I’m sure it says something about my personality that for the last three years, one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to “have more fun.” As a classic Enneagram 3, my intense work ethic can sometimes be at odds with my ultimate goal of living life to the fullest. So, every January 1st when I journal about how I want the next year to look, I inevitably write some version of, “More joy, more laughter, more play.”
I’ve always skewed slightly more serious – my elementary teachers used to tell my mom how “focused” I seemed in class. When I’m in the zone with a goal in mind, it’s hard for me to see outside my carefully-crafted plan of action. But in order to be more carefree, I know that breaking that script is exactly what I need to feel more joy in the everyday experience. When I’m on a long hike or at the beach, I easily flow into a headspace that’s more about experiencing the moment and enjoying life instead of checking things off my to-do list. And yes, the beauty of nature tends to awaken that spirit in many of us, but I also think that it has something to do with the fact that an interruption in the flow of life makes us feel more alive.
I started 2022 by downloading a new book that’s appropriately titled The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again, in which the author, Catherine Price (who also wrote this other favorite) starts by breaking down her definition of “true fun.” Turns out, many of the things that we might think are fun are, upon further examination, not that satisfying after all. She classifies things like binge-watching shows and scrolling through social media as “fake fun.”
“Fake Fun is numbing and leaves us empty when we’re done. True Fun makes us feel nourished and refreshed.”
I believe that even when there are serious things happening in the world around us, we can have empathy and compassion for what’s happening, while also welcoming play and laughter into our days. So, inspired by my readings, as well as my own experiences lately, here’s what I’m learning about how to have more fun in our lives.
Fun is a mindset
Let’s use an example that most of us encounter every day: making dinner. There are two women making the exact same dinner on a Tuesday night, let’s say, lasagna. One of them is halfway paying attention to what she’s doing as she mulls over an issue at work that day while cursing herself for choosing a recipe that requires multiple layers of noodles / cheese / sauce because she still has lunches to pack and emails to answer and–this is all just a little too much for a Tuesday.
The other woman? She’s barefoot in the kitchen with the music turned up, savoring the experience of doing one of her favorite things. Maybe she recruits a family member to help her layer, maybe she pours a glass of wine and savors the feeling of doing one of her favorite things on a Tuesday night. Same circumstance, totally different experience.
Or think about the simple act of having a conversation, something we do all the time, with strangers, family, and friends. What differentiates a boring conversation with one that counts as “banter,” or even, flirting? It’s all in how we choose to see it.
True Fun = Playfulness, Connection, and Flow
In her book, Price says that these 3 qualities must be present in order to experience True Fun in our lives: playfulness, connection, and flow. Playfulness is that spirit of lightheartedness and freedom, where you’re not thinking so much about everyday responsibilities but instead fully engaged in whatever you’re doing.
“When people are being playful, they sparkle.”
Connection is about having a shared experience with another person or thing. It could be a connection to nature, an activity you love (like drawing), an animal, or another person. It happens when a person “joins together with someone while at the same time feeling totally themselves.”
And Flow is a term that describes that feeling of being totally engaged in the present experience to the point that you lose track of time–that feeling of getting lost in whatever you’re doing.
If my goal is to have more fun, I can seek out experiences that include all three of these qualities, or look for ways to infuse more of each them into my day-to-day life. When playfulness, connection, and flow are present, we get the magic of true fun.
Embrace the idea of unconditional fun
My definition of unconditional fun is: you don’t need to wait until things are a certain way in order to be having fun. It’s not dependent on what’s happening around us, rather it’s an internal energy shift – a way of moving through the world that’s not so dependent on external circumstances. Picture that person who seems like they’re always having a blast (George Clooney counts.) It’s magnetic, isn’t it? I’ve been looking for those small moments of delight that can be found even on a highly imperfect day–if I’m paying attention.
Have more fun by breaking the script.
A couple years ago, I read and loved a book called The Power of Moments. It’s all about how we can create more memories and extraordinary moments in our lives. One of the biggest takeaways for me was a concept called “breaking the script.” The idea is that by doing something unexpected, we turn off our autopilot and transform routine moments into something more fun.
Here are some “break the script moments” I’ve been embracing lately:
- After dinner, instead of turning on TV, take a family walk around the neighborhood.
- Take a bath with a great podcast on my headphones–in the middle of the day!
- Notice something you love about someone in your life – and tell them.
- Instead of watching my kids play dodgeball, jump in and playing with them full stop (this also happens to be an incredible workout.)
- Make fancy cocktails on the weekend.
- Do something you’ve never done before: I’ve been wanting to try rock climbing.
- Make a new recipe.
- Read poetry instead of nonfiction.
- Look for opportunities for random acts of kindness – they’re everywhere.
- When the kids are in their pajamas for bed, announce that we’re going to get ice cream.
- Buy myself flowers–and splurge on the peonies.
- Buy flowers for a friend.
- Wake up early for a morning meditation on the back patio. There’s something about watching the sunrise that changes my entire day.
Spontaneity is the spice of life
I also learned in The Power of Moments that novel experiences make time seem to slow down and carve out memories in our brain. As kids, we were experiencing so many things for the first time. Instead of checking “water the plants” off our to-do list, we were looking at the tiny wings of a hummingbird or watching an earthworm burrow into the soil. I’ll never forget my mom’s occasional announcements of “banana splits for dinner!” Sure, it wasn’t healthy per se, but the spontaneity of those nights fed my spirit in a way that broccoli never would have.
I wonder if, instead of looking at unknowns and uncertainties in our lives as “stressful,” we could reframe them as a chance to get back in touch with our inner kid that lived day by day? We couldn’t plan everything then — and there’s a lot we can’t plan for now.
So let’s fully engage with life – smile generously, laugh easily, look for opportunities for fun, disrupt the routine. Life’s too short. I’m ready to play.
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