A Case for Fun.
One of the questions I pose to coaching clients when we first start working together is: ‘ How much time and energy do you devote to fun and play?’ It can be all too easy to overlook the importance of having some time off to do something for pure enjoyment. In our more serious moments, we might perhaps see fun as getting in the way of efficiency and effectiveness – of getting things done – when really having a playful break recharges our batteries, relieves stress and reminds us of the bigger picture of our lives.
A Joy or a Chore?
One of the misconceptions about living simply or sustainably is that it involves self-deprivation. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun and indeed, if that were the case then it wouldn’t be. To quote Duane Elgin, author of ‘Voluntary Simplicity’: “It is not about living in poverty. Poverty is involuntary and debilitating, whereas simplicity is voluntary and enabling.” Some people have described to me not only how, once they have decided to slow their lives down, they find more time to play, but also how they enjoy finding the fun in everyday activities. For example, once they set a sincere intention to spend some devoted, focussed time with their children, they are able to relax with them, becoming totally embroiled in their child’s view of the world. They are then able to allow their inner child to engage with their offspring, and just play for the sake of playing, following their children’s lead. This is so different from spending quality time with the family which can sometimes show up as a chore fitted into a window of opportunity in our busy diaries.
Having fun does not necessarily have to mean arranging separate fun activities to do, it can simply mean developing a greater awareness of the more joyful, funny and playful side of what we are already involved with. Isn’t this what sustainable living is all about – simplifying our lives enough to leave us time to appreciate, play with, derive fun from what is already there? We don’t need to spend money, to travel or consume in excess to do that.
Try smiling first.
Perhaps it works the other way round too. When we are feeling stressed and are finding it challenging to disengage from the adrenaline hits, we can make a point of stopping for just a moment to smile or laugh. Laughter generates endorphins in the brain which help us feel better. It’s also infectious. Even a broad grin will elicit a happy response in most people. When I’m feeling morose one of things I like to do is make a conscious decision to smile at everyone I meet that day. Try it and see how many other people return your gesture!
The Creative and Sacred Edges of Fun
Another strategy we can use is to become consciously aware of and engaged with all of our senses. This is different from being unconsciously lost in sensual indulgence such as excessive drinking or eating. In his book Timeless Simplicity, John Lane talks about the sensual enjoyment he gains from simple tasks – what he calls The Sacred Arts of Life. He regrets that the art and craft of cooking, for example, has been replaced with the supermarket’s mass produced ready-meals. He says: “nothing is more intrinsically creative than cooking, which engages all the senses…we need to play with the colours of a dish, the texture of the food…even sounds can be enticing…all these elements carried out with mindfulness provide opportunities for creative choice.”
Fun and playfulness are essential elements in a balanced existence. We can use them to: inject some joy into what we currently find tedious; consciously devote ourselves to taking a complete break and; facilitate opportunities for deepening our connection with others, especially children.
(Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flikr Creative Commons)