years old. Let yourself find the funny side of things. See if you can laugh at yourself (that’s for you advanced students).
There is a serious side to having more fun. From my research for this column, I read over-and-over again that having fun in your life is an absolute requirement for good (physical) health. Research repeatedly shows us that there is a direct correlation between your mood and your health. Your brain and your body need the chemicals that flow when you’re having fun, for all your body functions, especially your immune system.
When we were little, we discovered the pleasure of satisfying our needs, flooding our brain with the chemicals that were generated when we did something that felt good, just for the fun of it. Then we discovered other ways to pleasure ourselves, and all we wanted to do all day was play and have fun.
Then, as we grew up, life became harder, and many of us stopped having fun. We got serious, concerned with a good work ethic and productivity. That may be good for school or work, but if we stop flooding our brains and bodies with those feel-good chemicals, we stop the natural medicine that keeps us well.
We know now that certain experiences – like having fun – trigger a flood of feel-good chemicals, like neurotransmitters(associated with elation and happiness) and endorphins (that give us a feeling of well-being and euphoria).
Playing, laughing, being goofy and silly…stuff like this pumps out these feel-good chemicals. Having fun, eating good food, making love, being playful: all of these things flood our brains and bodies with the chemicals that make us feel good and produce health.
You deserve to have more fun. Without fun, we not only become too serious and boring, we get sick. Our bodies won’t stand for it!
Some of us were brought up in families that frowned on having fun. It was considered childish and a waste of time. Grown-ups worked. You were supposed to suffer. We were taught that this was the right way to be. Luckily, it’s never too late to change this pattern…
Life offers each of us more than enough difficulty and hard work. Balance it out with fun: your mind and body will thank you.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBTQ clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.
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