The last couple weeks, I’ve gotten to do something that rejuvenates and fills me up in a way that few activities do. I’ve gone to two concerts. Music is a huge passion of mine, both listening to it and playing it, and getting to see my favorite bands live combines some of the best elements to create pretty epic experiences.
While I used to go to lots of concerts, like many of my other favorite pastimes, as I’ve grown into adulthood it has taken a back seat. It is as if the responsibilities of life have slowly pushed these activities into the corner while I focus on more “important” matters.
The thing is I’m learning that I can’t afford NOT to take time for fun and play. Each time I do something I enjoy I feel more filled up and alive and I’m more equipped to deal with my responsibilities. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. There was a time a few years ago where I was so consumed with work and responsibilities that I didn’t even know what I liked to do for fun anymore. In short, I was depressed. At that time I was in counseling and one of the biggest things my therapist encouraged me to do what start to cultivate fun in my life again. She talked about “acting as if” and doing things I used to enjoy even if they didn’t sound fun at first. That’s what I did and slowly I started to reconnect with my passions, which was one of the keys to getting out of depression.
There’s plenty of research that supports my experience. In her wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown cites the research of psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown on the importance of fun and play even for adults. “Brown explains that play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups and is at the core of creativity and innovation.” He also notes that, “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression. Respecting our biologically programmed need for play can transform work. It can bring back excitement and newness to our job. Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play.”
In his book, Shave 10 Hours off Your Workweek, Michael Hyatt talks about the dangers of overworking and the importance of creating margin in our lives, which includes time for fun and play. He says, “Many of us have tried to push excessive hours for months and years at a time. Is it any wonder we’re burned out? One nine-year study of financial workers found that long hours essentially ruined them. They ‘started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgement declined.’”
As you can see, fun is actually serious business and we cannot afford to put it on the back burner. I still don’t spend enough time having fun and I have to come back to that point of realization from time to time. That’s why I’m prioritizing it in 2016. For your sake and those around you, I hope you’ll join me.