After completing an exercise to identify three each of my top values and strengths, I asked my brother Tim to reveal the same. Like me, he cited kindness, humility and integrity as essential values. When we went on to mention our strengths, however, I realized our exchange smacked of earnestness. I don’t take issue with earnest individuals; earnestness is a fine quality. But perhaps too much of it doesn’t serve us well? Tim and I agreed to introduce the word “joy” — to acknowledge the potential benefits of feeling joy and of imparting it to others. About our discussion Glen observed “joy is the residue that remains from having fun, the vanilla extract in a dessert recipe. It’s pure. For example, I have fun at a BC Lions game and then feel joy afterwards.”
The pandemic was no fun, in the definition of “something that provides mirth or amusement.” (Glen will say my statement has a stranglehold on the obvious; he’s being fun-ny.) And some of us may have forgotten how to have it, in terms of “enjoyment or playfulness.” Yet, psychologists assert fun has positive effects on the brain. Dr. Monica Vermani claims “it increases norepinephrine, the hormone responsible for memory and learning functions, dopamine, our ‘feel good’ hormone, and oxytocin, our pleasure hormone.” Given her glowing endorsement, fun should move near the top of our wellness list.
Fun needn’t equal a grand adventure or uproarious laughter (though I enjoy both). By defining it broadly, we can find it in small things and modest activities. Start by setting a goal to have fun at least once every day. And hold ourselves accountable. Last Saturday I sat on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery relishing a free concert by the 18-woman Sister Jazz Orchestra. No doubt their wondrous music wafting through the air triggered the right hormones in me. But to make certain, my inner voice announced to my brain “I am having fun.” On another day I experimented with the settings on my cell phone camera, trying to improve my capture of a gorgeous flower. Again I said the “f-word” (not the expletive) to my brain — to ensure the boost in hormones and also to satisfy my daily accountability.
Can’t seem to get motivated? Dedicate some fun in a day to a person who’s no longer capable of having it (as a variation on expressing our gratitude for the gift of living another day). Or resort to canned jokes: e.g. “Why couldn’t the pony sing a lullaby? She was a little horse.” Or, when you’re really stuck, “fake it till you make it!” •
P.S. The fun factor: A bit of fun every day will help keep the doctors away.
P.P.S. In the comments below, please share a few ways you add fun to your life.