Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.
A few months back I went to a friend’s birthday party. We grilled, chatted and played board games, among other things. When I returned home, I said to my husband, “I had so much fun tonight!” I was sort of stunned by the fact for days.
What struck me was that I had spent years before going to parties, hanging out with people and spending time on my own without having fun. If I looked back, most of the time I was supposed to be having a good time, I was worrying about something I’d done wrong or how I’d get something done later. It was a rough way to live.
It was when I started my own business that I understood this habit I had. I had no idea how to live in the present moment. And when you’ve just invested your time, energy and cash into a business you don’t know will work, it’s nice to have an outlet. I finally realized I needed to find a few I could lose myself in.
I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who struggles to have fun in the way we’re meant to — losing yourself in the moment, laughing until your stomach hurts or just feeling so content you haven’t looked at a clock in hours.
I think, sadly, many of us never learn how to do this as children. Our lives may have been filled with chaos or been too rigorously scheduled.
Whatever the case, as adults we have the power to change how we spend our time and how we feel about it. Here’s how I found the courage to buy crayons and spend all afternoon coloring, just because.
1. Find the Fun
The first thing you need to do is figure out what it is that you enjoy. This might sound silly, but when I first realized I didn’t know how to play, it also dawned on me that I didn’t know where to start either.
- So I went to the toy store.
- And the art supply shop.
- And the kids section in the library.
Going to where kids spend time and seeing what appeals to you can really get your juices flowing. I’m not suggesting you go buy out the toy store or anything. Just take a notepad and write down what looks like fun to you.
If you want, of course, grab something right away. There are no hard and fast rules. The first time I did this, I left with sidewalk chalk.
But the idea here is to get out of your comfort zone and see what new things there are to enjoy. For me, I would always lose myself in reading. That was one hobby I did enjoy. But I had no idea how many other fun things there were to do, and I wouldn’t have had the courage to try without some of the drawing books I found.
You can also think back to some of the things you enjoyed when you were little, if you were able to play as a child. Get together a big list from your memories, your field trip to the shops and parks, and get ready to start playing.
2. Put a Time on the Calendar
This might sound ridiculous. Who needs to schedule time to play? The answer? The very people who don’t play enough. For me, I would schedule a few hours every Saturday afternoon. This way I knew that I wouldn’t schedule anything during that time, and it would remind me to actually play.
Because honestly, if you’re anything like me, you will probably resist this a bit. You will want to continue getting your weekend chores done because they’re “kind of like play.”
Riiiiiight. I know loads of 5-year-olds who would rather paint the bathroom on a sunny day than play in the dirt outside.
This time is a commitment to yourself. Learning to play will relieve stress and open doors of creativity you never thought possible. It will make you a better person.
But that’s not why we’re doing it, right? We’re doing it because playing is awesome, and just because you’re grown up doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time.
3. Start Playing & Stop Judging
Now that you’re about 20 minutes into your first play session as a grown up, you’re probably having some doubts about why you’re doing this. You might be afraid someone will see you. I know I certainly felt that way when I sat outside in our driveway with a bucket of sidewalk chalk drawing suns and flowers.
But that’s just you judging yourself. If anything, you’re inspiring those people. Everyone I ran into that day had some version of “Oh that looks like fun.” When I bought a coloring book, the lady at the store told me she missed colorin,g and a big smile appeared on her face when she heard I was buying the crayons for myself.
Keep playing. Let go of time and just enjoy your activity. If you’re not having fun, pull out your list and try something else. And keep adding to the list as you go. If something looks like fun, try it. If the swings at the park are calling your name and you don’t have five minutes to jump on now — on the list it goes.
And just because you want to try something doesn’t mean you have to commit to it or be good at it. Let go of your critic. Right now, let your inner-elementary-schooler out.
4. Invite Others After a Few Weeks
Fun is not something to hole up with all by yourself. It’s mean to be shared. That’s part of what fun is.
Of course, I’m an introvert, so sometimes I like being on my own having fun, but more often I enjoy drawing and going to the art shop with friends. It sparks creativity and generates new ideas. More than that, you can hold each other accountable.
I suggest waiting a few weeks because you want to know for yourself what you enjoy doing and what you’d rather skip. Also, it also gives you time to hear and deal with your own inner critic. This way, when you’re with your friends, you can talk about it and share notes on what yours says and how they deal with things.
There is something so joyful about creating something together, even if it’s just a papier-mâché ball you put together in an afternoon. Having fun together builds friendships and other relationships as well — trust comes easier.
Conversations can get deep while you’re finger painting, after all. And all of this teaches you how to live in the moment and have fun while you’re doing other “adult” things.
I am still learning new things about what I find fun. Some friends and I have a video project planned when the weather turns. We’ll have to rent a jet-ski, which sounds like a good time all by itself.
I like to think that because of learning to play, I’ve learned to make friends more easily and feel more comfortable being myself. I know for sure though, that by allowing my inner child back into the picture, I feel more complete — more integrated. And that is all sorts of awesome, no matter what age you are.