The significance of doing things just for fun!

Have you ever asked yourself, “What if I did things just for fun?” Seriously, stick with me here. Think about it a bit more. When was the last time you did something for pure enjoyment? Where  the only objective was to have fun? Not crossing an item off of your to-do list or combining something fun with a chore. No, an activity that was solely for play, for fun, for joy, and for pleasure. 

Now when you remember that activity, think about what that looked like? How did you feel – before, during, and after that activity? What sensations came up for you? What thoughts came to mind as you did the activity?

These are some of the questions I have asked myself this past year as I’ve reflected on what I want to prioritize in my life. I NEEDED more fun in my life. Our lives are so busy these days, whether it’s work, school, taking care of kids, family obligations, and the like that it sometimes feels like we don’t have time to take a break, let alone try to add something fun in our lives. 

As adults, we don’t allow ourselves to play and do things for pure enjoyment as much anymore. We did as children when it felt like we had all the time in the world. We prioritized play and fun. We didn’t care about being perfect or how we looked during fun activities. 

The pandemic (still ongoing, mind you) continues to show us that it is important to schedule fun in our lives! Working from home had me struggling with overworking, contributing to me becoming increasingly unhappy and physically ill. My body was letting me know that how I was living was no longer tolerable. So I decided that I would try to do more fun things in my life, no matter how big or small. 

My attempt to have more fun 

To bring more joy into my life, I tapped into fun things that I’ve always loved doing: writing, dancing, reading, spending time with friends & family, and being in nature. Doing these things helped me feel more like myself. I could tell that I was happier the weeks I engaged in these activities. I tapped into my creativity with writing and reading. I released stress from dancing. I felt more grounded connecting to nature. And I satisfied my need for social connection by hanging out with people. 

When I had more sad/depressive/stress episodes, that was I didn’t frequently engage in my fun activities. I have a tendency to not prioritize fun and self-care when I’m in a mental funk and I saw how that affected my own physical and mental health. With that revelation, I continued to remind myself of my commitment to fun, including exploring new ways to have fun.

Not too long ago, I decided to try candle making! Earlier this year, I got a candle making kit. I love candles and thought it’d be a fun activity to get into. So I finally put my kit to use, bought some dry herbs and essential oils, and got to work. The first candle I made definitely was not what I was expecting. 

Pretty much describes my first attempt

My candle did not turn out as well as I’d liked. I didn’t have enough essential oils in the wax, and the dry herbs ended up being too close to the wick, burning every time I lit the candle. My wax also sank in the middle of the candle, creating this concave shape. 

I thought I was going to end up with a perfect candle on my first try, y’all! I thought I’d be giving Yankee Candle a run for their money. Needless to say, I was disappointed when it turned out to be not so perfect. Reflecting back on the experience, I saw how I totally missed the point of choosing that activity. 

Lessons learned

I kept judging myself about how I wasn’t getting the perfect product instead of enjoying the experience of making an item that I love from scratch. Candle making is supposed to be fun, and I wasn’t allowing it to be. The worst part? I started thinking, oh I could make this a side hustle and sell candles! I just told y’all how I struggled with my first try of candles and here I was trying to create a whole business from it — as if I have the time or energy to do that! I had to tell myself to sit down and relax. 

I was trying to make play productive, which only took away from the fun! Productivity shouldn’t dominate every aspect of our lives. Not only was productivity and perfectionism stealing the joy away from candle making, but so was hustle/grind culture. The whole point of me pursuing candle making was to have a new hobby, not to make it into a business. Now every time I engage in candle making, I remind myself of my goal – to have fun! By doing this, I set my intention from the jump. 

Setting an intention has helped me enjoy the process of creating and experimenting. I can try different combinations of herbs, oils, and waxes and just see what happens. I have so much fun making my candles and even though they don’t look like a Yankee Candle, they are perfect to me because I made them. It brings me joy to burn my homemade candles knowing that I made it. 

I shared my experience with a friend I met recently, and she related so much to my story. She had taken up some art classes since having more free time after finishing graduate school. She expressed how, although she was enjoying tapping back to her creative side, she also felt that pressure to be perfect and produce something “worthwhile”. She felt that was robbing her from fully enjoying the experience of creating art. 

Fun is part of the human experience. Why would we deny ourselves that? 

Benefits of fun, play, and creative rest

There are countless articles and studies out there that highlight the importance of fun, play, and creative rest. An article by Saundra Dalton-Smith MD sheds some insight on these benefits. I also wrote a poem last year as a reminder to myself about all types of rest, including creative rest. There are benefits to having fun. And science backs it up! Doing things for fun, for play, and for creative rest can significantly improve one’s mental health and reduce stress. Engaging in hobbies or fun activities you enjoy can get your mind off of your troubles and boost your mood.   

It’s important for everyone, especially highly sensitive people (which I am!) and introverts, to do creative and fun activities. Regularly engaging in activities you enjoy not only benefits you physically and mentally but also provides a sense of fulfillment that’s outside of work or a relationship. 

I’ve found that it’s another way to further develop a relationship with oneself. Throughout these past 20+ months, sheltering in place with my partner made it harder for us to have our own space. But when I started doing activities I like to do for fun (that tends to be solo activities for me), that allowed me to have something that was my own. I had the chance to be in my own company and lost in my own world, even if it was for a couple of hours a week. 

Another benefit of doing things for fun or creative rest is the concept of flow. Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who popularized the idea, describes flow as:

 “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

If you’ve ever been lost in an activity because you were so absorbed in it then that’s flow. Flow shows up in work and in fun activities. When I write or tinker in graphic design, hours can go by where I am fully present in the activity. I’m not checking my phone, on social media, or worried about what’s going on in the world. It’s just me, my mind, and my laptop (or journal). 

Flow allows me to be in the moment and just enjoy the activity at hand. My mind isn’t thinking about what to make for dinner or what happened at work. Our minds need that break. Fun and play are so important to our physical and mental health. 

What other people do for fun and their challenges

I was curious to see what other people do for fun (if they do) and their struggles in pursuing things that bring them joy. I asked some of my friends to: 1) share a hobby or activity that they do for pure enjoyment; 2) describe what their experiences are like when doing that activity/hobby; and 3) share how it makes them feel. I also asked friends and family what barriers they face to feeling pure enjoyment in their hobbies/activities too. Here are some answers I got when I asked friends and family (scroll through to see all the answers!): 

Fun is part of the human experience, whether we are young or old. Life is short and honestly, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to pursuing things that are fun and bring us joy! When we do so fully, we benefit physically, emotionally, and mentally. We become freer, we feel more alive, and we inspire others to do the same. As Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

So what do you do for fun?  Share in the comments below!

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