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Are you struggling to have fun? Is fun even on your radar as something you’d like? For many, August is a month of summer holidays and, even if this does not apply to you, it’s helpful to use this cultural prompt to check in with how you’re doing when it comes to fun. And, if you come to discover that you are not doing very well at having fun, fear not! You are not alone. Indeed, recent research that shows a striking increase in how many of us struggle to read and respond to feelings, from 22.83% before lockdown to 33.33% after lockdown, makes a link to the ability to have fun and enjoy pleasure. In this blog, you can find out what may be stopping you from having fun, why that matters for your self-care, health, and well-being, and what you can do about it.
Why is fun important for your self-care?
When did you last have fun? Are you feeling weighed down and lacking energy? Fun, play, and laughter help you connect with your vitality. Connecting with your vitality makes you feel better. There’s extensive research on the health benefits of fun, laughter, and play when it comes to physical, mental and social health and well-being. Recent research focusing on laughter and humour ‘points to wide-ranging health benefits including improvements to anxiety, sleep, depression, relationship satisfaction, stress, pain, diabetes, and cardiovascular function’. And it doesn’t stop there, benefits to the immune system have been cited, suggesting that having fun may even increase your ability to fend off colds and viruses.
So why, when fun feels great and is so important for your self-care, do you struggle? What gets in your way when it comes to having fun?
Why do I struggle to have fun?
Let me introduce you to the Fun Police. The Fun Police is made up of beliefs and behaviours that show up whenever the possibility of fun arises and they stop you from having fun. They work across three main districts, or areas:
Area 1: Conditional
This is where you believe that you need to earn fun, that you need to deserve it or that someone needs to give you permission to have fun. This means that the Fun Police will block any attempt at having fun unless conditions are met. Often the conditions are impossible to meet so you’re snookered and fun becomes impossible. An example is the belief that you shouldn’t have fun whilst others are suffering, whether that’s people you know or people you don’t know. Another example, affecting people struggling with climate anxiety, is: “How can I have fun when the world is burning?”
Area 2: Guilt
This is where you feel you can’t have fun because you should be doing something else. An example could be that you feel you should be, for example, working, doing chores or caring for others. The feeling of guilt can be so strong that it stops you in your tracks. You get stuck in doing lots of ‘doing’, staying busy meaning you never give yourself the respite and chance to recharge and savour the experiences you’re having. Even if you do find yourself in a ‘fun’ experience, you’re not able to experience the fun because of the weight of the guilt on your mind.
Area 3: Shame
This is where you feel that what you enjoy and what’s fun for you is in some ways shameful. Shame is a powerful deterrent as it’s about the fear of being rejected by others who might judge you for it. It’s often something you’ll do in private or even doesn’t give yourself permission to do at all out of fear of being found out, ridiculed and even rejected. I remember working with Charlie a few years ago, who said: “I’m ashamed to admit it but I really do love metal detecting. I don’t even need to find something, I love how it’s about slow focus and paying attention. I’ve never told anyone. I keep the kit in my boot and tell people I’m going hiking”.
It’s worth noting that there can also be physical reasons why you struggle to have fun. Pain and stress are connected with fear; it’s hard to have fun when you’re in a state of fear or anxiety. And there can be other reasons too, there’s a condition called Anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure (often a component in fun), which can for example be an indicator of neuro-diversity. Even gut issues can prevent you from being able to have fun because of how your gut health affects biochemistry which in turn affects your mood.
Sherlocking what’s powering your Fun Police
The Fun Police have shown up in one of more of these areas for most of us at some point in our lives. Whether this is a new insight for you or something you’ve been aware of for a while, getting curious is the key to finding a way forward. It can therefore be helpful to do some sherlocking to find out where those associated beliefs and behaviours come from.
If you’re new to sherlocking, here’s the definition:
And, here are seven clue-busting questions that can be helpful to bear in mind as you start your sherlocking:
- Is it helpful?
- Why bother (investigating)?
- What am I making it mean?
- What’s within my circle of influence?
- What information would I be missing out on if I didn’t have this feeling?
- Is what I’m thinking, feeling, and doing familiar?
- Is it proportionate and appropriate, or is it historical (linked to something that happened to me in the past)?
How do I start having fun again in life?
Everything starts with awareness, so the invitation here is to first get curious about what’s stopping you from having fun. You need to have at least an awareness of what’s stopping you before you can do anything about it.
Use the ABC technique of First Aid for Feelings. The A stands for Awareness, The B stands for Breath and body and the C stands for Choice.
When you think of fun, play, laughter or even holidays, what do you notice about your beliefs (they show up in the thoughts you’re doing)? What do you notice about the behaviour that you do? What about your emotions and your physical sensations?
Breath and body
Breathe into the count of five and out to the count of seven. Do this three times giving yourself a bit of bumper space between each breath? Then move your body in some way. Jiggle your eyebrows and your jaw. Roll your shoulders, shuffle your sitting bones and wriggle your toes. It can be helpful to remind your brain of the other end of your body.
Apply the seven clue-busting sherlocking questions above to whatever you noticed in the first step of Awareness:
The answers you discover to these questions will then give you the clues to help you update your beliefs and guide you towards having more fun.
Updating your beliefs and behaviour about fun will have a powerful impact on your health and well-being, so it’s worth giving this some time and talking about it with trusted friends and family. If it feels like you need support, then do reach out for help. Sally, who had come into consultations because of feeling like she’d completely lost her mojo, realised that she had a belief that fun was frivolous. This belief and the focus on only doing activities (behaviour) that were ‘sensible’ was zapping her energy. She updated her belief to ‘fun is FUNdamental’ and the impact was near enough immediate. She felt vigorous, there was flow because there was fun. Whatever your way to update and improve this vital aspect of your self-care, you’ll find that your body, your mind, and your relationship will feel the benefit.
What fun things to do?
If it’s been a long time since you’ve had fun you may have forgotten what activities and experiences are fun for you. It can be helpful to look back to what you enjoyed when you were younger. Hazel, a woman that I worked with some time ago, realised that she loved playing with model railways, something she hadn’t done since she was a child. She felt ashamed of this yearning for playing with toy trains, which she judged as childish and nerdy. She was certain that her colleagues would ridicule her and that it might even threaten her credibility as a senior manager in the NHS. Having applied the ABC technique and done her sherlocking, Hazel was able to challenge these beliefs and give herself permission to enjoy what was fun for her. For her 50th birthday, she gave herself a beautiful model railway set and made a date with herself to enjoy playing with it. She tentatively started sharing this with people and realised that instead of ridiculing her, people would respond with curiosity and share their own fun things.
The power of envy
If you’re struggling to remember what you enjoyed when you were younger or you find that what you enjoyed then isn’t fun for you now, it can be helpful to look at how people around you do for fun and what feelings that brings up in you. Here the feeling of envy is particularly helpful as it shows you something that you’d like to do or have.
Do you fear holidays or avoid them?
Holidays are an example of when you can set aside time to do what’s fun so it can be interesting to look at how you relate to fun through the lens of holidays. Do you avoid holidays because you always get ill on holiday? If so, you may find it helpful to read this blog. Did you know that holidays help with your health? You can read more about that in this blog.
Go gently with yourself
Whatever the reason for why you struggle to have fun, remember to go gently with yourself. There will be reasons for why your Fun Police are doing what they’re doing. The invitation for you is to get curious about those reasons and update what’s needed so that you can have more fun and enjoy the many benefits of doing so.
Go gently, hold steady, and stay the course.
All the best, Thor
PLEASE NOTE THAT THOR A RAIN IS NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR. THE HELPFUL CLINIC IS NOT A MEDICAL CLINIC AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE