LEARNING TO HAVE FUN – EVERYDAY!
Even as I write the heading – it feels odd. Surely we don’t need to ‘learn’ how to have fun? Perhaps not. But I do know from the many people I’ve coached, having fun everyday is not something that happens very much. Having fun is often relegated to weekends, special days and holidays – and even some of these days aren’t much fun. Life is too busy. There are jobs to be done, children to be raised, family to be cared for, and money to be made. There is no time for frivolity or merry making. And yet wouldn’t our everyday lives be easier and more pleasurable if we also had fun? Before I go in to the ways and means of having more fun, lets first look at why I’m suggesting this.
Thomas Leonard is widely recognised as one of the founding fathers of coaching. He created many programmes – including Extreme Selfcare – a process he described as: “Going to great lengths to show affection and concern for oneself” as opposed to “Just Enough Care” which he defined as “Taking just enough action to prevent damage or harm”. Most of us fall into this last category. Looking at this programme in more detail is for another day, but high on the list of actions and changes recommended by Thomas is Pleasure. This again is another thought that is at odds to what most people believe they need to look after ourselves. Lets delve deeper…
When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins – the natural feel good chemicals into your blood stream. As well as making you ‘feel’ better, there is evidence to show that it also helps you heal faster and can help prevent certain medical conditions.
When you spend time doing things you love doing, your worries are cast aside for awhile and your stress levels drop. When you are stressed, your blood contains higher than normal levels of cortisone and adrenaline. These are the fight or flight chemicals which raise your blood pressure and can increase symptoms such as tense muscles, unfocused anxiety, dizziness and weakened immune system.
So there are good medical reasons for having fun and doing pleasurable things. But this isn’t the only reason. In fact for me, the medical reasons are just a a great side benefit. The main reason for giving fun a priority is that you will ‘feel’ better. You will be more refreshed and be able to do the things you want and need to do. And, as well as this, give care and love to those around you – more easily.
Let me introduce you to the concept of the full teapot.
I know this might sound a bit wacky, but bear with me: it will (hopefully!) make sense. Imagine for a minute that you are a giant teapot. Pouring into your teapot is all the energy you need from the Universe. But our life, jobs, demands of our children and family, plus media and cultural pressure has left the teapot with many holes. So as fast as the Universe is filling up your teapot, the energy spurts out through the holes, leaving you with less than a full pot. Now imagine that your friends, family and colleagues want some of your energy – perhaps for you to listen to them, to do things, or to care for them. How much can you give before you start running on empty? How easy is it for you to give generously to these people who want some of your energy?
For many years I lived with my teapot gauge well in the red. It was really hard to give generously. When I did find a reserve to do so, afterwards I felt totally drained. I now see that I gave myself very little time. In fact just finding 10 minutes for myself seemed like a herculean task. Fun was far off my radar let alone an everyday event.
Now I’m not perfect. I haven’t cracked this completely, but I do have lots more fun than I used to. I now recognise when I need to have time out. Taking time to have fun in this sense isn’t a luxury: it’s a necessity to live well and be successful.
Having fun isn’t just about the big things in life, it’s about all the small things too – like giving yourself time (and permission) to take a long bath, light candles, go for a walk, potter in the garden, prepare a lovely meal, buy some flowers, or perhaps call a friend. What else would you put in this area of having fun? I’m sure there are lots of little things in your life that would give you pleasure. What could you start doing so that every single day there was something for you to look forward to? Perhaps some of you do these things already, but you don’t see them as fun? If this is the case, how do you approach them? Is making a lovely meal just a chore? Do you lie in the bath worrying about all the things you are not doing? If yes, make a conscious effort (learn) how to savour the moment. Pretend you are Jamie Oliver for the day and get totally wrapped up in the passion of preparing the food. Or when taking a bath, pour in scented bubble-bath with gay abandon, light candles and relax. The world is not going to stop turning whilst you luxuriate. It’s not hard to start having fun everyday: mostly it’s about switching from going through the motions, to really, really enjoying the moment.
As well as the small pleasurable things we can start to appreciate everyday, think about the time you have with your children, family and closest friends.
If you are married with children, it’s all too easy to live life simply by ‘getting through’ each day instead of enjoying simple moments. If you want to change this area of your life, initially it needs to be planned. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but when changing a habit, sometimes thinking about it simply isn’t enough: you need a reminder. Set time aside for playing and just being with your children. Ask your partner out on a date. Yes, a date! Start it with a real invitation – the way you used to ask each other out when you first met. On your ‘dates’ don’t let your chatter be about work or the children. Instead spend time reconnecting to each others thoughts, ideas and hopes.
Your special days and holidays need to be fun too – and whilst this is often more the case, given more thought, they can become even more fun. Become aware of what you really love, and make a decision to spend time doing it. Don’t allow yourself to get swept into doing all the stuff you don’t like. By the way, if your partner has a totally different ‘fun scale’ to you, talk about it. Not on the day – but well in advance, so that both of you get a chance to do and enjoy your ‘bits’ of the days.
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