Most of us can remember a time in life when we had a lot of fun. Childhood, university years, pre-having our children. The world was our oyster and we ate greedily from the smorgasbord of life.
But now? Fun is more of a concept than a lived experience. Juggling a big job, kids, multiple responsibilities takes it toll and between a full diary and significant sleep deficit there’s just not a lot of fun anymore.
And when it comes to it, you’re probably a bit unclear on what you actually find fun nowadays. Big drunken nights out don’t really appeal so much and beyond that, who knows? So maybe you’ve lost the ability to have fun, relax and kick back. And what does that say about life?
But fun doesn’t have to be a big night out or doing something crazy. With the right approach, every day can bring fun.
Here are five simple steps to build fun back into your everyday life.
1 Give yourself permission
Having fun does not feature high on the list of activities adults are supposed to prioritise. We’re told from an early age that working hard, being responsible, settling down are where we should be applying our efforts. As kids it’s often when we’re really having fun that we get told off for being too loud, too messy or too out of control.
As we get older, we might also absorb the belief that having fun is intensely selfish and self-centered, especially if there are kids, a partner, elderly relatives to attend to.
Having fun can also seem actively unhelpful in being taken seriously in our career, particularly if we’ve had to fight to get people to see our ability rather than our gender or age, or if we’ve constructed a serious or professional persona as a shield against people seeing us for who we really are.
With all of these negative associations, chances are that we’ve got some pretty strong in-built aversions to having fun, even if we haven’t previously realised it. We may be unconsciously telling ourselves all the time that fun is not to be permitted.
But that story isn’t true. Having fun is, in fact, important for lots of really good reasons, including having good mental and physical health, building a strong network of human relationships that nourishes us emotionally and spiritually and on which we can rely at times of need, and getting enjoyment out of our lives.
So giving yourself permission to have fun by resetting your story about it is an important first step in putting fun back into your life.
Start by brainstorming all the reasons why fun is good and worthy of your time and attention. Find as many as you possibly can.
Then also brainstorm all the reasons you might have been told – explicitly or implicitly – that fun was bad, and then list why these aren’t true.
Use this list to remind yourself regularly – daily if need be – of why fun is important, worthy and good, and give yourself permission to experience it regularly.
2 Purposeless play
If you’re serious about getting some real fun back into your life then the next step is to recognise the purpose that currently sits behind many of your so-called leisure time activities and then to let go of the need to be fulfilling any purpose other than enjoying yourself.
So much of our supposed relaxation time is actually not about having fun but about achieving another goal. Exercising to get fit. Catching up with a friend because of a sense of obligation, it being overdue, and wanting to be there for them. Outings to keep the kids occupied. Seeing a film, a play or an exhibition because it’s a ‘must-see’ and you don’t want to miss it before it closes. Walking in the park to give yourself some peace, quiet and time to think.
You get the idea. Even in the things that are meant to be fun and enjoyable, there is often an underlying sense of purpose. I’m doing X to achieve Y.
And yet at its most fundamental fun should be about play. And play is about enjoyment without purpose.
So to really start to have fun we need to recognise that we need to have some activities that are fun and have no purpose other than being enjoyable.
3 Get out those childish things
If you’re struggling to come up with any activities that are fun and have no purpose other than enjoyment then cast your mind back to childhood, a time when having fun is easy.
Given time, what did you love to do? Make castles in the sand, paint, put on plays, glue together model planes, dig about in the garden, build Lego, do jigsaws, write stories, craft, play games?
Chances are there’s stuff you loved that you haven’t done for years but that could be as much fun today.
Maybe in the same way, like starting to write or paint again. Maybe with your kids – building dens and sandcastles. Or maybe in an adult incarnation, like joining a drama group or choir.
4 Don’t mistake raucous for fun
Some people struggle to find things that they would find fun because they’ve come to equate fun with the big, loud TV version – going crazy, making lots of noise, doing something daring or loud, laughing with a big group of friends.
But fun can be small, quiet and contained.
It might be hanging out in the beautiful lobbies of high-end hotels or sitting watching birds in the park or going shopping for a new lipstick. Whatever works for you. So just get still and ask yourself what you really love and could happily do to have fun.
5 Find fun in the everyday
Finally, be sure to build fun into your everyday life, rather than just allocating it an hour or two on a Tuesday evening.
A sure-fire way to do this is to bring more focus to the human interactions you have in your life. Our contact with other human beings offers the richest source of fun – whether that’s laughing with our kids at their silly jokes, chatting to work colleagues about last night’s tele or texting a friend when you see something that makes you smile.
When we’re busy – trying to them dressed before the childminder arrives, racing to finish work before running out the door at 5 – we can have our heads down so much that we forget to look up and take pleasure in the amazing, funny, delightful people all around us.
Consciously making time to reconnect with those people in little ways – and to make that fun – can weave enjoyment right through our every day.
It can be as simple as suggesting that you take a meeting out to a local coffee shop, agreeing that you’re not going to embark on a project unless you collectively agree to have fun on it or instigating a team habit of having lunch together once a week. Or surprising your kids by being silly, doing a treasure hunt for their pajamas or turning dinner into a picnic under the table.
Little moments of fun sprinkled throughout the day – the pure pleasure of laughing and connecting with other human beings – can be as impactful as any raucous night out, even more so. And without the hangover.
So get conscious about how you feel about fun and feel the benefits.
To sum up…
1 Give yourself permission to have fun by telling yourself a different story about its role in your life
2 Have no purpose for fun other than enjoyment
3 Go back to childhood for inspiration
4 Find fun in the small and quiet as well as the big and loud
5 Seek our opportunities to have micro-moments of fun with the people around you.
If life needs some more fun, let’s talk.