I was talking with a friend the other day who is going through a divorce and he was telling me that his goal is to do something fun every month so he has something to look forward to during this difficult time.
Always being the coach I am, I challenged him: rather than limiting himself to having fun once a month, he should set a goal to have fun twice a month or once a week. More fun is always better.
And then he turned the tables on me and asked, “Ok, so what do you do for fun?”
For once, I was at a loss for words. I honestly didn’t know how to answer that question; I’m usually the one asking the hard questions.
Over the last few months since leaving my corporate job and having a lot more free time, I’ve been really focused on nourishing my body and my mind. I thought I was having fun, but when he asked me the question, I was totally caught off guard because in that moment, none of things I was doing felt like fun.
I work out 4 – 5 times a week and though I love the pace of the classes and the way I feel from a good workout, while I’m there, it’s not exactly fun.
I journal and meditate almost daily and thoroughly enjoy the process of getting out of my own brain. But again, it’s not fun.
I read a lot of personal and professional development books and articles and am learning something new almost every day, but while those are feeding my mind and helping me grow, sometimes my brain hurts a little.
One of my favorite benefits of my new schedule is getting to spend more time with my kids. A lot more time. They are the best things in my life and I love them dearly. But, while I may get some serious haters for this, I have to be honest: as a single mom to 6- & 7-year-old future female leaders (read: highly opinionated, independent, and headstrong little girls), plus I *so wisely* added a puppy to the mix, a lot of the time, it feels more like a test of my patience than true fun.
What’s maybe a little sad is that I’d intentionally designed all of these habits into my routine as a way to help me feel good and be more grounded, I guess thinking that would be fun by default.
But I missed a key element: In addition to nourishing my mind and my body, I need to nourish my soul. And I can’t think of a better way to do that then getting out and doing things that are just plain fun.
The next morning after my conversation with my friend, as I sat doing my daily journaling, my thoughts turned to that conversation and how bothered I was that I didn’t immediately know how to answer the question about what I did for fun. So, I made a list.
I literally wrote out all the things I could think of that I thought were fun. What was interesting was that many of the things I do regularly (exercise, write, read) were on the list, explaining the good intentions I had in adding them to my routine in the first place. But I still wasn’t getting a lot of “fun” out of them.
The problem is that I’ve always had this thing with needing to be mature and responsible, to do the “right thing”. Fun – like real fun – was saved for vacations.
So, a little embarrassing to admit: I actually looked up the definition of fun. Yep, I know. Clearly this girl isn’t getting enough fun if I literally had to look up the definition.
Google’s handy pop-up definition of fun is “enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure”.
So that got me thinking about what things I do that give me butterflies – that “lighthearted pleasure” of doing something I enjoy so much for no other reason than I just plain like doing it.
Not because it helps my health, not because it grows my mind, not because I should want to do it… but simply because I dig it.
That list was decidedly more difficult to write.
My only prerequisites for each entry were that the primary benefit was fun (rather than, say, physical or mental) and that it had to be something that didn’t have to wait for vacation.
Though it took me a bit to warm up, once I got started, I quickly came up with a list of about 10 things I’ve always really enjoyed doing, even if I hadn’t done them in awhile. And, actually, making the list of things that are fun was fun in itself.
One that made the list was horse-riding. I’m a country girl at heart and grew up owning, riding and showing horses. I miss being around them and just going riding. Over the years, I’ve done plenty of lessons and trail rides trying to satiate my horse craving, but what is truly fun to me is just saddling up a horse, jumping on and going exploring in the country.
So, on a whim, inspired by my brainstorming fun, I literally stopped mid list-writing and put a post on the NextDoor app asking if anyone had a horse who needed extra attention and riding. I really didn’t expect anything since I live in a pretty urban area, but within hours, several people had written with leads.
By the next day, I’d miraculously found a woman with two horses whose husband can no longer ride due to illness and needs an experienced rider to give his horse some exercise on occasion. And, she lives 15 minutes from my house. Talk about a win-win.
I’m happy to share that exactly one week after my conversation, I saddled up and went riding in the nearby forest preserve. As we made our way through the prairie trails, pointing out wildlife and enjoying an unseasonably warm, sunny day, I was caught by the realization that in that moment, I truly was nourishing my soul. I smiled to myself and couldn’t help but think: “Wow, now this is FUN”.
In working with many clients, and being my own client, I’ve noticed that, as people are going through stressful life changes – looking for a new job after losing one, getting a new business off the ground (hand raised!), or even dealing with relationship or family issues – when things are difficult, we often focus ALL of our energy there. It consumes us.
But the challenge is that focusing our energy on the problem doesn’t help. It actually tends to make matters worse – it makes us feel more stuck, more helpless, more frustrated. And we know it, but it feels like we can’t escape it. The problem – the need to make money, to feel loved, to contribute – is real so the rationale goes that the more you think it about, the more likely you’ll come up with a way to fix it.
Neuroscience teaches us that our best ideas generally come when we’re relaxed and feeling good. Logic tells us that feeling good feels good, and the more we feel good, the easier problems are to deal with.
And what better way to feel good than to nourish the mind, body and soul.
Most of us are pretty good at at least attempting the first two: exercising regularly, eating healthfully, reading, etc. But we tend to give nourishing the soul a backseat.
And, as I said before, I believe that the best way to nourish the soul is to HAVE FUN!!! Many of us feel like fun is a frivolous extravagance when we’re stressed and dealing with big things, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Giving yourself – and your brain – a break by getting out and having fun can actually give you the clarity you need to move forward. And, at the very least, having fun feels good – and who doesn’t need a little more of that in their lives?
This article was originally published on Medium on March 6, 2019