If I ask you the question….”what do you do just for fun?” how would you respond?
Let me tell you that when I ask this question of my clients, some have responded with blank expressions, some have struggled to think of anything and others have shed tears. It’s a simple question but it can really highlight a big gap in your life that could well be the driver of many of your health problems.
You see, many of my naturopathic clients come to me because they are tired, tired but wired, can’t sleep, stressed, anxious or just feel constantly unwell. Maybe even all of the above. These are men or women who are capable and successful people. They might be juggling the demands of a busy job or running a business, raising family, caring for others, studying etc. When we analyse where there time goes, it becomes apparent that they are basically jumping from one “task” to the next, constantly striving to get things done.
As part of a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms, diet, sleep patterns, hormones, stressors, family history and more, one of the questions I might ask is “What do you do just for fun?” More often than not, clients struggle with this question when they realise that life hasn’t been much fun lately.
The purpose of the question is not to upset or judge but just to open up the possibility that maybe your life has become just a bit too serious or goal-oriented. For many of us, our days revolve around deadlines and targets, to-do lists, daily/weekly/yearly goals and achievements especially as our lives have become faster and busier. We’re told we must have SMART goals where everything we do needs an “outcome” attached to it. Even a hobby like playing golf can come with the ever-elusive goal of a lower handicap or if you go for a run you might be thinking about what time you are aiming for.
Perhaps 2020 has brought you some relief from this pressure, or maybe you are feeling busier than ever.
The consequence of all this constant drive is potential ill-health due to relentless stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system (your “flight or fight” response) and the release of adrenalin and cortisol. Your body gets little time for the resting, digesting and repairing which happens when your sympathetic nervous system is turned down and your parasympathetic nervous system is upregulated. Basically you end up in a constant state of stress.
Improve your health by doing something pointless
Many years ago, I recall reading an article in the papers written by Jenny Sinclair entitled “Imitating Kate Bush: stupid but I’m doing it anyway”. She talked about the worldwide phenomenon of people dressing up as Kate Bush and performing the “Wuthering Heights dance” en masse. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up on YouTube). Her point: it wasn’t about perfect spins and kicks or mastering the choreography, it was about fun and doing something pointless just for the joy and the hell of it.
The benefits to your health of doing something just for fun include:
- Improved immunity
- Better digestion
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Lowered feelings of stress and better resilience
Doing something pointless isn’t pointless at all…it’s actually good for your health!
So, what would you like to do…just for fun?
Many years ago, in my late thirties, after my cancer treatment (a wake up call), I realised I needed to get some fun back into my life so I took up dancing…a bit of hip hop and jazz ballet. Those of you who have met me will know I don’t have a “dancer’s physique” and I had never been to a dance class ever.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty! Most of the people in my class were half my age and many had been doing some form of dance since they were in primary school. At first, it was embarrassing. I stood up the back, I wasn’t very flexible and I lacked “grace”. But I had reasonable rhythm, I picked up steps easily (even if my execution of those steps wasn’t “perfect”) and my teacher was very encouraging. As a result I had an absolute ball! I loved going to those classes and always left on a high that sustained me for days. I wasn’t trying to be a “dancer” and I didn’t care what people thought, I wasn’t practising for a performance, I did it just for me.
Maybe dancing doesn’t do it for you but I urge you to find something that does. Something that brings a smile to your face, a good feeling to your heart and puts a spring in your step. Something that doesn’t have an outcome attached to it, something you do for no reason other than you enjoy it.
Think about your childhood. What did you love doing as a kid? Maybe it was painting or drawing, building or making things, doing cartwheels in the sand or singing. Maybe you liked to write stories or fly high on a swing.
Perhaps, there was something you used to be good at, which you have given up because you can no longer do it to the level you used to. Does it matter that you can’t perform at that level anymore? No, it doesn’t. Perhaps you can revisit that hobby with a fresh enthusiasm for the activity rather than the outcome.
Is there something you have been keen to try but never made the time for? A musical instrument, perhaps? It really doesn’t matter what you do or whether you are good at it. It just matters that you have fun!
I promise you, your physical and mental health will thank you.