- Fun can make you more resilient.
- Playfulness, connection, and a sense of flow create peak moments we think of as true fun.
- Boredom can make you act unkindly.
If you enjoy your work, that’s a wonderful thing. But you may still need to create free time and fill it with hobbies, adventures, or other enjoyable activities. Free-time fun tends to make people more upbeat. For many, it leads to closer connections. It may also make you less likely to get rattled by ordinary stress like colds, traffic, or noise.
Boredom, on the other hand, is painful and may even make you act mean.
Think of having fun as a good habit, not a luxury. It's great for you.
Have you come to think of yourself as an “un-fun” person? According to Catherine Price, the author of The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again, you can feel lighthearted and playful if you simply look for ways to juice ordinary activities (make up a new recipe).
An activity that engages you so much you lose track of time induces what psychologists call flow. Combine flow with playfulness and social connection, and the effects are “almost magical,” she writes. “When people are having actual fun, they report feeling focused and present, free from anxiety and self-criticism. They laugh and feel connected, both to other people and to their authentic selves.”
Exercise for Fun
Regular physical exercise is well-known to make you less bothered by stress—one way it is linked to better health. Racquet sports and running will give you the best chance of avoiding an early death, a large study found, followed by walking and any other aerobic activity. Golf, swimming, and cycling all help. High levels of leisure physical activity cut your chances of heart failure by about two-thirds, another study found.
Ideally your exercise will be fun for you. Consider a brisk walking group, regular tennis game, dance class, or pickleball or basketball game if you’re bored with your current routine.
Don’t dismiss boredom as harmless.
People who have trouble paying attention may also be more easily bored. Boredom, in turn, can trigger anxiety. So your anxiety may be a sign you need to learn focusing skills practiced by people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).
Everybody is bored sometimes but some people learn to occupy their minds even while waiting on line. And they don’t need a smartphone.
Start up a conversation with a stranger. Become a better listener and ask more questions. At home, read a novel instead of scrolling online.
Especially for older couples, simple companionship is a great source of happiness. Making jokes over breakfast may be fun. However, research suggests that new, stimulating activities are a way of boosting relationships.
One reason may be that new activities are memorable. However, you can make memories in little moments that don’t involve lots of travel or planning. Ask yourself what you were doing with your friend or partner the last time you really had fun. “Prioritizing fun may feel difficult, but it’s worth it,” Price writes. “Our lives, after all, are defined by what we choose to pay attention to. The more you pay attention to fun and the energy it produces, the better you’ll feel.”
Should You Have a Bucket List?
Maintaining a list of big projects or adventures can keep you hopeful. It’s one way to resist fear of aging.
However, much research suggests that we tend to get as much or more pleasure out of looking forward to a big purchase or trip—rather than the experience itself.
“When we want something, we imagine having it as a magic moment when everything comes together. But this happens extremely rarely,” writes PT blogger and perception expert Bence Nanay.
“Suppose that visiting the Taj Mahal is on your bucket list. There are two options. Either you get to go and see the Taj Mahal, or you don't. If you don't, you will always think of this as a failure—something you did not manage to achieve. That is no good. But what happens if you do get to go and see the Taj Mahal? In this case, the most likely scenario is that your experience does not live up to what you imagine it to be,” he writes.
That insight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan experiences. Having something to look forward to boosts your mood and lowers your stress. But you might maximize anticipation by planning a series of smaller treats—plan a series of local driving trips rather than flying to the other end of the world. Or adopt a playful frame of mind and simply go out for dinner in a different neighborhood.