People need certain things to live: food, water, shelter. But people also need more than that; people need to be happy. While you’re busy running about making sure that your and others’ basic needs are met, what are you doing to make sure you are meeting your happiness needs?
Fun is one of those crucial things that people need to live happily and well. How people go about having fun can vary greatly from person to person, but the effects are still the same: fun relieves stress!
Stress is a necessary and unavoidable biological response of arousal that protects us from real or imagined threats, influences how we think, and affects how our bodies work. But when our stress cup runneth over, we need to understand how implementing fun into everyday can provide just the relief we need.
Empty Your “Stress Cup”
Stress is like pouring water into a cup. Sometimes the water is dumped all at once and other times the water is added drop-by-drop until the cup has completely filled. Stress isn’t always avoidable. Certainly we can plan ahead and make good decisions. But even careful planning, healthy transitions, and good decision-making can cause high amounts of stress. Incorporating fun activities into your life, making it a regular thing, effectively dumps the water out of your cup. Once your cup is empty, you can readily tolerate additional stress without your cup overflowing.
Look Forward to Having Fun
Dealing with stress is much easier when you have something to look forward to in the near future. Fill your free time with fun activities. When you’re having a bad day at work, think about how much better your mood would be if you were looking forward to meeting up with friends afterwards. For just a few minutes, daydream about the fun you’ll be having in just a few hours. You may find your stress levels go down after simply thinking about having fun and knowing that it’s just around the corner.
Add a Little Humor
Integrate fun into the times and places that cause you the greatest amounts of stress by adding a little humor. Play games or harmless pranks at work as a way of boosting morale and adding laughter to your work life (but only when your work environment permits such things). Listen to stand-up comedy during your rush-hour, carpool, or kiddie commute. If your kids are driving you absolutely crazy, stop supervising and take half an hour to just play and joke around with them. Make funny faces at each other or have laughing contests. Using humor as a way of having fun during a stressful situation offers a distraction that can change your mood from frustrated to lighthearted in an instant.
Strengthen Supportive Relationships
Remember how we dumped out the water that accumulated in our “stress cups?” Well now we’re going to use the contents of that cup to water our relationships. There are people who are there for us during times of stress, whether they are sympathetic co-workers or supportive friends and family who just care to see us happy and healthy. Stress can bring people together, especially when the relationship isn’t just about offering support during hard times. Laughing and having fun is crucial in balancing our relationships and helps to strengthen the bonds that offer comfort when we need it. Make it a point to have fun with those who have been most supportive of you. Actively add good times to your relationships rather than passively sitting back and letting them happen.
Sometimes we have to make a decision to add positivity and fun in our lives—it can only do your mind and body good. If you’re stressed, make time for fun. If you’re not stressed right now, make time for fun anyway. It’ll boost your ability to handle stress in the future. Stress is a part of life, but by adding fun, you insure that it is only a small part of your story.
If you need help managing the stress in your life, please contact The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. We are a team of counselors dedicated to seeing you live your best and most stress free life. Please know that this article is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.