“Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.” – Woody Allen Ah, good ‘ole Woody Allen, the master of neurotic, self-pitying quotes. I know some people who view life the way this quote reads, so now I feel compelled to write about having fun. A number of people in my circle have expressed frustration at not having time to enjoy themselves, being too ingrained in their routinized lives, and just a general lack of joy. I see it in the faces and body language of people I work with and in those I watch as I take-in my surroundings, and I have to ask: when did we switch from living to surviving?
We are taught to be responsible, contribute to society and “be serious.” I can think of several times when I’ve said those things to my children because they were too busy having fun to listen to me or do their chores. In my moment of over-scheduled, harried mom trying to get it all done, I have overlooked their joy and interpreted their dismissal of my requests as rudeness or disrespect when they were simply enjoying the moment and living their lives. We could all take a page from a child’s life book and lighten up a little.
Obviously, there are times to be serious and times to be playful, but these do not have to live entirely separate existences. If we take a moment to find the joy in living, we can all have a little more fun. It really is simple, and I have broken it down into simple steps.
1. Choose to find the good in things. If you find yourself commiserating with Woody Allen, and many of us have at some point in our lives, then the first step is to shift your perspective and choose to find the good in things. I wrote an affirmation for one of my children, and find myself repeating it to myself in moments of negativity: “I choose to find the good in things and be happy.” If you catch yourself slipping into a negative thought pattern, repeat the affirmation five times. If you have never used positive affirmations, it might seem a little strange at first, but just give it a try; you might be surprised how this small change will shift your thinking.
“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.” - Melba Colgrove
Notice I did not provide a definition of happiness. There is no outline or format to follow, just a value statement to make for yourself that will help you re-program your thinking to believe that happiness is a choice, and that you deserve it. When you choose to allow yourself to experience what you believe you deserve, you have already begun to change your life and invite more joy.
2. Break the rules. We all have a rebellious streak in us, yet somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, most of us abandoned it for rule-following, proper behavior and keeping up appearances. I would never suggest disrespectful behavior toward others or felonious activity, but why not let yourself be a little naughty once in a while? I think Katharine Hepburn was on to something when she said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Give yourself permission to step outside the box to experience things just a little differently. Stay out past your bedtime, eat dessert before dinner, laugh out loud in public, dance on tables…you get the gist.
”I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.” – Fritz Perls
3. Let go of expectations that hold you back. Those of us who are “recovering type-A” personalities already realize that we place high expectations on ourselves. Our standards are often impossibly high and we rarely live up to them. In addition, we set similarly impossible standards for others, and find ourselves continually disappointed in people. Here is an opportunity to try something radical: let go of the belief that others can make you happy. You are in charge of your happiness. You have the choice to be happy. People’s actions may affect you, but the key to your happiness is in your hands.
4. Allow yourself to experience joy every day. After you have chosen to believe that you deserve to be happy and have abandoned the rules and expectations that hold you back, you have paved the way to truly experience joy. You only need to open your eyes a little, stop to “smell the roses,” so to speak. Think about things that make you smile, and look for them as you go about your day. You will become more aware of your surroundings, begin to experience good feelings and notice other things that bring you joy. If you enjoy social time with friends, make a point of scheduling time with them. If you love music, play your favorite tunes and just listen, or dance around your house.
We all lead busy lives, and with technology and round the clock access, it is so easy to slip into the “grind” mentality and feel continually obligated to spend our time working or adding tasks to the to do list. This is not a healthy, balanced lifestyle. As creatures of habit, our bodies will adjust to whatever routine we impose, so why not create time every day for down-time, time to decompress and have a little fun? Give yourself permission to let something go on the to do list (or better yet, ditch the list; you will always do what is important, right?)
There are opportunities to experience joy every day, if you open your heart to see what is out there. When you make the slightest change in one area of your life, it will spill-over into other areas. Shift your perspective toward finding the good; it will take some re-training to change your thought patterns, but it is well worth the effort. You can alter the course of your life by giving yourself permission to experience fun and joy. I wish you the best, most joyful day and know you are fully capable of changing your life.
Blessings. Gratitude. Love.